Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Berneray e-shop open for business

Part of what I do for a living is look at e-commerce; not just online shopping, but the whole process of trading, and making transactions, electronically. One of the services I've been experimenting with lately is Cafepress, an interesting model of "just in time" shopping. A person with digital pictures sets up a "virtual shop", uploads the pictures, and configures the shop so the pictures appear on selected items automatically. The shop owner also sets a price for each item.

People go the shop, and buy stuff directly, as per online shopping. The items are created "at order", and sent direct to the customer. So, the shop owner doesn't have to deal with goods - or for that matter customers, and the trade and transaction is between Cafepress and the online shopper. Cafepress keep a fixed fee for each item sold; the shop owner gets the rest. 

As an experiment, and also to offset some of the costs of the Isle of Berneray website, I set up a Cafepress shop selling items with a few of my pictures of Berneray on them. The shop can be found at, and items bought from,

Last month I uploaded some of my Flickr pictures of Berneray scenes to it and expanded the product range. So, now people can buy clocks, t-shirts, mugs, hats, even boxer shorts(!) with pictures of Berneray on them. Curious as to what the products actually looked like in reality (as opposed to on the screen), I ordered some.

Ten days later, a large box arrived from the USA; here's the contents:


The single sheet calendar (on the left) for the whole year was a bit disappointing; it's just basically a large sheet for blue-tacking onto a wall. And I could have perhaps chosen a more exciting picture for it. But it's cheap.

The cards and postcards are good quality, and more interesting to look at, especially the one of Fred sailing his boat in Bays loch. Here's the greeting card, and here's the picture from my Flickr account that was used.

But the best item of all was the 2008, one month and picture per page, calendar, which is named Boats around Berneray. As a theme to choose for a calendar, boats were a safe one as they are bright, colourful, and judging from the website stats for the Berneray website people really like looking at them. I'm well impressed by the print quality of the calendar, as have been several residents who have flicked through it. Donlald the boat addict was practically drooling over it.

These items aren't very cheap; Cafepress do very well out of their service (their base prices are quite high, so the choice for shop owners is to either have a low margin for themselves, or make items very expensive). There's also the cost of delivery from the US, which can make small orders rack up a bit in overall cost. A UK version of Cafepress, with lower costs and quicker times for delivery, would be better.

Having said that, UK buyers have the large advantage that it's currently over 2 US dollars to 1 UK pound. So the Boats around Berneray calendar is around £8.50, and items such as cards and postcards are very cheap. At a stroke, that's solved a lot of my Christmas shopping problems :-) 


  1. do much the same thing if you set up a Pro Gallery but they are not cheap - then again the postage is from the UK. I have to admit that their site is not as impressive or as easy to use as Cafepress but I can confirm that the quality is first class - provided that you submit quality images.The big question though is - do you (have you?) actually sell anything? A lot of these e-commerce sites look very pretty and prosperous but often hide the fact that hardly anybody actually buys anything. If you do start to sell, how easy (difficult) is it to get your money out of the US? A cheque/check in US dollars for $20 might cost you £10 to pay in the bank!Please keep us posted as to how many pairs of Berneray boxer shorts are circling the globe!

  2. Les: bizarrely enough, the boxer shorts are the largest selling item so far, ahead of the cards, postcards, then the calendar. I'm not exactly going to get rich - I put a low margin on top of what Cafepress take, else the stuff would be too expensive. At the moment it is picking up some sales - boxer shorts mainly as discussed! - but suspect those are largely because it's just been announced and these sales will taper off. Will see.