Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The last post

As a business, our sales are split between online and in store (with a few at fairs and other events). Our online sales are mostly of large items of furniture, which we deliver ourselves, for the price of our fuel expenses.
In store, at Finders Keepers, we can sell a range of furniture as well as vintage accessories.  We’ve never really got into selling the smaller items online because 1) we don’t have the time to photograph the items, edit the photos, upload the photos, write accompanying text, edit the text, wrap the item, weight the package, get to the post office (which, like banks, should really be open on Sundays and on weekday evenings)  – all for a sale of a few quid, and 2) things tend to get broken in the post.
But, while trying to make some room in the store room at RVHQ this week, we found a few items we’d taken to assorted fairs and not sold, so decided a Facebook flash sale was in order.
We priced them up to include postage and offered them on a first come, first served basis.
The reaction was great, with seven of the 12 pieces snapped up by people from all over the country.

Our Facebook flash sale

Thing is, when I took these pieces to the post office, I had seriously underestimated the postage costs involved.
One parcel, which contained four shot glasses and had been bought for £5 cost £2.60 to post. Fair enough.
The next box, which contained a flask and a candlestick (combined price £10) cost £8.90 to post and the largest parcel (price paid to us £13.50, contents: candlesticks) cost £12.92 to post.
Now, I asked the lady at the post office for the cheapest option – and I have to trust her to have given me that. She even told me off for not charging our customers enough postage!
But there’s the rub – would anyone have bought those items if we’d said they cost, say, £3 each, plus £8.90 postage? I don’t think so. As a customer, I’d certainly be put off.
It’s absolutely crazy that we can pay a courier less than £10 to deliver a small table anywhere in mainland UK, but to send five candlesticks by post costs £12.92!
In future, we’ll avoid sending anything by post – and when we do, we’ll use courier firms rather than Royal Mail.
The flash sale was never about making lots of money, it was about clearing out some old stock, giving our Facebook friends a bit of a bargain and raising a bit of brand awareness (yes, I realise that makes me sound like a marketing pillock). But we could easily have lost money on this, because of our underestimation of Royal Mail’s prohibitive parcel postage costs.
Do you run an online business? How do you get around these exorbitant costs?
We’d love to hear your tips/grumbles/all-out rants.