I posted a while ago asking for everyone’s favourite online wool and fibre suppliers with the intention of doing a price comparison. I wanted to see which stores would be the cheapest depending on where in the world you lived and how the prices compared to other countries. (More precisely, US, UK, AUS and Canada as that is where the 4 of us are from).
Well, it took a few days to go through the most popular sites. I had to find 5 items that they all sold, make adjustments for different weights to make sure the comparisons were fair, then convert into different currencies. My original intention was to produce a chart comparing the cost of items from each online store so it was easy to see which was the cheapest depending where you were ordering from. Once I started looking into it though, it seemed a little unfair, I never had the intention of singling out stores for their high prices, I just wanted to find the cheapest.
I can’t say I was completely surprised by the results, but I did think the suppliers would have had more competetive prices for people buying from their own country. Not so. Once all the prices were added up and the currencies converted, there was one online supplier who was cheapest by far, no matter where in the world you live . World of Wool. What was surprising however, was that even when the price of shipping for 500g of fibres was added on, they were still the cheapest. And not by a small amount. The next cheapest online store cost 1.7 times as much, and that’s without shipping.
The biggest surprise was just how expensive some sites are. As well as the 4 main sites, I took a look at all of those suggested. Most of the sites I looked at were charging anything from 6 to 35 times the World of Wool retail price for some common items, such as Silk waste, dyed Bamboo top, Nylon top and even Silk noil. It really put into perspective the prices which small businesses charge, which can seem a little pricey at times. But when you consider that it is often just one person working from home, not having the wholesale buying power of large businesses and often doing every aspect of the job themselves, from degumming silk waste or hand painting dye onto fibres, to taking orders, picking and packing, and then going out to the post office, it suddenly looks like a bargain.
This isn’t how I expected the research to go, but it does tie in nicely with our recent posts about supporting our community of small or local wool and fibre producers and suppliers. Three sites that I looked at particularly deserve a mention: Gemini Fibres in Canada, Sara’s Texture Crafts and Norwegian Wool in the UK. Gemini Fibres and Sara’s Texture Crafts were the only 2 other suppliers who had a very large range of products (which also goes to reducing our costs as there’s only 1 lot of shipping to pay) and they have reasonable prices too. Norwegian Wool mainly focus on Norwegian wool and yarn and short fibre Merino. Their site is really interesting as you can choose where you are purchasing from to see the prices in GBP, €uros or US$, and their prices are also cheaper for C1 and C1/Pels than I have seen on other sites.
I know it isn’t always easy to work out if we are getting a good deal, especially buying from overseas and in different currencies (World of Wool have all their prices listed in US dollars aswell as GBP), but there are a few things we can do to save ourselves money. Consider the weights of the fibres we’re buying as well as the price, $2.99 might not seem a huge amount of money to pay for a fibre, but if it’s only for half an ounce, that actually works out at $21 for 100g or $23.92 for 4 ounces. 100g or 4 ounces might seem like a huge amount of fibre, but the fewer times you have to replenish stocks, the less you have to pay in postage. Buying between friends can cut the costs down and if there are a few of you, you could get discounts for larger quantities.
If anyone is interested I simplified a couple of the charts that I made for the price comparisons and included a chart of prices for some popular felting fibres and conversions into AU$, CA$, US$ and €uros.
Thanks to everyone who commented in the original post and on the forum and told me what they were interested in and what to look out for.