We simplified and shortened our survey this time around and had a total of 1,023 responses, which is brilliant, so around 10% of our mailing list are helping us to get it right!
Who answered and how do they get their information?
Just over 40% of those replying were from the UK, with the USA/Canada contributing 30% and Europe 20%. The remaining 10% were 5% from New Zealand and Australia and 5% from everywhere else. This roughly reflects our sales pattern as well, so is usefully representative, though like last year around 25% were not yet customers, with the rest being occasional or regular.
People use our newsletters, our website and Instagram as the main ways to keep in touch and were happy with our frequency of fortnightly newsletters. They asked for more information about our yarns, pattern inspiration and also about sheep breeds, mill processes and glimpses behind the scenes. We are pleased with our new film on Youtube, which goes into quite a lot of detail about how we make the yarns, and we will work on including more of this in our newsletters and social media.
The responders buy mainly online, either from producers or stockists, and next at local yarn shops, closely followed by festivals and trade shows, with some also buying second hand – we know stash sales are now quite important on both Etsy and Ravelry. Buying second hand also lets people continue to buy their favourite yarns if they have been discontinued and we do try to ensure we don’t discontinue or that we bring out something better if we do.
What do they make?
People are probably doing slightly more smaller projects, with over 40% doing 3 -6 a year and another 28% doing 7-10, with nearly 20% doing more than 11, and they are spending around £26.50 on average on these. For larger projects, 50% do 3-6 projects, 25% do 1-2, 17% do 7-10 and a busy 8% do more than 11, on which they spend on average £56.90. We were more specific about the meaning of large and small projects in our questions this year and it seems people are spending less after several years of increases in investment, although the rate was already slowing in 2017. We also know, speaking with people, that they are raiding their stashes a bit more. This does reflect the fact that knitting and crochet are pretty much a leisure activity for our customers and the economy is not as strong – it may even lead people to buy less real wool! We hope not as real wool is so much better in every way …
How do they choose yarns?
In selecting yarns where people could pick 3 options, a big change happened in that over 70% said fibre content came first, with colour now equal second with texture and handle both at 60%. There is still emphasis on rare breeds at 12% and the provenance is slightly under 30% with price taking just over 30%. Previously colour has always come first. This is also interesting when looking at which types of colours people choose, as although solid colours score 50%, heathered shades are favourites at over 60%, with tweeds and natural colours next in popularity at around 40%. Neon, pastels, self striping, marls and gradients were least popular. In specific colours blues and greys still lead the way with 60%, although green has risen in popularity this time to nearly 50% and next comes purple with 30%. Unsurprisingly, because it is difficult to see when working, black is least popular with less than 10% and yellows and oranges just squeeze above 10%. Brown, white and beige all score around 20%.
How do they rate us and what do they want us to do?
Finally we asked about ourselves and were very pleased to find that our customer service scored over 80%, with 52% likely to recommend us and people especially liking quality and ethics and provenance which both scored over 70%, while product range, colours and uniqueness each scored 40-50%. It was especially good that recommendation rose from 47% last year, so we are still well ahead of the industry average of 13%.
Patterns, our website and value scored lowest. However, when looking at what we could do better, having more stockists and having more stock available came highest, with only 2% saying we could improve our customer service and quality, and 8% saying the website needed improvement. People do want even more information about provenance and we will be working on this, along of course with getting our stock levels up in the coming months.
When it came to the question asking what else you wanted to say, we had 497 answers, some of which were quite long and covered several points, and 526 people left this one blank. Of the answers, another 112 said they had no further comments, and 215 said they loved our yarns, thanked us or said carry on and keep it up. This left 170 more specific comments;
- 31 askied for more stockists in Canada, Europe, etc.
- 28 particularly commented on the importance of rare breeds. People also asked for more information on the rare breeds and the farms from which they come, so we will work on this
- 24 people said the yarns or the postage were expensive, partly due to exchange rates
- 21 mentioned either that they could not see the colours too well online or that the colour ranges were not to their taste
- People also want to touch yarns, of course, although our swatch cards seem to be helping with this, along with stockists and shows
- Our softness ranking was praised as helping with yarn selection too.
Of the remaining comments:
- 3 related to Natural Fibre Company orders rather than Blacker Yarns
- 7 wanted more patterns or specifically liked our patterns apart from one comment that they are “rather odd” which was not explained, and a couple of people were interested in kits or more information on what to make with our yarns – we could recommend Sue’s Pure Wool book to help with this …
- one person said they had to rely on their mum to find out about us as we are not sufficiently millennial
- several people wanted us to reinstate the photos of swatches, which we will do
- several wanted visits, mill tours, to see us at more shows in Germany or the USA (watch this space!)
- inevitably some people wanted aran and chunky and others definitely did not, while Gotland was requested as was the return of Samite. We will not be doing more Samite in the old form but have an exciting new version coming soon. For Gotland unfortunately it’s a pretty rare breed, particularly with the quality of fleece we need, so it will always have to be in limited supply
- 3 people did not get replies to enquiries and we are really sorry – we do try to pick everything up but occasionally things slip through the net
- some people requested notification when things are back in stock, which is now in place and seems to be working well
- people generally seemed to like our website and communication.
So overall, we have some work to do but feel that people do understand what we are about, and we hope to continue the conversation!