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Ask Kat: About Patterns by pdf Download

So…

here’s a question we’re fielding more & more lately, particularly from our international customers. Oh, we’ve been hearing this request for years, but for some reason the appeals of late have seemed more frequent and more imploring, so I thought it might be in my best interest to more fully explain our point of view here. The subject in question is…

Can our handbag patterns be obtained by pdf download?

And if not… why not?

Most of you know that we’ve been delivering our eBook and free patterns by pdf download for years, and since it’s been virtually a problem-free system for us, I understand why folks would wonder why we don’t deliver our full-sized products in like manner.

And the truth is, I’ve given this subject a LOT of thought. I’ve done the research and over time I’ve come to the conclusion that delivering our full-sized patterns by pdf is just not the right decision for us… at least for right now. I realize however that many of you won’t understand our reasoning because the truth is… there are some very distinct advantages for the consumer as well as the seller when utilizing a pdf delivery system.

Here’s FIVE good reasons for selling PDF Patterns:

  1. There’s no shipping involved– No shipping means a time savings for the seller and a cost savings for the consumer. This is an especially big deal for our international customers and probably the number one reason folks are clamoring for this option. Postal fees have risen disproportionately higher for our friends overseas in the past few years and I understand that this would be a big savings for them.
  2. Immediate gratification for the shopper– There’s no waiting for a package to arrive in the mail and there’s no doubt about it, customers like this option, particularly our younger customers.
  3. There’s less expense associated with pdf patterns– There’s no doubt about it. A virtual product is a whole lot less expensive to produce. There’s no color cover, no printed components, no labor involved in packaging the finished pattern, no shipping supplies and no time involved in packing and shipping orders. Theoretically, this savings should trickle down to the customer.
  4. There’s less storage involved for us. Let’s face it, a great deal of our studio space is dedicated to storing finished patterns. I have to have them packed and ready to ship at a moment’s notice. If I get an order for 100+ of a particular pattern from a distributor, I don’t want to have to stop what I’m doing in order to get them ready to ship. So if we started shipping a virtual product, we would theoretically free up a LOT of storage area!
  5. The pdf pattern can also be sold on other downloadable pattern sites-  There are a few sites on the web now that sell pdf patterns (such as Craftsy, PatternPile etc).

Now that’s a pretty great looking list isn’t it? And you know what, if that’s all there was to it, I wouldn’t have to think twice. I’d have those patterns available by download so fast it would make your head spin, but now let’s look at the flipside of the issue.

Here’s TEN compelling reasons that we need to stick with hard-copy patterns.

  1. It takes a whole lot of paper to print each pattern. Due to the fact that not too many people have home printers that can print 11″ X 17″ pattern sheets (or larger), these huge layouts have to be sectioned off so they can be printed on standard 8.5″ X 11″ paper, then recombined (like pieces of a puzzle) into the original 11″X 17″ sheet. This means you could easily be printing 50 pages or more and that’s a WHOLE lot of paper and ink! Which brings up the next negative…
  2. The endless taping! Piecing a pdf pattern together just adds another step to the construction sequence. MANY of these pages have to be very carefully &  accurately recombined and then taped together in such a way that they don’t just fall apart when you start cutting, leaving a LOT of room for error. If the sheets are taped together incorrectly, then there’s no way the project’s going to come out right. Which brings up another negative…
  3. Storing PDF patterns is totally annoying! There’s no pattern envelope and WAY more bulk with all of those taped-together pages to store. And here’s another drawback…
  4. It just looks and feels less “professional“. I take great pride in the total package that eventually gets placed in a customers hands. We carefully choose our cover bag, the color scheme and fonts and we even coordinate the color of our instruction sheet with the cover to create a beautiful overall look. The fact is, I like producing a good-looking product. The thought of someone haphazardly taping sheets together with little or no concern for precision and calling it our product sends shivers up my spine. And you know what? This brings us to the next problem…
  5. MANY customers want no part of a pdf pattern. They either have an aversion to e-patterns because of one of the above reasons, or maybe they have no internet connection (or a slow one). But either way this means that there would always be a certain number of patterns would certainly have to be produced in the more expensive ‘hardcopy’ format. But this would negate much of the savings we were supposed to realize by selling in the pdf format to begin with, right? Simple economics says that it costs WAY more per pattern to get 100 copies printed, that it does to get 1000 printed, so our profit margin on having fewer hard-copy patterns printed will be CONSIDERABLY lower.
  6. It becomes all-to-easy for customers to ‘share’ files or photocopy the pattern. Even customers who otherwise would never think of engaging in this behavior could (and would) be tempted to pass along a pattern this way. Let’s face it, all it takes is the click of a mouse to share it with their entire sewing group.  Hopefully no one would do that, but as much as I fear this could be a problem, it’s pales in comparison to the next issue…
  7. I would lose most if not all of my wholesale and catalog sales. You probably didn’t know this but in a typical year, over 65% of my pattern sales originate from retail stores and catalogs. That’s a HUGE part of my business plan. And here’s the deal… if you know anything about wholesale distribution you know that I sell my products to these stores & catalogs at a reduced rate in exchange for them buying in volume. It’s a win-win proposition for both of us. I can offer access to customers who live nowhere near a store that sells our patterns or the hardware & supplies that go with them. But if the customer’s local store does sell our patterns, they’ll generally come out better buying it locally, since they’ll avoid shipping charges and they’ll be no waiting for the order to arrive in the mail. And you know what? I’m genuinely happy either way! I really value my retail and catalog accounts because they increase my reach, they often teach classes on my patterns, and they support my line by stocking zippers and notions that can be used in my bag patterns as well as those of other pattern designers. Bottomline– If this was a hobby or a creative diversion for us, then pdf would probably be the best fit, but this is my livelihood. It’s a serious business for us. I absolutely need the additional reach that my distributors and retailers provide for me. Now I can hear what some of you are thinking… I know some designers have “solved” this problem by selling their pdf patterns at the same price as their hardcopy patterns in order to avoid undercutting their distribution system, BUT– consider this…
  8.  Eventually the only place you’ll see my patterns is on my website- Think about it… If I start selling my patterns by pdf, at a lower pricepoint than my retailers, most if not all of them will quit stocking my patterns. As a matter of fact, even if I sell them at the same price as the hardcopy (which some designers do), I would face criticism from the customer base for doing so, AND a still significant loss in sales. After all, if a customer can download the pattern they want instantly from our website with no shipping charges or sales tax, why would they drive to a store only to pay MORE ? And what’s just as scary is that this mass exodus might actually have a ripple effect, because without our pattern line….
  9. Stores & catalogs might have less incentive to carry our zippers and notions–  I’ve never been sorry that we expanded our line to include Zippers & Notions. They’re the perfect compliment to our handbag line! But without pattern line to support the sale of our Zippers & Notions, how long will they continue to carry them? And this is a HUGE problem for me because….
  10. I’ve spent years building the relationships I have with stores & catalogs and this would be a HUGE change– Remember… over 65% of my pattern sales originate in these establishments. We travel and display at Quilt Market (at significant expense to us) in order to perpetuate these relationships. That’s how important the distribution channels are to our success! Can I really expect to increase my website sales enough to make up for this massive loss? Not only that… what in the world could I do to offset my potential loss in my “reach”?

So for me, I’m afraid there’s no way around it…

Selling my patterns by pdf would feel like a step backwards… a GIANT step backwards. So for now, and for the foreseeable future, we will not be selling our handbag patterns by pdf download. I know this comes as a disappointment particularly to our international customers so for you in particular, we offer the following ideas for you to consider:

  • We promise to charge only the bare minimum for shipping and handling. I think you’ll find our shipping charges to be among the lowest in our field and we purposely keep them low to encourage international sales. If during the course of checking out on our website you think that the shipping charges are unfairly high (and sometimes they are, even though it would take at least 1000 words to explain why), then please email us and we’ll check on it for you. If at any time we can make the shipping more reasonable in your favor, we’ll do it! We’re really not interested in “feasting” off shipping charges.
  • Consider joining our mailing list or becoming a fan of our FaceBook page because this is where you’ll have the most opportunity to take advantage of periodic discounts and savings coupons. I’m a strong proponent of rewarding our most loyal fans & customers and many times, these discounts cancel out the international shipping charges you incur. 
  • Be proactive and suggest our patterns, zippers and notions to a local retailer in or near your hometown. We give significant shipping discounts to ALL retailers (international or not) for ordering in volume and if they know that you and perhaps others are interested in our product lines, they may be more inclined to add them to their stock and then you’ll save on shipping costs and waiting time!

So… there you have it!

I know this is a really long post, but I also think its probably one of the more important posts I’ve written in some time, so I hope you enjoyed reading it and now I’d like to hear from YOU!

            Did you learn something new today?
Or are there other questions you still might have?

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Kat

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