This is something we get asked about from time to time and the answer not as straightforward as you would expect, so I feel it deserves a full blog post.
First of all, I want to assure customers that we don’t make money on shipping. In fact, when the costs of our earth-friendly packaging are factored in, we make a small loss on the cost of shipping. Transparency is one of our business values and we’re open about our costs, with roughly £0.75-1 the price of each skein going towards the cost of shipping.
Our shipping prices are based on packed weight, and we have built our ecommerce system to calculate this accurately. Occasionally it gets it a few grams out: if it underestimates the weight band, we cover the excess; if it overestimates it and shipping costs less than the amount you’ve paid, we refund you because that’s the fair thing to do.
So, why is it so expensive?
While costs are increasing everywhere for just about everything, the cost of shipping to USA has almost doubled in recent years. This increase is much greater than for shipping to other international destinations (some of which actually got cheaper last year with the easing of lockdowns), making USA the most expensive place to ship to on earth. Until recently it was in Royal Mail’s Zone 1 for international pricing (along with Canada, South America, Africa, the Middle East, East and South-East Asia), but now USA has its own price band, Zone 3 (info).
The events that caused the increase made international news but were strangely absent from US coverage. Many Americans that have enquired about shipping costs knew nothing about it. Guess what? It’s politics.
Aside: There are those in the knitting community that say they don’t want to ruin their hobby by talking about politics. I think this is proof that even people who live a comfortable life, away from discrimination and hardship, do, in fact, have their hobby impacted by politics because politics affects everything.
It started in October 2018 when the former US administration threatened to withdraw from the UN’s international postal union, UPU. This is the body that sets the rates that countries pay one another to send international mail. The then US president took issue with the UPU because he felt that the system benefited China, although it also benefited US consumers buying small goods from all over the world by fixing the cost of shipping at a reasonable rate.
After almost a year of negotiations, in September 2019 it was announced that the US and UPU had come to an agreement allowing the US to set its own rates for other countries to send imports through its postal system. In other words, the cost charged to non-US postal services to send parcels has increased. Royal Mail made a corresponding increase to the cost of services to the USA, and our shipping prices reflect that increase also.
Unfortunately, these changes are to be phased in over five years, so I’m afraid we can expect prices to increase further.
Why don’t you offer economy services?
We stopped sending parcels to the US using untracked services for two reasons: Firstly, during the pandemic it became very unreliable, taking 4-6 weeks rather than 1-2 weeks as it had done previously. Many times, customers expected us to be able to track untracked services when things didn’t arrive on time and for obvious reasons we could not. More parcels were getting lost, which was expensive for us as untracked services come with minimal compensation (which is almost impossible to claim anyway). Secondly, the change in pricing made the price difference between standard (untracked) and express (tracked) services got a lot smaller. At the time of writing, the cost difference between express and standard for a parcel of two to four skeins is only £0.40 (~$0.49) which is really not worth the high probability of loss of delay.
Are there any positives?
Yes, despite the fact that the shipping cost increase feels steep, there is a lot for US customers to be happy about. We think that the express service we use is still great value, especially for a sweater quantity or more, and fair considering the distance travelled. It is normally pretty fast – most parcels leave the UK the same evening they are posted and we often see parcels for the New York area delivered in 4 days. When there are delays it is with processing through particular customs facilities that have a backlog.
Secondly, the recent fall of the pound makes the current exchange rate very favourable to US customers. At the time of writing, our hand dyed wool yarns are ~€25/skein, while $30-35 is pretty normal for a similar product in the US. It does not take a large order for that saving to offset the cost of shipping.
Lastly, US customers can take comfort that it is much cheaper for you to buy from the UK than the other way around. The shipping fee even a small item from a US business is at least $25. On top of that, when the parcel lands in the UK, we have to pay a customs handling fee of £15 (~$18.50) plus duty of 20% before delivery. I know this doesn’t help with the increase but it might make you feel a little better about the value you are getting.
At present, our yarn shipping to USA starts at around $15 (you will see this value fluctuate because we update exchange rates daily). You can always find our current shipping rates in our Shopping Information section. You can also preview your shipping cost in the basket and we accept payment in US dollars so there are no nasty surprises at checkout.