New Year and a whole new way of looking at prices and processes

Sue Blacker's picture
27 January, 2014 - 11:14 | Sue Blacker

This is the text we are also emailing to all our fibre and fleece processing customers today!  But it's also a good opportunity to show a few pictures of the Mill ... including a rare back view photo of Paul, our Mill Manager.  You can here him, along with James our Carding Engineer on the fims at the Virtual Tour of the Mill.

As usual, we reviewed all prices last year and implemented a few minor revisions from September, 2013, mainly in raising our set-up charge.

However, on reflection we realised that, after nearly nine years, we have become a bit set in our ways – even possibly “dyed in the wool”?  Therefore we took a good look at our prices, costs and customer information and have come up with some changes which we hope will make life easier for everyone.

This has meant that we can actually reduce some prices, (though we do need to increase a few), and we are able to offer some new services, we have also stopped doing batts and felt.  We want customers to understand our reasons and hope you will find this information helpful. 

 

Set-up charges: ABOLISHED!

We realised that our set-up charge, from time immemorial, has confused customers and made our invoices more complicated because it is charged on incoming, rather than finished, weights of fleece.  So we have abolished it!

Of course, this does mean that we now need to recoup the set-up charge income in our spinning and processing prices.  So we have produced a revised price list, which incorporates the charge, adjusted for yield (because of course you were paying for more kilograms at set-up than you did for finished yarn prices due to losses in scouring and processing).  This means that you will now know exactly what the final price per kilogram will be for your processing. 

We can still tell you what your incoming weight of fleece was, so that you can still work out the yield on each batch, and we are working on including this information, where feasible (sometimes difficult for split batches) on our invoices for you.

 

Differential pricing for wool, mohair and alpaca: ABOLISHED!

We inherited differential pricing structures for wool, mohair and alpaca, and have continued to use them.  However, as our experience and expertise has grown, we find that this is simply not necessary!

There are differences in practice, because wool has a lower yield than alpaca and mohair, but the latter are slightly more difficult to spin.  However, when we did our sums, we found that, after allowing for yields, the actual cost to the customer per finished kilogram, when adjusted for the set-up charges, was pretty much the same.  So we have abolished the differential and fixed on the mohair prices as half-way and most reflecting the real finished cost per kilogram for wool due to its lower yield.  So while the prices may appear to have risen for wool and fallen for alpaca, they have not in reality changed that much!  There is probably a small net benefit for alpaca.

 

Price differences on spinning: some changes, up AND down!

As you know, we have a production costing system, to ensure full recovery of production costs, while also making the best possible yarns from the fleece and fibre our customers send to us. 

We have continued to develop this and will shortly be finalising a bar-coding system, to track each batch from each customer, electronically as well as physically, all the way through the mill.  This will help us to plan production more efficiently, save us administration and some production time, allowing us to produce more with our current cost base, and contain costs in future.

As a result of measuring spinning output, and also partly because we are making more fine yarns for customers, we have reviewed spinning costs:  it takes 5-6 times as long to make a kilogram of Lace-weight yarn as it does to make Aran or Chunky yarn.  So we have slightly increased the price of Lace-weight spinning but we have reduced the prices for both Aran and Chunky yarns in the new price list.  This is still a benefit for lace!

 

Finishing prices: new services, a few increases

We are now able to offer: hand twisting of washed 100g hanks and hand labelling 100g hanks.  This is in addition to our existing weighed 100g and 200g oiled or washed hanks, washed on cone and 25g, 50g and 100g balls.  We are also offering a more customised ball-band design service, but please note that we will normally use an ivory/cream paper for all bands so you should contact us to discuss any other options and colours.

 

Batts and felt: ABOLISHED!

After considerable thought, we have decided that making batts and felt, even during one Batty Month a year, is simply not practical for us with our equipment – the work is virtually entirely by hand and very bulky, so was working out as prohibitively expensive.  We are sorry about this and will continue to seek options.  Meanwhile, we can offer scoured and carded fleece lapped flat into a box instead of the standard can coiled rovings.  This makes it suitable for larger and flat felting projects.

 

Other costs: DIY collection and shopping around to keep prices down!

Some costs are outside our control: carriage costs have continued to rise with additional surcharges for oil prices making it very difficult to work out the actual prices we are charged. This means that  we are now finding it can be cost effective to use pallet transport for most consignments over 60kg: we will always offer you this if appropriate.  Meanwhile we will continue to charge you what it costs us plus a 10% charge for making all the arrangements – but we are more than happy to receive sacks sent via your own carriers. In 2014 we are piloting a booked fleece collection service at the shows we attend (please see website and newsletters for updates).

Other costs have also risen but not for everything!  Advertising, phone and IT are still reasonable.  Our increased volumes and organic accreditation have enabled us to source a new supply of organic detergents and oils which are considerably cheaper and also go farther.  We are in the process of changing over to these, which will enable us to make some savings. Of course, business rates are still rising, though our move out of the next-door unit and installation of mezzanine have helped.  Our packaging, fuel and utility prices continue to rise, as do insurance and waste disposal, but we shop around where we can and continually review options to save both costs and the environment by reducing, re-using (as with incoming fleece sacks) and re-cycling (as with reject fibre).

 

Updated information and a new service

We have taken a long look at our customer information and:

  • updated and simplified our Order Forms
  • as well as the changes mentioned above, we have completely revised the additional information on the back of our Price Lists
  • re-written the Customer Guidance Notes to help new customers
  • added a new information sheet on Completing Order Forms

In addition, we are piloting a new FREE service for Match-Making to help customers wishing to process a minimum of 5kg by sharing on a standard range of knitting yarns (please see the new download on our Advice page for information on this).  This replaces our old Share Scheme service which had become difficult to manage and we hope will provide a better, more flexible and more useful service.  We already have a good list of  names of people interested in match making, so why not join them?

These are pictures of plied worsted yarn waiting to be reeled for steaming and of empty clean bobbins waiting to go onto the carder - this was a rare moment of leisure for them and I haven't seem them hanging around like this for months!

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Blacker Yarns

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