Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ordering Fabric Online...a pocketbook pitfall.

I don't pull out my soapbox on here too often, but I found something tonight that I have to say raised my ire.  I was out on Fabric.com looking for some novelty prints for a top secret project, and something in their pricing really drove it home all the more that when it comes to fabric, as though there was need for another reason, it's best to support your local, independent quilt shop (LIQS, because I don't want to write that phrase 30 times tonight) whenever possible.

One of the perks of buying local is that most, if not all, local shops won't fiddle with the per yard cost of a piece if you decide to buy less than a yard, or raise the half yard cost willy nilly...unlike *certain* large online retailers...
(EDIT: There are many independently operated online-only quilt shops.  This commentary does not apply to them.  They are much like your brick-and-mortar LIQS, only virtual and charge for shipping which is entirely fair.)

Let's look at the piece that brought this to light for me...

If one buys a single yard, it would be $9.48...what a deal, am I right?  Keep in mind, in local shops MOST yardage is around the $11 mark.  So, let's assume we're comparing it to it's $11 LIQS counterpart. Excluding shipping of course, that's a $1.52 per yard savings.  Hey, every little bit, right?

But what if you don't want a whole yard, what if you want half?  Logically that should cost half of $9.48, right?

Wrong!  If you want only half a yard, it will cost you $7.11.  That doesn't sound right for a half yard of a fabric with a $9.48 price point, so let's do the math.

Assuming the per yard cost remained unchanged at $9.48...
At a $9.48 price point, half a yard should cost $4.74.  Keep in mind at your LIQS, it would be $11 and a half yard should cost $5.50.  Per the website, a half yard costs $7.11. That is a $2.37 increase from the half yard cost based off the quoted per yard price online, and a $1.61 increase over the LIQS half yard cost. If the math was honest, what would $7.11 get you out of a $9.48 piece? $7.11/$9.48 = 0.75  That is three quarters of a yard! But hey, my math (even easy math) isn't always perfect so let's go at it from another perspective: what would three quarters of $9.48 cost?  $9.48 x 0.75 = $7.11. That's three quarters of a yard, again! 3/4yd is 9 more inches than a half yard.  You are paying for 9" of fabric you will never see. But if you bought local, you only paid $5.50 and received the half yard you paid for.  If you spent that same $7.11 locally for a cut off that $11 piece, $7.11/$11 = 0.646.  You would have paid for and received just a bit over 5/8yd.  
TL:DR (Too long didn't read):  If you pay $7.11 for a half yard of a $9.48 piece, you are paying for 3/4 of a yard but getting only half a yard - you lose $2.37.  If you shopped local and paid $5.50 for  half yard of the same piece at $11, you have saved $1.61 by comparison.

But wait, see how they crossed out the original per yard cost when one opts for less than a whole yard?  That could imply a different tactic than altering the half yard value - it implies that the per yard cost goes up for cuts less than a whole yard.  So what does that look like?

Assuming the per yard cost changed for a less than one yard cut...
Keep in the back of your mind that cottons in LIQS's average about $11, give or take $.50, and batiks are averaging about $12 depending on the company and batik origin.  The Ninja print from the example is plain cotton, so would cost $11 per yard.  But online, at $7.11 for a half yard of fabric, that would mean that the whole yard would have to cost notably more:  $7.11 x 2 = $14.22. $14.22 for a yard of basic quilting cotton?!?!  That is an increase of $3.22 per yard over the LIQS per yard cost for cotton, and $2.22 over the average LIQS batik cost per yard. Let's ask this...right now, would you be willing to shell out $14 for a print that costs $11 elsewhere?
TL:DR:  For a half yard to cost $7.11, they would have had to raise the per yard cost of the fabric to $14.22.  That is a $3.22 increase over the LIQS cost of $11 per yard.  

But wait....what about shipping?
At Fabric.com you will get free shipping if you spend over $35.  But what if you only need the one yard?  You will indeed pay the $9.48 per yard for your single yard (saving $1.52) but then you have to pay $7.49 for shipping inside the continental US (more if you are in Alaska, Hawaii or abroad) - that brings the total for a single yard of cotton fabric to $16.97. $16.97!!  That doesn't include the sales tax that would apply depending on the state in which the yardage was purchased.  This leads the customer to potentially spend more than what they want or buy more than what they intended for the sole reason of reaching the free shipping cutoff. Buying local, sure there is the cost of gas if one has to drive any notable distance (out of town) and that is variable depending on distance involved and vehicle gas mileage, but there is no shipping cost.  Only sales tax would be added, if applicable (which here in Oregon, it isn't...neener neener).
TL:DR:  One must pay shipping under a certain dollar amount, which raises the customer's cost if that cutoff isn't met, and to reach the cutoff there is the risk of spending more than necessary.  Buying local means no shipping cost. 

Either way, I have to say it's a smack in the face to the customer.  On one hand it is a sales tactic to get customers to push their purchase to a whole yard.  I get that, getting bigger sales is an important part of business.  But when the customer sees they are paying 75% cost for 50% product, they say "oh what the hell" because going up to a whole yard is double the fabric for just a couple bucks more.  On the other, the per yard cost is increased to match the higher half yard cost.  In the example, that is a markup of approximately 175% if my math serves me right. Very few, if any local shops mark up past MSRP more than 25%.

Sure, it's only a few bucks in each scenario, and if you're buying fabric in the first place that means you have a little expendable income and I doubt it'll break your bank. But for me, it's the principle of the thing.... In both cases, the issue here is a large online retailer is giving an illusion of savings or a hot deal over the LIQS.  The only way this is true is IF one buys the full yard...but once shipping options are factored in, that little bit of savings is negated all the way around.

You saw in the pictures that I had 5 items in my cart and I was eligible for free shipping. After seeing the increase in cost and going through the math, my cart is empty.  Will it ever change? No.  Does one lowly and inconsistent Blogger have enough clout to do much other than publicly complain about it? Nope. But what it did do is turn my eye back to my community.  I will be going out and hunting down the prints I need the old fashioned way - by visiting my wonderful local quilt shops.

1 comment:

  1. I noticed this the last time I was on their site. Normally I only buy apparel fabric from them - I buy in five yard increments and it's easy to hit the $35 minimum. I was pissed when I went to add in a novelty cotton on a whim and encountered the same B.S. that you did. Whether they are cutting one yard or 1/4 yard they have to pull the bolt, measure, and cut. I think it's ridiculous that they charge so much more for partial yards.

    Good to see you posting again!

    Andrea kmen3035 at hotmail. com


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