Posts Tagged ‘kimono source’

Why Are Our Kimono and Yukata Affordable?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

At Chopa Zen Home, a.k.a. Your Kimono Source, we hold weekly meetings to discuss business, trends, customers, what is selling, problems, solutions and most importantly customer feedback. We have an open mailbox for anyone, whether a customer or not to reach out to ask a question, make a comment, provide us with feedback or even a referral if they are seeking something we don’t carry. We like to help people and will review and share our resources if we have an answer for you.

A longtime customer wrote us the other day to ask why our kimono and yukata were affordable. Well for one, we strive to keep our costs down.  We don’t occupy a fancy multistory office building, nor do we spend money on luxury art work for the offices, but we do provide great working wages and benefits for our staff.  Most of our staff are actually partners in the business.  It has been a time-honored tradition for us and has served its purpose well over the years. If an employee has a stake in the business, it benefits them directly to have happy customers. Besides the economic benefit, we are also genuinely nice people and want customers to be satisfied with their purchase.

In addition, we are a direct importer our beautiful Japanese yukata and kimono. Among our manufacturing partners, most of our robes and loungewear are either made to order or they hold an ample number of robes we normally buy in inventory for us. Eliminating a middleman or broker allows us to purchase our robes at a lower cost and we can then pass along the savings. We ship from our main warehouse in the Panhandle of Florida and most orders ship within one business day of order receipt. We also ship 6 days a week within carrier operating schedules.

Orders of $75 or more ship free within the USA. Orders less than $75.00 pay a small fee of $6.95. We have had customers ask why we don’t offer free shipping on all orders and the reason is that we have to maintain a threshold to cover our basic costs. Shipping has become more expensive than ever. Unlike Amazon, we don’t charge $119 a year to become a member for free shipping. After all, is anything truly free? Depending on the carrier, you have accessory charges like tracking fees, insurance costs, signature required charges on high value orders, residential delivery fees, fuel surcharges and more.  A few years ago, the major carriers like FedEx and UPS changed their shipping charges from size tiers to actually measuring each and every package and using a formula to determine the “dimensional” weight.  This way if a customer is shipping a large box full of feathers that weighs 4 pounds, they will pay as much as a customer shipping a small heavy box that weighs perhaps 20lbs. These are theoretical examples only and do not reflect the actual formula, but it is expressed to give you a better understanding of the new era of shipping.  After a period, these carrier decisions influenced USPS to do the same. Some have called it price fixing or a monopoly, but we avoid getting into those discussions.

On top of normal surcharges, fees and extra charges, carriers have also charged additional fees during the Holiday periods.  This year, USPS has tagged along and is attempting to initiate Holiday Period Peak Season surcharges. The increased costs on top of their already higher prices would range from 25 cents to as much as $5.00 per package. One would think that if you are handling such a large volume of packages, your costs would be reduced since your trucks can be fully stuffed on the same route, but USPS says otherwise. The irony of this tag-along practice, is that they want the period to begin October 18th and run through December 27th. Charging for the holiday packages in October is the equivalent of seeing Christmas goods for sale in stores in September. A bit early if you ask us.

As most people know, USPS has been losing money for years. Even with their multiple price increases they are still losing money. We don’t want to get into the politics of their business structure or why they charge so little for handling Amazon packages, no matter the size, because it isn’t our style, but charging for holiday deliveries in October?

Back to our original question on why we sell our kimono and yukata so affordable.  In summary, we are a direct importer; we buy in volume, when possible, to take advantage of the economies of scale in shipping and we operate out of modest warehouses and offices.

Most of what we do is done in house. We don’t farm out advertising, we don’t employ sales people and we don’t travel and attend trade shows to sell our kimono. We operate online and want to tend to our customers as best and as quickly as possible. Chopa had a goal to take the guesswork out of buying a kimono online and we believe we achieved that goal. We don’t call it a simple business, but a great functioning business with a customer service approach. We know what works and when we try something that doesn’t work, we change course, and always stick with our core principles. Customer Service is very important to us. Why not become a happy customer of ours? Kimono and yukata are the ultimate loungewear with style, comfort, distinction and Japanese symbolism. Join the other 33,000+ that have called Chopa their Kimono Source.

kimono shopping

Photo courtesy of Vinicius Wiesehofer.

Best Selling Kimono for June 2021

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Chopa Zen Home has been a leading online supplier of Japanese Kimono and Yukata since 1994.  We offer a large selection of patterns, styles and sizes for men, women and kids. From the beginning, we offered a variety of Asian style home decor, tatami mats, furnishings, accessories, meditation supplies and of course Kimono and Yukata.  We realized many years ago that these fashionable robes were our pride and joy. Not only do our staff wear them, but also our friends and family members.  Rarely a birthday or gift giving holiday passes without our group perusing our online catalog deciding which yukata or kimono to buy for the lucky recipients.

In October, 2018 our warehouse was a victim of hurricane Michael. This category 5 storm tore apart many lives, homes and businesses in the the Florida Panhandle and beyond.  While our offices suffered great damage, we were fortunate that none of our staff or their families were harmed and for that we are forever grateful.  It was at this point we had some decision making to do.  Some staff were reluctant to stay in the area and moved on to other cities. Among our partners, several had been considering retiring or moving on to do something else. After careful discussion, meetings with staff, the outlook for rebuilding in the area and a lot of soul searching, we made the decision to focus solely on what always made us the happiest; Japanese kimono and Yukata robes. To us, wearing a robe is like wearing art. The colors, styles and patterns are distinct, beautiful and symbolic. Coming home after a long day and slipping on a soft, comfortable yukata makes everything feel alright.

We still receive emails from former customers asking about items we used to carry.  They are sometimes disappointed to hear we no longer offer Asian home décor, but most understand.  To those who inquires we say, the show must go on and like a cherry blossom blooming for a short period of time, life is similar. Like the seasons, life brings change and people move on.

For the next chapter, we are now in our third year of offering Japanese kimono exclusively and we couldn’t be happier. We are excited with new ideas we have and future changes in store. Like a fine wine, some things take time, but we are patient and want to do it right.  Our customers are of the utmost importance to us and we are grateful for each and every one.  We have many repeat customers who like us, buy for gifting or simply add to their loungewear wardrobe. Coming home to a kimono or yukata waiting for you is like coming home to a piece of Japan.

June was another fantastic month at Chopa. Lots of different styles departed our warehouse. It is always exciting to see customer choices as orders come across our system. Due to higher summer volumes we shipped six days a week this month including Saturdays. We faced some delays of orders that shipped through USPS and couldn’t really get an answer from the local terminal as to the reason.  Packages delivered to them were sometimes held for several days before they scanned and forwarded onto the next station along the route to the recipient.  One employee that spoke with us “off the record” blamed the Amazon Prime Days for the delays. This along with other online retailers that wanted to compete with Amazon and held similar sales in the same time frame.  We also saw a surge during this time window so its possible that people just decided to get online and spend some money.  After all summer is upon us and many decide to shop online rather than go outside and brave these hot, humid days. Chopa monitors many of our shipments and carriers to determine if any issues arise.  When we observe some delays like the handful we saw, we emailed our customers to let them know.  It is frustrating as a delay in shipping isn’t something we base our service standards on and we know how much customers like receiving their packages quickly. We do too!

Thanks to all of your business in June.  July is already starting out busier than June and we anticipated this with new shipments of kimono and yukata arriving daily during the middle of the month. More short length kimono and wide, plus sized kimono are back in stock.

Here are the Best Selling Kimono for June, 2021.

  1. Blue Koi
  2. Eternal Chain
  3. Tree of Life
  4. White Moji
  5. Pink Cherry Blossom

kimono-mail

Image courtesy of: Joel Moysuh

Is Scrooge Visiting for Christmas?

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which brought worldwide closures, shut-downs, lock-downs and layers of additional government regulations, many retail operators are bracing themselves for what could become big shortages of merchandise for the Christmas Holiday shopping season.

Target, Walmart, Amazon.com and other retailers reported to Reuters News that they were attempting to place holiday orders for goods as early as possible this year. Besides backlogs in the manufacturing sector, shippers are facing major hurdles trying to keep up with soaring demand for container space on ships transporting goods over the oceans.

Across the globe, shipping ports are backed up, shipping containers are scarce and ships are experiencing delays entering ports and unloading goods. The Port of Los Angeles is experiencing record high volumes of container processing. Adding to these delays, China recently shut down or minimized operations at three major shipping ports due to a rise in Covid cases. In the U.S., once containers are unloaded there is a fight for the limited number of chassis available. Chassis are used to mobilize the large steel boxes for truckers to haul to their destination. Beyond these problems, truckers are in shorter supply as more veterans quit or retire and the younger generation has less interest entering the trucking business as a career, thus diminishing the number of truckers overall.

All of these situations are putting intense pressure on the price of goods. The rate to ship a 40′ container from Shanghai to Los Angeles was recently quoted at $9500.00.  One year ago, the same rate would have been under $3000.00. The cost of container rentals has seen large increases as have chassis rentals, trucking and shipping costs. Some US importers report their containers getting bumped from ships because other parties offer a higher bid for the ship space days or even hours before the ship sails. Additional surcharges imposed by shipping operators are also adding fuel to the demand fire.

Whether it’s toys, computers, electronics or clothing, many retailers and suppliers are warning customers to shop early this year. Others are quick to point out that they don’t expect much in discounting either. When there is a shortage of goods along with high demand, there isn’t a compelling reason to do offer sales. This year, retailers are facing lower margins to begin with. Many are absorbing as much of these cost increases as possible to remain consistent and competitive, but at some point they must wave the white flag and surrender. If they don’t make a profit, they don’t have a business.

One retail operator who ships packages regularly through her online business expressed disappointment with parcel carriers like UPS and FedEx. She stated that these carriers raise their prices each and every year, but also add additional surcharges in some situations during the holiday season. She explained how FedEx adds a $26.00 surcharge on top of existing rates for packages over 50 lbs. She sells over a dozen outdoor items on her website that weigh around 60 pounds and says she is absorbing the additional cost, but isn’t sure she can do so much longer.  Her product costs have already risen 10-18% on average because manufacturers are experiencing raw material and labor cost increases. Add that to rising import and shipping rates, growing packaging costs, her own higher labor costs and domestic carrier shipping costs, she adds “we only have so much profit to work from and all of these outside issues are eating away at the pie. There is barely any left at the end of the day.” Inflation has certainly been in the news over the past few months and while the Federal Reserve is dismissing it as transitory, many others, especially ones running businesses are losing confidence and believe higher prices are here to stay.

Many businesses are also struggling to find labor. Advertisements for help are at near all-time highs, but roughly 16 million people are still at home accepting some form of government assistance left over from stimulus bills and subsidies. Whatever the reason, and people do have reasons for not wanting or not being able to work, the situation doesn’t seem to be ending in the near future.

Chopa Zen Home has been working diligently with our providers in Japan to continue offering fine kimono and yukata to our customers throughout the Pandemic and we will work hard to do so in the future. Japan is still facing capacity issues with lock downs and partial closures. We have rearranged and restructured our production schedules to better align with their manufacturing abilities. If a select fabric or print isn’t available, we back order it and move on to what is deliverable. We have also faced large shipping cost increases and so far, have absorbed these.  In fact, we recently reduced our standard ground shipping cost to just $6.95 and continue to offer Free Shipping on orders of $75.00 or more within the USA. Rather than getting bottlenecked at shipping ports and having orders delayed for weeks or months, we have mainly turned to Air Freight to obtain our shipments directly. It is much more expensive than Ocean rates, but allows us to maintain a broader and more diverse inventory on a regular basis.

While we don’t anticipate shortages of kimono and yukata per se, we would encourage customers to shop earlier. While receiving smaller monthly shipments throughout the year, we rely on large quantity shipments in the Spring, Summer and Fall. Our annual Fall shipment normally arrives in time for the Christmas shopping season and allows us to offer a great selection of styles, patterns and sizing. But we are well aware of the many obstacles facing retailers this year and sometimes events occur beyond our control. We normally publish an extended return window well before the Holiday gift buying season which allows you to shop early and still be able to return or exchange a robe after Christmas. As always, we welcome feedback, ideas, comments and the like. Use our online contact form to send us a message, post below on this Blog or visit us on Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

holiday shopping

Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.

Do you leave reviews about a business?

Saturday, May 29th, 2021

customer service

 

We receive a steady flow of positive reviews, compliments and thank you notes from customers and work hard to provide all customers with a great shopping experience. Once in a while, we receive a complaint, which can be expected since people have different assumptions about what their experience will be. Thankfully, the complaints are far and few between, which lets us believe we are doing the right thing, communicating well, offering great products, fair pricing and excellent service. In business, a customer that has a negative experience is likely to leave a bad review. This is especially true today with social media and online reviews making it so easy to post. On the flip side, a customer that has a great experience is less likely to leave a positive review. In general, only one in ten happy customers will leave positive feedback.

Since we receive so many positive comments and reviews, it surprised us recently when a customer left us a negative review on a rating site. It was the customer’s first experience shopping with us and we are certain their last. The puzzling piece about this feedback was that the customer never contacted us to discuss the matter or give us a chance to rectify their complaint. Instead, they chose to post and broadcast to the world how bad we are as a company in general.  Because of one issue, this customer labeled all of our products as inferior and not worth the money.  The comment was difficult to swallow considering we have over 100 products and have served over 32,000 happy customers.  If we offer such poor quality products as was claimed, how would we last over 25 years in this business? It simply made no sense to us.

As we read and discussed the review in a staff meeting, it became more obvious to us that this person damaged the robe through their own negligence.  At first, they implied that the kimono arrived with tears in it and claimed that because our return policy was too difficult, they were now stuck with this robe. They also elaborated on being a near-expert on Japanese kimonos because of some life experience. Granted, we are ad-libbing a bit here and everyone, especially customers are entitled to their opinions, but as a reputable kimono dealer for nearly three decades, it became evident after their story changed a few times that this person simply wanted to blame someone else rather than accept their own responsibility for their situation.

We are confident that the kimono arrived in perfect condition, it was worn a few times, they tore it and wanted to pass blame on us. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you have reached out to us to ask for a replacement?  If we ever make a mistake by sending out the wrong color, size, or the robe actually had a flaw, we stand by our reputation and would have corrected the issue at our expense. Our manufacturers have stringent quality assurance plans in place. We receive very few returns and of those we receive, most are simple exchanges. Everyone is human and if we make a mistake, we fix it. Unfortunately today, there are people that just don’t want to accept responsibility for their own actions and instead choose to blame others. We believe this customer purchased a size that was too small and that is how it tore. This would happen with nearly all fabrics. If stretched and pulled with too much force, cotton will tear.

This reminded us of how fragile business review systems are today. With the internet, information is passed at lightning speed and with little recourse. The right thing to do when you are unhappy with a situation is to contact the business and discuss it with them. Don’t become frustrated and paint an unrealistic and untrue picture of someone. We look at all reviews and comments with the utmost attention and seriousness. Negative reviews are harmful to a reputation and can be difficult to overcome. We have made exceptions to our policies and have gone out of our way to make a customer happy. No business wants an unhappy customer. If this person would have reached out to us, we might have been able to do something, but we were never given a chance. In the end we both lost.

Be aware of the importance of good communication and feedback.  If you have a problem with something you buy or a service you hire, give the business a chance to help and fix an issue. You could save yourself money, save your sanity and above all, focus on believing in people and businesses rather than being angry and aggressive. It isn’t good for your soul and certainly isn’t good for anyone around you.  It is a good lesson and one we will remember.  Life is too short, be happy!

Best Selling Yukata in March

Saturday, April 17th, 2021

March Best Sellers.

The TOP FIVE Selling Yukata for March are:

  1. Yukata – Pink Cherry Blossom
  2. Happi Coat – Blue Koi
  3. Yukata – Tree of Life
  4. Happi Coat – Longevity
  5. Yukata – Eternal Chain

Happi Coats are short-length versions of the yukata and kimono.  These are very popular during summer months to lounge in or as cover-ups at the pool and beach. If you are looking to make a statement at your favorite swimming spot this summer, wear a happi coat and all eyes will follow. They also make great gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.