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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Beer Discussion > A Rant About Online Homebrew Supply Shops
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Old 03-28-2011, 06:51 PM   #11
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A few excerpts from previous posts:

"I think the shipping costs are the biggest sore spot."

"Divide 120 miles by 25 miles per gallon and get 4.8 gallons of gas. Multiply by the price of gas (let's say $3.50/gallon) and it would cost $16 just to drive to the store and back. When most places online have $7 and $8 dollars shipping, that's VERY good deal. Even higher rates than that can make it worth it in not just gas, but time savings as well."

Excellent points, both. Shipping rates have escalated dramatically in the past 10 years; this is reality. Handling is handling, and there are fixed costs to getting out an order. That cost does diminish as a percentage of the total as the order size increases. I have a half-hour drive to the only place that has some homebrew supplies in our area, and that will consume a gallon of $3.67 gas each way. Even for a small order, a flate rate of $6-7 makes sense to me.

I do try my best to come up with orders for 4-5 batches at once (about what will account for a 50 lb. bag of 2-row). Right now, I'm looking for some way to reduce the price of that big bag of malt locally.....but so far, no good. My last order was with Northern Brewer, which was a good deal, but as was stated in an earlier post, they won't cover a big bag of malt with that flat rate shipping.

My personal view of the OP is that it will be difficult or impossible to cut into the current shipping charges much. As for $75 to ship a brew kettle.....well, that sounds like eBay shipping to me.

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Old 03-28-2011, 07:09 PM   #12
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I feel your pain!!! I am in the same boat.

I had to make a run this weekend, like you it's an hour one way, and I drive a diesel truck. 180 miles at about 17mpg @$3.75/gal.


$75 seems very steep to ship a kettle. I actually got my kit shipped free because I ordered >$100 from a supplier.

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Old 03-28-2011, 08:01 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by amrmedic View Post
Ok, this is a rant to get this off my chest. Not aimed or about any one in particular supplier/retailer.

I am frustrated. There are many internet based homebrew supply shops. In my area, I do not have a convenient LHBS (the closest one is over an hours drive 1 way). So I do most of my shopping on the internet.

What I find frustrating is the fact there is not one supplier who carries everything. I frequently find myself have to go to multiple sites in the hope of finding everything I need in one place. But this is rare. I find myself having to order from several stores. And when I do find what I want, it is often out of stock.

The reason I want everything in one place is due to the exorbitant shipping fees. One retailer wanted to charge me 15 dollars to mail me my order which consisted of 2 small brass fittings and a pound of flaked barley. This might have weighed 1.5 pounds. USPS has flat rate shipping of like $5 for priority mail. And yes, this order would easily fit in the box. Another site was charging me $75 to ship a kettle! Sometimes I feel we get gouged on prices due to the limited suppliers of hobby.

Now, many of you would reply "Well if your unhappy, then start your own store". I am looking into it, but I want to have a retail and internet store and it takes time and money, which I am working on.

Another comment may be that a store can not have everything or manufactures may have shortages like Blichmann does now. I understand those shortages.

I plan to create a Super Wal-Mart of homebrew shops. One stop shopping. This will take money and time. One of the things I feel is important is to have a customer feedback and since I can not think of everything a brewer may want, have a system for brewers to make special requests or give input on what I carry.

Sorry for the long winded rant, but its frustrating.
I look forward to your best attempt of outdoing the current options out there. There's always room for a better store out there. Of course you realize that running a super walmart of xyz takes a billion dollar company's worth of logistics to stay profitable. Now, I know it's not anywhere near the same scale because the total number of items would be 100 times fewer, but it would be someone's full time job to source materials and track inventory, and place orders (or adjust standing order quantities based on demand).

If you always want things to be in stock, you have to carry more stock. If your estimate of demand is off, you end up hitting expiration dates and have to throw it away. Doing that causes your costs to go up and therefore your pricing has to adjust. Next thing you know, someone on the internet is complaining that your prices are too high.

Maybe you understand all of this but my armchair quarterback detector is on 11.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:03 PM   #14
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I know you can not have everything and please everyone all the time. I even said that in my post. Thats why it would be great for suppliers to have a system to allow for requests. Maybe if enough people want something, they can stock it.
This is exactly what we do. When enough people request a product we carry it. We also special order products for customers that are willing to wait for a non stock product. You can request products by posting in our main thread, on facebook or through our contact us form.

We have doubled the number of products that we carry since we have been open. Many of them were from requests from customers. I did a special order today for a new 3 gallon ball lock keg for a customer that asked for it in our main thread.

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Old 03-28-2011, 08:26 PM   #15
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That's cool Ed, didn't know you could do that. To respond to the OP, I find that a lot of things involved with homebrewing (aside from ingredients) are normally oddities or specialty items that you can hardly find anywhere else online anyway. I know my LHBS doesn't carry 90% of what's sold online just because there's a limited market for most of it. For example, I don't expect every homebrew store (online or otherwise) to carry cartridge filters. I'm pretty sure the only reason Midwest even had them in stock to begin with was because they also have a hydroponics store which sells them to filter water. Also, a lot of things you can buy from hardware stores, so you might want to try looking at HD or Lowes.

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Old 03-28-2011, 08:48 PM   #16
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The thing that kills me is the pricing disparity I find on the cheaper consumable items. I found belgian corks at a great price through St. Pats in Texas. I needed more cages though and though their cork prices were rock bottom they were already out of cages. So I shopped around. I like ordering from BMW but they don't have cages, Austin Homebrew has some of the highest prices on cages at almost $0.25 each. Northern Brewer is cheaper and Midwest Cheaper yet. Morebeer has the lowest price by far at $0.10. I was going to just order 1000 and pay $0.065 each but they were out of stock (and wouldn't give me the 1000 pc price for ordering 10 lots of 100).

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Old 03-28-2011, 09:06 PM   #17
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I can only brew in some weekends throughout the year, but when I do have that brewing weekend available, I brew 2-4 batches in 2-3 days! So, since I tend to order a bunch of stuff at the same time, I always go over the exercise of checking stocks and prices of what I want in 2-3 major online stores plus my LHBS, which is half hour away, for comparison. My LHBS is nice but they do charge a handling fee for preparing large amounts of ingredients, so the online guys usually have a better deal at the end of the day.

Actually, the last couple of times I have gone through the exercise, the same online store had the best deal overall. I think I will do the exercise just one more time, if they came back as the best option again, I will just stick with them from all batches for now on and save me some time...

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Old 03-28-2011, 09:20 PM   #18
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I am actually in the process of opening an online homebrew supply store, and am having a very difficult time trying to find a shipper that will allow me to have a flat rate option but not lose most of my profit margin to shipping costs.

Shipping is damn expensive, particularly on homebrewing items. Grain, extract, carboys, etc. are all heavy items, and they're simply not cheap to ship. Offering flat rate shipping rates eats into a company's profit margins, which in turn bump up the final cost to the consumer.

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Old 03-28-2011, 09:27 PM   #19
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I have studied economics and business. I know that having everything everyone wants at the right time and in stock all the time is a fallacy. But it is frustrating when the shipping is more than the order. Also, some sites have high prices compared to others so sometimes you are forced to pay higher prices in order to get everything from one place, in order to minimize the shipping.

Most stores do not advertise that they will special order or take requests, thats great to know you do. I use Brewmasters Warehouse frequently, I will probably be contacting you for some special orders.

Having different shipping options would be best. Offer USPS flat rate, it doesnt cost you anything. And its cheaper than Fed Ex and UPS.

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Old 03-28-2011, 09:37 PM   #20
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The tricky bit is having to build a shipping size attribute into each item and then have it guess if what you've ordered allows for a small flat rate, etc. Sure, order 3 vials of yeast and it can hit the flat rate box. What about a racking cane? I'm not trying to bust your marbles. I run what I'd consider a specialty shop and even with the limited items I offer, having the shipping charges come out right is very difficult. Some things are small and heavy while others are bulky and light. You can make these decisions one by one but when order volume picks up, it's a nightmare. Granted, I use paypal's shopping cart and the calculation options are directly out of 1992.

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