Monday, 10 July 2017

Attention our webshop customers !

We're contemplating some minor changes to our web-shop, and thought it a good idea to run them past customers first, to get some feedback.

As some of you will know the minimum order value on our webshop is just £5.00.  It was set like this when we set up the new store five years ago, when stamp prices were generally low, and a £1 stamp was a high value.  It allowed for people who wanted to buy just one of our first day covers, just a few of our postcards or postal history covers, or a few of the latest Machin security stamps, blocks, or booklets.

Since then most of what has been added is new stamps; time has not permitted us to add as many new postal history items as we would have liked.  Excess time is taken up with small orders, as people rush to make sure they don't miss out on one of the new stamps before it disappears for ever, as so many have done.  This has sometimes meant three orders in a week for some of our customers.

Increasing the minimum order level will not make much difference to most orders, especially as there are so many more expensive stamps now that face values have increased.  But any time saved can be used to add more products for sale - older Machin series stamps (the long-promised X & Y numbers from Gibbons catalogues), and booklets; and more postal history.  If customers combine their orders into larger ones they will save on postage - and we often refund duplicated postage payments if we combine two orders into one package, refunding the excess: it all takes time.

Other products.  We can't make any promises, but later in the year I want to add other ranges of material.  (Most of this year's Machins are now available so the second half could be quieter?)  As mentioned above, these would include:
  1. Pre-security Machin singles from sheets and coils, including cylinder blocks, date strips etc
  2. Similar for regional issues.
  3. Post and Go stamps on cover, some with a clear date, use often not inspired by collectors/dealers.
  4. Ditto Horizon labels, white, gold, perforated gold, and latest.
  5. Older Great Britain first day covers, definitive
  6. Selections of Machin security stamps used on dated cover, preferably 'in period', eg M12L used in 2012-13, not 2015 or later.   These would probably be in 'collections' rather than individually.
  7. Ditto on piece for those who don't want covers; although covers can make a nice display, they do take up space!
  8. Postal History of Great Britain, Commonwealth and Foreign countries, mostly post WWI, and much of it 1960s onwards, particularly Europe, Australia, New Zealand.
  9. Anything else.
Items 3, 4, 5 6 and 8 are particularly attractive to us because they take up a lot of space.  They would be priced to sell!

Noting that we have many loyal customers, we would particularly like to know what else you would be interested in, how we can add to your collections.   But at the same time we welcome thoughts from new or occasional customers and visitors who have looked but not found anything of interest.

We will also be putting some stock onto eBay using the norvic user name, especially where we think the interest may be wider than our current viewers.

Update:  Thanks to Anonymous and Doug for comments; I've had others by email.

Doug raises an interesting point:
However, I think you have to look at the business model you are considering moving to. From a current position of having reasonable stocks (i.e. multiple copies) of an item that you can sell (i.e. list and catalogue) is different to having a significant number of one-off items for offer (similar to a person selling a personal item on eBay).
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I am not sure what you mean in the sentence "... items 3,4,5,6 and 8 are particularly attractive to us..". By that I am assuming you don't actually want to continually stock these and you are attempting to dispose of these once and for all to save space etc. Those items I could see and one off eBay offers. 
A little background information will probably help add the right perspective.  I've been collecting (accumulating) stamps and postal history for over 60 years.  When I had the early retirement opportunity I created the original website starting with the 1998 Lighthouse stamps and collectors around the world asked me to do FDCs and to get the thematic postmarks.  This expanded in the 1999-2000 Millennium years.  I did consider selling at stamp fairs, but a wise local dealer and friend told me that it was exceedingly difficult to have the same postcard and postal history stock at fairs and online - I'll leave you to imagine the problems involved in selling something at a fair only to get home and find that somebody had bought it from the webshop.
     A few years later we decided to produce our own range of limited edition first day covers often using Norfolk themes or our own photographs for the illustrations. It was fun, and we had a loyal following.  But the sheer volume of new issues meant that we also pulled the plug on that venture, with the aim of devoting more time to the (then) 50 year accumulation of one-off items. The blog was started to direct traffic to the website which continued to show new issues, and to the shop, highlighting new blocks of one-off covers and cards.
      And then Royal Mail's security features appeared on Machin definitives, and with news coming not only from official sources and printed media, but also from collectors and dealers with their local finds and discoveries, the emphasis switched to those, and the time that was going to be devoted to what I already had was taken up with what I (and you) wanted to find.  The Checklist was born from an initial list which put things in perspective and showed how SG had changed their catalogue numbers - in some cases twice in 12 months!
       So although I am described in some places as a Machin Security expert that has only come about by chance and with the help of others.  And while I believe that collecting the Security Definitives has brought back the 'thrill of the hunt' that existed in Wilding days, with different watermarks, paper, phosphor, etc, the hunt for these and other stamps on cover paying the right rate for the job is much more difficult - and satisfying - than buying mint stamps from Royal Mail or from dealers.

Security features:  £1.10 solo use to Australia and inland Special Delivery 100gr.




Please read the other comments and leave a comment on the order level and new products questions.  If you don't want to do so publicly, then either email to ian@norphil.co.uk or send a comment headed 'not for publication'.  All comments are moderated (ie checked before publication) so we can copy the message to our own records and then delete what you have written.  But if you would like a reply, we will need your email address.

Thanks for reading this and for helping us to help you build your collections.


Special Delivery 1973 - solo use of 20p Silver Wedding stamp, and pre-printed Machin PPI
 
  
Pre-security Machins: different from different sources - Anniversary Wilding Regionals from PSB

 

Australia Modern Postal History



Foreign Postal History

 


11 comments:

  1. Its a difficult one to call, on one hand people may only want one item and will be put off by the minimum order value. On the other hand if you have a hard-core group of customers who make up most of your sales then it isn't an issue. I realise the reasons for doing it but speaking personally, I would be unhappy if I went to Tesco's for a tin of beans only to be told I had to buy bread as well to take the total to £1. Couple of other thoughts, does a minimum order value discourage 'new blood' from coming into the hobby? eBay sales are likely to increase the amount of small orders you send which conflicts with your stated proposal? More material on line, wherever it is can only be a good thing, you have to decide what level of service you can offer with the resources available, it seems however that the customer is in danger of being relegated to second place!

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts. Online is a bit different from live retail. Of course if we had a shop, then you could buy a single stamp for 1p, just as you can buy a single item in Tesco, or your local corner shop. Most online sellers who sell low value items have a minimum order value and charge for postage. I've seen some much higher.

      Take your point about eBay as well: the difference there is that the items listed - probably no more than 10 per week - will be put in one box ready to select and post when bought. With the 5 volumes of Machin Security Stamps, plus 3 volumes of Post and Go - which form the bulk of our sales - a single order might involve picking stamps/blocks/strips from all of those 8 volumes.

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  2. Ian, I admit that I don't purchase many stamps these days from dealers but I have never been put off by 'minimum' orders as I recognise the logistics (i.e. time that has to be spent)in supplying small orders. If I needed say a single stamp costing £2.75 I would just purchase 2 copies. However, I think you have to look at the business model you are considering moving to. From a current position of having reasonable stocks (i.e. multiple copies) of an item that you can sell (i.e. list and catalogue) is different to having a significant number of one-off items for offer (similar to a person selling a personal item on eBay). The time it takes to photograph, describe and then process has to be considered. From a buyer's perspective if I saw an item that I wanted, I would soon become disappointed that by the time my 'purchase' was received that the item had already been sold. I am not sure what you mean in the sentence "... items 3,4,5,6 and 8 are particularly attractive to us..". By that I am assuming you don't actually want to continually stock these and you are attempting to dispose of these once and for all to save space etc. Those items I could see and one off eBay offers.
    Regards and thanks for all your assistance in providing updated news and the check lists which I think are invaluable and maybe the list could be sold for a fiver as it would still be excellent value for money.
    Doug (Enfield)

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    1. Thank you Doug, for raising some important points. I'll expand the original post to include more information.

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  3. As I only collect definitives, & other products which I get from Royal mail ie mini sheets etc, raising the minimum order value would present difficulties for me personally as sometime new issues are found spasmodically and therefore I usually like to purchase these asap. this means sometimes only needing that particular stamp, at the moment I make up my order with other stamps that I can use in postage. But I do appreciate your need to change & as you say some dealers require a minimum spend of £15 so time will tell .

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    1. Hi Peter,
      The situation you describe is even more likely this year as most of the stamps have appeared already, and we may only get one new sheet/business sheet stamp a month for the rest of the year. These won't even meet the current £5 limit.
      In these circumstances we're happy to put lower-priced new stamps aside until there are enough to pay for and send.
      As for the minimum value, it's worth noting that on a £6.80 order we pay 43p to PayPal. A £13.45 order (nearest I can find to twice as much) costs 66p, only 53% more.

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    2. Hi Ian thank you for those comments, having read other comments the idea of putting stamps aside for customers who only collect security Machins is a very good idea, & I would be very interested in this arrangement. Happy to say that as I pay by bank transfer you get all the money, that's how it should be for me .

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  4. I mainly collect security machins, and agree that you need to buy these as they are issued,( can cause many small orders).
    Could you consider standing orders to which you add the new issues and despatch say every 3/6 months or whatever you think would be best to save on multiple posting. I suppose that this could also be an agreed money value instead of time, say £25/£50?

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    1. Hi Terry, I have used a sort of standing order system in the past, and usually found that our UK customers had managed to find at least some of the new stamps (especially booklets) in their local supermarkets. By not having the booklets and the stamps they contain available (but reserved for SO customers) we lose the opportunity to sell them to others.

      A few non-UK customers place orders 'on hold' and pay when they have accumulated enough stamps to make the postage worthwhile. We can send a lot of stamps for 100g.

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    2. Ian, very creditable to seek the views of your customers before making any changes. As one who mostly only buys the new security Machins as they appear, I like the idea of being able to reserve them until such time as the total reaches the minimum order value, whatever that may be. Of course, I understand that there has to be a commitment to buy in due course once reserved, but I would be happy with that.

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  5. Ian, I am the same as Trelantis and Terry. I would like to put the new security Machine issues aside until the minimum order is fulfilled. How do we do this currently? Is it an email to yourself?

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