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Mail orders and posting out beans

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As a very small-time roaster, most of my current customers are friends and family to whom I can personally deliver their coffee orders. However, I am also aware that inevitably I will be wanting to expand and take on customers who would be ordering coffee to be sent by mail. So I was hoping to get some thoughts and views on packaging options and weights from those who have mail-order customers.

 

Packaqing Type

What do you find works best? I have ordered and tried samples of cardboard boxes, plastic mailer bags, and "jiffy" bubble-type bags. All of which offer possibilities, but there is the matter of cost v's ability to protect the beans while in transit. A rigid box probably offers best protection, but is also the most expensive per unit. I'm also aware that the packing options are closely tied to my next issue ...

 

Packaging Weight

Royal Mail have a price-point for large letters at 250gm. So I am guessing that i should be offering coffee at 200 - 225gm to allow for the weight of the packaging. Small packages are priced up to 1kg, so I just need to figure out the weight for the next size up. I am undecided whether to offer 400gm or 500gm. Any experiences as to what might work best? Also, any thoughts on the maximum weight to offer? Is there much demand for 900gm - 1kg packs? I am thinking it is more likely wholesale customers would be more interested in the larger packs rather than retail customers.

 

Charging for p&p

Is it reasonable to expect customers to cover the full cost of p&p? or is it standard practice to absorb some of the cost? Full cost recovery could add an extra 25% to 35% on top of the cost of the coffee (particularly with the smaller quantities). Looking at the web-sites of others there seems to be a range of practices, so would be interested in any insights into what works well, and what doesn't!

 

I have a few Christmas fairs coming up where it would be good to turn one-off customers into repeat business. I have set up an email address for the business and hope to have a website operational by the end of the month. (it's currently under construction!)

 

Apologies for the long post!

 

Thanks in advance for any advice and insights you might be able to offer.


Espresso:Rocket Cellini Evo, La Pavoni Europiccola , Grinder: Eureka Mignon,Ceado e37s Roaster: Dalian Amazon

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As an end consumer, I know that delivery isn't "free", what that says to me is it's built into the price of the product. If I buy more of the product in one go, I'm probably getting to the point where the actual delivery costs decrease per unit but I still pay the same per unit. That makes me less inclined to increase the size of the order to minimise delivery costs.

So, from my POV, as long as the retailer is clear from the start what delivery will cost me that's fine, and I just care about the total price that I'll pay at the end. If I cannot see the delivery costs from the outset, such as having to wait to "calculate" them after registering, then more often than not I just (metaphorically as it's a website) walk away.

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Sidewalk Coffee in Cambridge (3+years ago) were using packaging that would carry 1kg of greens and still go through a standard letter box.

May be worth investigating?

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Sidewalk Coffee in Cambridge (3+years ago) were using packaging that would carry 1kg of greens and still go through a standard letter box.

May be worth investigating?

 

Interesting. I was expecting to get maybe up to 500gm into a regulation-size posting box, but didnt think 1kg would be a possibility. Will definitely look into this.


Espresso:Rocket Cellini Evo, La Pavoni Europiccola , Grinder: Eureka Mignon,Ceado e37s Roaster: Dalian Amazon

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Don't use the Post office, too expensive. Use Hermes...much cheaper and parcelshop drop off points all over the place..

 

With packaging keep it simple initially to keep your costs down. Don't try fancy through the letterbox packages, some people don't have letterboxes, they are not all the same size, they don't all open the full way (e.g. size of the slot) etc.. Just have a place to leave package if not home, currently Hermes don't allow delivery to a parcelshop which is a shame. Also the coffee bag inside tends to be quite expensive as it's a bit non standard. You will find decent valve bags expensive enough, without adding more expensive packaging options. Interesting comment about 1kg of greens, but you will find a lot of people will want a 2 or 3 250g bags, of roasted only. 1kg of roasted, instantly takes you over the 1kg price point once you add packaging, moving from £2.79 to £3.99

 

If your clear on delivery when coffee is ordered, then you should be fine. You can also offer a click and collect service, where you use a different carrier to deliver to a collect location, but this may well cost more. People can choose the option that suits them best. When you get bigger and more profitable and buy your packaging in the 5,000 bags at a time or more....then you can look at more expensive options.


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RM offer small business incentives if they post more than 20 parcels per week.

 

A small parcel up to 1kg at £2.95 would cover all your 250g/500g/900g bags. If I saw a business using MyHermes I wouldn't order because round here it seems to take up to 5 days and for the sake of a £1 I'd rather pay more and know it will arrive within 3 days, personally.

 

You are probably going to (marginally) loose out on small orders but you should be able to work out a pricing structure across the board to minimise that. You could make it clear you have a mimimum order of 2 bags or more, offer 2 tiers of pricing (1st/2nd, signed for or not) and simply charge what RM (or whatever company you use) charge.

 

To keep costs down then valve bag inside grey parcel bag (plastic, I know) but if you end up increasing turnover then that would be the time to investigate recyclable packaging etc.


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I will actively avoid Hermes and Yodel. Don’t make the customers hate you because you’re cutting costs.

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I will actively avoid Hermes and Yodel. Don’t make the customers hate you because you’re cutting costs.

 

I think there may be regional variations.

H and Y have been brilliant for me, whereas DPD was an expensive time wasting nightmare.

So bad, that Small Batch lost me as well as my dog food supplier that I had been with for years. I now shop elsewhere if I detect that the seller is using DPD.

But I am told it is a local problem, so be guided by experience.

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Im sure this has already been said. If you are running a business you need to recoup your postage costs. How you do this is up to you , either through the price of the beans or actually passing on your costs via shipping. Being transparent and open is probably the best option for you.


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Got to say as a consumer if I know a company uses Hermes or Yodel I will look elsewhere. I used to be a fairly regular seller on eBay and these two companies gave me more headaches than I care to remember, Hermes have never settled an insurance claim for damaged items either.

 

Each to their own and we all have different experiences based on location, but I personally don't always look for the cheapest option as there's often a reason why.

 

Delivery companies can be a minefield so I don't envy your decision making process, but hope you find a workable solution :)

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I think a lot depends on local reputations. I can never guarantee I'll be in so I also avoid NoDel and MyHerpes. I love it when it's the regular post because I can easily take a red card to the collection office, whereas couriers involves a longer trip to some depot 10+ miles away.

 

I often try to bump up my order by an extra bag to get free shipping, so that 'sales tactic' works on me, assuming I'm ordering not far from the threshold. Obviously I'm not going to order 1.5kg when I only want 500g, but if I'm ordering a kilo at £23 and free shipping starts above £25 I'll take an extra bag.

 

Notwithstanding what Dave said about letterbox friendly packaging, it definitely is a plus point for me. I'm delighted if I come home and actually find my coffee inside the front door!

 

Will be different for everyone I suppose, depending on the hassle factor and likelihood of being able to take delivery.

 

For small orders, Foundry packs are great for letterbox.

 

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Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.

 

I have pretty much excluded using couriers for all of the reasons that have been mentioned; plus the fact that they are a nightmare to deliver to our place! So I know the agony of trying to track-down a non-delivered courier delivery! I think RM will be the way to go just for peace of mind. Delivery costs can be partly recoverable from the buyer, and partly factored into the pricing strategy.

 

I wasn't planning on using valved bags due to the cost. I am currently sealing into a plain food-grade clear plastic bag using an impulse sealer - with a bit of a gap to allow for bag expansion as the coffee continues to produce CO2. The plan is then to pack this bag into the outer posting bag/box. I have sent a few test packages to myself and they have all arrived undamaged.

 

I am also thinking of selling online in multiples of 200gm in order to match the price-breaks in the large letter rates. However, as this seems to be at variance with the standard retail weights of 250/500gm would such a packaging plan work against me? Or am I over-thinking?


Espresso:Rocket Cellini Evo, La Pavoni Europiccola , Grinder: Eureka Mignon,Ceado e37s Roaster: Dalian Amazon

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If your clear on delivery when coffee is ordered, then you should be fine. You can also offer a click and collect service, where you use a different carrier to deliver to a collect location, but this may well cost more. People can choose the option that suits them best. When you get bigger and more profitable and buy your packaging in the 5,000 bags at a time or more....then you can look at more expensive options.

 

If I get to the point of needing 5k bags at a time I'm sure I wont still be roasting on the trusty Dalian Amazon! (nor will I be trying to hold down a day job as well!!!)


Espresso:Rocket Cellini Evo, La Pavoni Europiccola , Grinder: Eureka Mignon,Ceado e37s Roaster: Dalian Amazon

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Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.

 

I have pretty much excluded using couriers for all of the reasons that have been mentioned; plus the fact that they are a nightmare to deliver to our place! So I know the agony of trying to track-down a non-delivered courier delivery! I think RM will be the way to go just for peace of mind. Delivery costs can be partly recoverable from the buyer, and partly factored into the pricing strategy.

 

I wasn't planning on using valved bags due to the cost. I am currently sealing into a plain food-grade clear plastic bag using an impulse sealer - with a bit of a gap to allow for bag expansion as the coffee continues to produce CO2. The plan is then to pack this bag into the outer posting bag/box. I have sent a few test packages to myself and they have all arrived undamaged.

 

I am also thinking of selling online in multiples of 200gm in order to match the price-breaks in the large letter rates. However, as this seems to be at variance with the standard retail weights of 250/500gm would such a packaging plan work against me? Or am I over-thinking?

Union Coffee do 200g bags & letterbox friendly packaging.

Laissez les bons temps rouler

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