Help us Stay Stocked!
Planning how much yarn to spin is nearly a science around here. Here are some of the reasons that a yarn may go out of stock, right when you need it:
- Sudden large demand with no notice to us
- People ‘adopting’ a yarn with no notice to us
- Clubs, KAL’s, Events, Conventions with no notice to us
See why we need to know what to expect from our large customers? We have worried and massaged our planning program with spreadsheets of past sales, newsletters, and a program we created to get estimates from our larger customers. It only works if everyone participates, and it is not working as well as it should … because everyone does not participate.
Why? Because customers depend on us having stock of the yarns they want and buy. We are generally good about holding too much stock, and people think we’ll always have what they need. That would be fine if we had just a handful of customers who kept in touch, let us know of their upcoming needs, and sent us Christmas cards every year. Unfortunately, that is not how our business works. We have a large (and growing) customer base with a variety of needs, and the only way we know which yarns to spin is if they tell us.
Yes, spreadsheets will summarize purchasing history, and they are huge helps, but they do not tell us about new events or new customers. They are a good baseline, but do not tell the whole story. A spreadsheet does not take into account the large customers’ purchase from the website to cover a sudden sale or project, one that wipes out stock that we had expected to last for two months. That’s just one example. Think of all the promotions that go on … conventions where wholesale customers are vendors and have to cart stacks of hand-dyed yarn with them to a show, and they may not be able to buy their yarn until the last minute. KAL’s, yarn clubs, local festivals, decisions to sell to LYS’s. Every time your business plan forecasts increased sales, you need to let your supplier know. Most of our customers do not plan ahead. They just expect us to have their yarn on hand when they want it. The truth is that a good business owner forces their attention to consider all aspects of a good plan including forecasting, saving for purchasing inventory, and the all-important one of how to make a profit.
My solution to the inventory shortage problem is the Call for Estimates program. Here’s how it works. I send out a newsletter invitation to participate to wholesaler customers, and I also publish the Call in our NewsFeed, and this goes out once a quarter, four times a year. There is no reason why any well-informed customer should not yet know about our Quarterly Call for Estimates. We are working on an estimate program with our mill, in the same way that I am asking my customers to work with Wool2Dye4. Because our mill orders have grown to huge proportions which require the mill to source raw materials six months into the future, we support their need to plan by placing four well-reasoned orders per year. One for each quarter. AND, it takes three months turnaround time to get this big order from the day we place it, until the day it arrives at our warehouse. Once I got used to ordering four times a year to cover all needs, I saw that I could take it as my business’s challenge and get my customer base involved in the planning process. Just as the mill has made it my responsibility to notify the mill’s buyers of how much, and of which fibers to source into the future, I have asked my bigger customers to start forecasting their yarn needs.
What I ask from my wholesale customers, who can estimate a minimum need of ten kilos per yarn title, is to respond to our Call for Estimates for the upcoming quarter when they receive it, or read it on our NewsFeed. I ask them to send a clean list, and not engage in any chat, just a list of your best guess of what you will need in the coming quarter. I ask them to use our yarn titles, and express their needs in terms of kilos, not skeins. I ask them to only include amounts at a minimum of ten kilos, nothing less. I ask my customers to respect our deadline, or their estimate will not be included in our mill order.
A response to the Call for Estimates is not an order. It is an estimate of your best guess for upcoming needs.
If you want to be sure that your estimate is held aside for you, you have to ask us to invoice you by private order. Otherwise, we will total all the estimates we receive and add them to our spreadsheet growth estimates, and order what we think will suffice for the coming quarter, and it will be up to you to order from the website while there is available inventory. Help us by participating in the process, please.
- We need to anticipate your needs by a minimum of three months;
- We need you to participate in our Call for Estimates program;
- We need you to plan your own needs ahead of time and take responsibility of purchasing early;
- We need you to respond by the published deadline.
- Without your input, we cannot maintain adequate inventory.
Let me ask you to think about how successful your own business would be if you could only place four orders per year. That is a big thought. Please. Help us give you better service by taking responsibility and participating in the Call for Estimates.