Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Gourmet Hay"

I went from a surplus of the imported hay, to nothing in two days. This works for me as I have another van showing up any day now, but I always worry that it won't sell in a timely fashion.

One of my customers who is stocking up for the winter, came back by today and got the last bundle I had on hand. We were talking at his truck after using the forklift to load it, and he just blurted out that I needed to raise my price.

Raise my price? What??

I protested that I wasn't a feed store, never mind the premium quality that the grower ships me. People wouldn't stand for paying the same prices as a feed store either, I said.

He just broke out into a big grin and said, "You need to change the name of your business to Gourmet Hay" and he starts laughing. Puzzled, I just stood there like a lump, open mouthed, and he continued, "People know your hay is IS gourmet, to their horses....besides, anytime you hang a label like gourmet on anything, it commands a premium price. Time to raise it"

Well I can't argue with his logic. Much. It's a whopping amount of cash to run through my books for not even five percent margin. Some vans I only break even. Once in a while I do a little better, but often I don't know the exact landed cost per ton until the van is already in port-long after I have quoted a price to folks.

It's a lot of work, that is true. I run the financial risk, all of it. I have tried to be very prompt in making sure the grower is paid asap....that is a given. But when people back out of buying, I get real nervous about whether or not I can sell it all. I am always reassured it will sell, but it's very stressful for me just the same.

I spend hours talking to people about the hay, explaining how I sell true weight, not a "bale", and how and where it is grown. I am fortunate that I can use my boss' forklift to help unload it, otherwise I would have to hire labor. Even so, it's hours of work, takes a lot of pallets, and is a royal pita dealing with some of the prima donna's who come, expecting me to do all the work for them. Truth is, at my age, it's darned hard to toss around those bales and I have to make sure I have help when I bring home hay for the horses at my own place. Besides, my work comes first, every time.

It's only because we cannot seem to grow any decent hay up here that I got into this in the first place, and while I am happy to provide hay to Alaska Equine Rescue and others who have come to rely upon my efforts, there is a point on each van where I question whether it's worth the hassle and the work. Pepl have started to get pretty complacent about coming by to pick up what they said they'd need....leaving me hanging for days. I suppose I could start asking for deposits, but that would delay the vans by weeks, and that isn't good either.

On the other hand, I did manage to get one very small feed store to start stocking the hay, purchased from me....they sell by bale and I hope this works out for them. No feed store up here is selling the same quality, period. I hope people will figure it out.

1 comment:

Lori said...

It sure is a lot of work! I can sure appreciate all the grunt work that hay growers and providers go through.
And it doesn't seem to matter if your buying local hay or imported, it's expensive!
I keep telling myself I have horses to keep my sanity, yea, thats it, sanity...or was that insanity?!
Thanks for providing us all with good hay it still is cheaper then a sick horse and a vet bill.