Lots of people ask me for 'wholesale', 'business' or 'trade' discounts. So I thought i'd write a blog post about how you already get discount at Sew Curvy and why it's impossible for me to give any more.
Firstly, I am a tiny, one woman business in a very niche market. So niche infact, that in the UK I have only one competitor. Compare that to the leagues and leagues of quilting supply shops you see on the internet and in magazines, and size down my market share proportionally.
Corset making is a specialist sewing activity for the brave and adventurous home sewer, the 'professional hobbyist' and the professional costumer, fashion designer, corsetiere or lingerie designer.
When I started Sew Curvy it was because I wanted to help other corset makers to get quality supplies at a good price and I wanted to help beginners to learn corsetry easily - when I started it was almost impossible to find any information at all, the whole industry was top secret and jealosly guarded. If I could give my goods away for free, I really would. People who know me can testify to my generosity.
However, I am in business, I am trying to make a living, because after 25 years of 'paid employment' where I was bullied, held back and harrassed, I ended up with chronic fatigue whereby I was more or less 'vegetablaised' for a year - anybody who has experienced CFS will understand how it is to feel unable to function properly, let alone hold down a job, let alone hold a thought for more than a few seconds, and although after a year I was ready to tiptoe into another job, it took me a good 5 or 6 years to completely recover, to feel like I had the energy levels that I had before, where I could stay awake for more than 8 hours and not feel exhausted by tea time every day.
Running my own business was the only way out of that cycle. I remember visiting a friend and mentor at a very low time and sobbing on her sofa "surely I can be of use to someone?" ... Well since I started Sew Curvy. that has happened. This is definately my place in life.
But corsetry supplies aren't cheap. The best steel comes from Europe and it has to be imported. The best coutil also comes from Europe. Cotton and steel are heavy and expensive, the coutil industry is small. Everything we have in the UK must be imported from somewhere - haberdashery comes from Germany too - only a very few of our products at Sew Curvy are British made - I think ribbons and laces are about the sum of it! Up until now, it's been easy to import goods from Europe - that might all change post Brexit, we don't know. If tarrifs are imposed on cotton and steel from Europe, it will not be good news for Sew Curvy or for independant corsetieres in the UK.
All retail product markups are there for a reason. Before I get anything at all from the business there are a significant number of overheads to pay in addition to the cost of the goods that I sell Here's a list:
- 20% VAT on everything I buy - (i'm on a complex rate - see end note as this effects EU businesses claiming VAT discounts)*
- 20% VAT on my turnover - not my earnings. My turnover. That's 20% of any order including postage that goes straight to the government on a quarterly basis.
- Two part time employees because it is impossible for me alone to do everything that is needed to run a successful business that is worth something. While my assistants pack orders, keep stock records and do the routine admin, I am free to develop the business, do the marketing, teach corsetry and work with my own private clients as well as organise and sponsor international events like The Oxford Conference of Corsetry.
- Studio rent - not inconsiderable - to hold enough stock, you need enough space.
- Heat, light, power in the studio, from early in the morning to early in the evening, often I am here till nearly 7pm. The studio being a Victorian cottage is difficult to heat!
- Mail order sundries - envelopes, tape, packaging materials, labels, marketing materials, boxes, etc.,
- Services such as waste disposal (recycling), internet etc.,
- Technology - a computer, a phone, a decent camera for taking product pictures, a printer, software for editing images etc.,
- Postage - plus petrol to get to the post office, paper, pens, toilet paper, tea/coffee ... all the things that anybody would expect to find in their workplace to make it a happy and pleasant environment.
When all those business expenses are accounted for, the rest counts as "profit" which you think might pay for the ridiculous number of hours I put in both here at the studio and at home - that's at least 55+ hours a week, no paid holiday and no paid sick leave. But even these 'profits' have a cost. There is 20% income tax, plus 12% NI contributions and that is before I've ploughed at least half of the 'profits' back into the business so that I can keep expanding and developing the product range.
After all those things are paid, I draw what could laughingly be called a 'wage' myself. You can imagine, there isn't much left, and any more discounts, will come out of that.
So now imagine if your boss came to you at the end of your hard working week and said "can you work tomorrow for free/for a discount" when you already did several hours of unpaid overtime... what would you say?
Sew Curvy supplies are very competitively priced and in most cases are the least expensive on the market - do a price comparison to see - I am continually monitoring prices and postage rates to make sure I offer the best service possible. Some of our supplies are vastly UNDER priced due to other businesses charging less than they should for the same supplies and thereby undercutting their competition. This applies particularly to fabric - one of my biggest overheads.
Positively though, there are ways to get discount at Sew Curvy AND support my business. Here they are:
1) Spend over £100 and get free UK postage - this amounts to around 10% discount and it's usually sent by courier so you get fast, next day delivery into the bargain.
2) Buy 'whole rolls of corsetry supplies' - these are automatically already discounted by up to 10%. If you buy enough of them, you'll also get the free postage if you're in the UK - that's a whopping 20% discount.
3) Buy a corset kit - these contain all the materials required to make a corset and are already collectively discounted by up to 15% - some pro corset makers will buy a kit per client and save this way.
4) Teach a class - if you buy your class supplies from Sew Curvy, your students will get a 5% off voucher each.
What about European discounts and the rest of the world? Well there are two things. Thanks to the value of our sterling - foreign exchange rates are good at the moment. But again, because Sew Curvy is a micro business, we have bank rates to pay and when money comes in from abroad, there are also exchange rate fees. I therefore can't discount even more on top of those as it would mean that you are literally getting free products. I wish it wasn't the case.
To professionals out there wanting trade discounts. Corsetry is an expensive business. The cost of your supplies should be covered by the price of your product. It's the same for me. And as a corsetiere myself, I try to be fair by never undercutting my collegues and friends by using trade prices for that side of my business (infact, I have two companies because of this, Sew Curvy Retail is the supply shop, Sew Curvy Limited is the couture and teaching side - i'm an expert in inter-company invoicing!
If people will not pay a reasonable price for your wares, then they simply are not your customers - I learned that from the Godmother of modern corsetry, Autumn Adamme herself, and it's been a very valuable piece of advice. If you're not making money from corset making, then what is the point? It's not your suppliers' responsiblity to subsidise your business. Only work for free for those who are dear to you. Otherwise it simply isn't worth doing.
|Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden in San Fransisco giving invaluable and inspirational business advice to corset makers at The Oxford Conference of Corsetry in 2015
I hope this little article goes some way to explaining why micro businesses like Sew Curvy, with only one or three passionate persons behind the wheel, cannot operate like corporate giants - we don't have the buying power of Amazon to get (often rapacious) discounts off the goods we sell, and we don't have the resources to offer any more discount than the value we already provide. But we do love serving our lovely customers and we do feel enormous gratitude for your business.
* endnote: Because my turnover is less than £150k per year, I'm on a 'flat rate' VAT system which means that I pay the government less VAT per quarter, but i also cannot claim VAT on my purchases. The surplus 'discount' that I don't pay, goes back into my profits, so that I pay income tax/NI on that portion ... it's like the government giving with one hand and taking away with the other - it kind of works out marginally better - and certainly easier - but it means that I can't discount VAT for EU businesses because that isn't included in the scheme.