The price, costs and value of pedals… …oh and flippers too.

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Before I get started, I wanted to say why I’m writing this article. There are a few things that I’ve wanted to address over the last year or so related to the cost of pedals as well as some business decisions that have to be made around pricing.

One of the first things that got me thinking about all this was some of the price hikes by opportunists I’ve seen on Reverb for secondhand Champion Leccy pedals (there’s currently a Woozy up for $500 or so). I also wanted to keep everyone up to date with what’s happening here behind the scenes and be a bit more transparent with my own pricing and some of the workings of a small batch pedal builder.

Another reason for wanting to let people see behind the curtain to an extent is because unfortunately I have to raise the price of the Woozy in February. I’ve been putting it off for a long time, in part due to the pandemic, but it’s something that I can’t really hold off on any longer.

As of February 2021 the Woozy will be $210. There will be no other price increases for any of our other pedals the foreseeable future.

Why is the price going up? And why only the Woozy?

The Woozy was first released in early 2019, so it’s almost been 2 years since I priced it. At the time $199 felt like a good price, partly because I wasn’t confident going over the $200 mark. Champion Leccy was a much smaller business back then and I was still working a lot of stuff out, so I erred on the side of caution went with a lower price and a tighter margin. I’ve revised the pricing formula since then armed with a bit more knowledge and experience of what it takes to cover the costs of running a small business. The new formula should be robust enough to keep prices stable for the foreseeable future. I should also mention that the new pricing has already been applied to all the other current models, so it’s only the Woozy that needs to catch up.

2020 was quite the year! It has become more difficult to get some of the components we rely on. But even before the start of the plague, one of our regular suppliers went out of business. We’ve also seen a couple of price increases on parts we use, and of course the Trump tariffs didn’t help. Luckily we have been able to buy in bigger quantities to offset some of these additional costs, but we’ve also been investing in one or two higher quality parts like the lovely Gorva pro footswitches.

Another thing we’ve been making a conscious effort to do is more ethical purchasing, so things like cutting out Amazon and Uline from our supply chain. It’s not always possible, but we’ve started getting our packaging from smaller businesses, unfortunately this also comes with a price tag. We like to support local and family businesses as often as we can.

All of these factors combined mean that we really couldn’t hold off any longer.

How do you work out a retail price for your pedals?

It has taken a bit of experimentation to come up with a good, rugged formula for pricing pedals, but it works and it actually has its roots in my experience of working for a drum gear distributor back in the UK many moons ago.

The formula involves adding the following together:

Cost of BOM (bill of materials)

This is the cost of all the physical parts and electronic components that make the product. I work out an average price for each component that goes in the pedal, based on the quantities I order in (including bulk discounts so I can pass on savings). I then add a small margin to account for consumables used in building the pedal like wire and solder. This margin also helps to cover other small hidden costs things like the price of shipping the components to the Champion Leccy HQ.

Cost of other materials

This is all the other physical bits and bobs that go into selling a pedal, most of this is just packaging, the pedal box, the muslin bag, labels, etc.

Cost of services

This is the cost of any services that are involved in the production of the pedal. This means, drilling, powder coating, screen printing or acid etching. The only services we currently use are for the enclosures.

Labour cost

The price of building the pedal. This is worked out on an average build time per pedal. This money is paid directly to the builder, which up to this point has only ever been me (Woolly), so this is my wage.

After all of these are added up, I have what I call trade price. It covers the basic cost of the pedal. It does not however include a profit margin. This is the price that retailers buy the product for. So when I sell to a retailer I don’t make any profit. I get paid for my time building that pedal, which begs two questions…

What is the profit margin for? And why sell to retailers if you don’t make profit?

The ‘profit’ margin, which sounds great, is not as exciting as you might imagine. Most of this margin isn’t profit at all, it actually goes towards all the unseen costs of running a small business, of which there are many. To keep Champion Leccy going I need things like a functioning computer, storage, tools and equipment, a printer, ink, a website, mind-melting drugs, tester amps, countless legal pads and an endless supply of Yorkshire tea and porridge.

There are also costs like the components it takes to build all the prototypes before a product meets the criteria for release, which can easily add up to a couple of hundred dollars (those belton bricks ain’t cheap). Then of course there’s the many, many hours that need to be spent on concepts, testing, working out problems, designing and planning out the layout, artwork and PCB, working out quantities for component orders, shopping around for the best pricing on components, maintaining the website, writing articles like this, maintaining all my various lists so I can keep track of stock and orders, etc. that I don’t get paid for directly from sales.

So, if my precious profit margin is so precious why do I choose to have retailers sucking the lifeblood from me and denying me some kind of rockstar lifestyle? Well, retailers have a lot to offer. Our international retailers take the headache out of international shipping for starters. All of our retailers give us exposure to bigger markets. Being represented in fantastic, reputable local stores like Russo Music helps us to build our reputation and gets our pedals in front of musicians who get to try the product. It’s a sound investment for us and we love to support local music shops too! There’s nothing quite like visiting a great local store and being able to try out a bunch of gear with knowledgeable staff and great customer support.

As a small but growing business it’s important to bear in mind that as we grow in competence we can expand. At the start of 2021 I’m really happy to announce that I’m in the process of converting all the modulation pedals to part SMD PCBs so we can shift some manufacturing out of house. Once we can guarantee the quality of the new boards, this will help us produce more pedals and keep up with demand a little better. The cost of manufacturing will come out of labour costs, but I’ll be able to build more to make up for it! More importantly than that, less time spent on building means I’ll have more time to work on new stuff. I have several ideas that I’m really, really excited about but I just haven’t had time to work on yet. More about that soon enough.

Why do I never see Champion Leccy do discounts?

On occasion there are a few blem or B stock pedals which we discount, but as a general rule I don’t do sales for a few reasons.

The main reason is, the pricing formula above means that I’m charging as little as possible whilst being able to make a living. It is very important to me that all Champion Leccy products balance a fair price with quality, so the standard retail price is always the best price. If I were to do sales, I would have to inflate the price of the pedal so that when I discounted it, I wouldn’t be failing to pay the mortgage or feed the cats. It seems more honest to do things this way round.

As an example of this, the Fettle Boost actually dropped from $135 to $130 in 2020. Luckily buying in bulk more than offset the increasing cost of components for this particular case, so I was able to reduce the price.

Is it worth buying a secondhand Champion Leccy for more than retail?

No, never. There’s always a new batch on the way in a few weeks. if in doubt shoot us a message.

And honestly the price hikes really suck. I’ve seen Champion Leccy pedals come up on Reverb and sell for more than retail, and the flipper made more from buying the pedal and selling it, than I did for designing and building it. It’s a little demoralising and there was a point where I considered raising my prices across the board as a result. I didn’t and I’ve decided that I won’t, because pricing people out is a dick move.

I have to say it also really sucks when people lie about stuff in their listings, like saying that I don’t make the Woozy any more. Sure, it might make their listing look more attractive, but it can also stop people looking for my products in future because they think they are discontinued and that they therefore have to pay exorbitant scalper prices to get one, so they move on.

Just so you know I’ve actually made a small addition to the terms and conditions of sale to cover this eventuality. We confer with other builders and already know of a few bad eggs. If I know you’re a flipper, I’ll cancel your order at your expense. I haven’t had to do this yet, but we want to do everything we can to make sure that people who want to buy our pedals can buy them and for a fair price.

Also, just to be clear, if you want to sell a Champion Leccy pedal and you’re asking a fair price or if you’re looking to trade with someone, let us know, tag us in a post and I’ll repost it to our instagram stories. I’ve got no problem with that and I’m more than happy to help.

What is a pedal worth?

Obviously this is an unanswerable question, or perhaps the answer is in that episode of Always Sunny where Frank becomes Andy Warhol and Charlie becomes Richard Grieco.

On the one hand, pedals can be expensive. They cost an amount of money that is significant, enough that buying them is an investment that requires some research beforehand.

On the other hand, a lot of pedals are pretty cheap for what they are (at least theoretically). The pedal market is so saturated that the sheer volume of options means that builders need to keep their product prices competitive, which generally means cheaper. There are also more hobbyists than ever who can afford to sell at lower prices because they already have a comfortable income from their full time jobs. It’s worth saying also that there are some great builders out there who don’t charge enough for their time and effort.

You may have seen one of those super knowledgable interweb know-it-all guitar experts talking about overpriced ’boutique’ pedals and how they only cost $20 in parts. Just to set the record straight, that’s not the case, and it’s a really stupid way of looking at things. There are a bunch of other costs involved in building pedals and running a small business as I mentioned before. Also there’s a terrible and super lazy tendency to lump all non-major pedal brands in with the tag ’boutique’ and the assumption of an exorbitant price to match.

Beyond this mad tangle of markets, flippers and pandemic pedalboards, it’s really difficult to ever know what a pedal is worth, beyond what it means to you. And that’s the point!

Personally I get a bit miffed with some of the elitist attitudes towards ‘bedroom players’. What’s wrong with enjoying making music on your own terms? Not a damn thing, that’s the aim isn’t it!? Whatever you want to do with your instrument and sound shaping tools is entirely up to you. If you make soundscapes that no-one will ever hear and it brings you great joy, more power to you. If you’re quietly working towards a sound you have in your head, or you’re developing your own style hoping to play on a stage some day, fantastic! Every gigging musician was once a ‘bedroom player’. You’ve got to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. Whatever you do, just be sure to do it on your own terms.

Anyway, my mind is going in several directions at once now, so I’ll end it here with Happy New Year!

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