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A Mixed Bag

I’m going to start this update with positive news.
Thanks to Graham’s help, I’ve managed to get some stock and have packed 30% of outstanding orders. I’ll be shipping those today.
I also viewed a temporary premises and have asked to go ahead with renting that space. This should allow me to move casting equipment so that I can cast more than 3 hours per week and, importantly, get new moulds made. With building work due to start at my house in the last week of February, this will also provide a home for my 3D printers. I hope to get access to the bulk of my stock soon and also move that.

Now, on to the negative news.
On Thursday, my son was sent home from nursery because one of the children in his group had tested positive for COVID-19. He has no symptoms right now, but is required to isolate for 10 days. This means my wife and I will be looking after him instead of sending him to nursery 4 days a week. As my wife is involved in the local response to the pandemic, I will be taking on most of the childcare duties. I will be working as much as I can in evenings and at the weekends, but my time will obviously be much reduced.
Best case scenario is that my son is back to nursery for the start of February.
Worst case is that he shows symptoms on the 9th day, and we are all then required to isolate for 10 days, at the end of which we then get symptoms and the period is extended for a further 10 days. I don’t expect things to go that way, but it is highly likely we will get it if he is carrying the virus now.

Graham will continue to cast once per week and I will continue to dispatch orders when I can. I will, of course, take all the necessary precautions to protect customers when packing orders, but I do recommend you observe guidelines when you receive packages.
The store will remain open for now, with all the previous warnings of fulfilment delays. Should I get symptoms, the store will be closed and I will suspend all order packing unless Graham can do it without contact with me.

Many thanks for your patience and support.
Ben.

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Brexit and Postage Price Changes

Since my last update, quite a lot has happened, but not a lot has changed, if that makes any sense. Both my workshop location and, later, my home were placed into Tier 4. I have had no access to premises since the 18th of December, so have been unable to fulfil orders. Honestly, this has all started to get a bit old so I decided, for the first time since starting the business, to take a proper Christmas break. It’s been great, despite the limitations, as I’ve been able to spend lots of time with my wife & son.

Coming into 2021, and thanks to our lethargic and indecisive government, the COVID situation in the UK is worsening daily. I don’t expect to be out of Tier 4 any time soon. I don’t know what this will mean for premises access, so I have to ask that you bear with me. Once I know, I will post another update. I have some new products waiting, but I will hold them until I can be sure that I can ship them out!

OK. Brexit. Another shambles perpetrated by this government and their predecessors. I have made the changes to the store which seem necessary. I may have made errors, as the deal signed with the EU has barely had time for the ink to dry. Those of you in the EU may now find yourselves paying VAT when your orders pass through customs, as those in the rest of the world already do.

Royal Mail, who I use for most orders, have updated their prices for 2021. I haven’t updated my own charges for a long time, and I have identified where I need to raise them to meet the new prices and the cost of packaging etc. I have kept these increases to a minimum. I have also indentified a few places where I can make reductions – this is mostly due to the average weight of orders in certain situations being lower than I had accounted for previously. It is possible that I will lose a little money on shipping in some situations, but this solution seems to me to be the fairest one overall.

In addition, I have added a cheaper shipping tier for letters which will be used when orders only contain decal sheets. Free shipping thresholds for the UK and Europe remain at £35 and £50, respectively. These orders will be sent out in cardboard-backed envelopes.

Here’s a summary of the changes:

ZoneService20202021Change
UKRoyal Mail 1st Class (Letter)[£1.60]£1.00-£0.60
Royal Mail 1st Class (Large Letter)£1.60£1.80+£0.20
Royal Mail 1st Class (Bulky)£3.80£4.00+£0.20
Royal Mail 1st Class (V. Bulky)£6.00£5.00-£1.00
Special Delivery£7.50£7.50
Special Delivery (Bulky & V. Bulky)£10.00£10.00
EuropeStandard (Letter)[£3.00]£1.80-£1.20
Standard (L. Large Letter)£3.00£3.80+£0.80
Standard (Bulky)£6.00£7.00+£1.00
Tracked£12.00£12.00
Tracked (Bulky & V. Bulky)£12.00£12.00
World Zone 1Standard (Letter)[£4.00]£2.80-£1.20
Standard (L. Large Letter)£4.00£4.80+£0.80
Standard (Bulky)£10.00£9.00-£1.00
Standard (V. Bulky)£15.00£12.50-£2.50
Tracked£15.00£10.00-£5.00
Tracked (Bulky & V. Bulky)£15.00£17.50+£2.50
World Zone 2Standard (Letter)[£4.00]£2.80-£1.20
Standard (L. Large Letter)£4.00£4.80+£0.80
Standard (Bulky)£11.00£11.00
Standard (V. Bulky)£15.00£15.00
Tracked£16.00£10.00-£6.00
Tracked (Bulky & V. Bulky)£16.00£18.00+£2.00
World Zone 3Standard (Letter)[£4.00]£2.80-£1.20
Standard (L. Large Letter)£4.00£4.80+£0.80
Standard (Bulky)£10.00£11.00+£1.00
Standard (V. Bulky)£15.00£17.50+£2.50
Tracked£17.50£10.00-£7.50
Tracked (Bulky & V. Bulky)£17.50£17.50

Happy new year. Let’s hope 2021, despite all we know is yet to come, is a better year than 2020!

Thanks, Ben.

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An Update

With the end of the second UK lockdown, I now have access to my normal premises. This is good news, as I can cast the items which ran out during the last month and I have access to my laser cutter again. Unfortunately, the landlord has indicated that the premises will close from 18/12/2020 to 04/01/2021 and has provided no details as to any plans should my area enter Tier 3 restrictions following the Christmas relaxations. As such, I can’t commit to moving my printers and stock back there until next year.

This means I am working out of three locations:

  • Home office: sculpting & FDM print-on-demand scenery etc.
  • Main premises: mouldmaking, casting, and laser-cutting.
  • Interim premises: Order packing, & resin printing.

As you may imagine, this is far from efficient. So, whilst we’re out of lockdown, I have to ask for your continued patience, especially as we are well into the festive shipping period.

All affected customers have been very understanding, and I really appreciate that.

The elephant in the industry is, of course, the unknown Brexit situation. There’s only so much a business can do to prepare when details are unknown, but I will be doing all I can to minimise disruption and increased cost to MCM customers.

Thanks to you all, enjoy your Christmas, and stay safe.

Ben.

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Lockdown 2: Revenge of the ???

Those of you in the UK will be very aware that the UK government have announced the implementation of another lockdown in England. For those of you who don’t know, this lockdown will last a month and has fewer restrictions than the first one. I was hopeful that my workshop premises would remain open but, following a meeting yesterday, the landlord has decided to close for the duration.

This puts me in an awkward position once more. I can do some sculpting work from home, but all the workshop activities – moulding, casting, order packing, laser cutting, decal printing, resin printing – either have to stop or I have to bring what I can home. Last time, I brought all the stock home, but no casting equipment. I also bought another resin printer to compensate for the lack of manufacturing equipment. This time is likely to work in a similar fashion, with the added difficulty of colder weather preventing use of the garage for resin printing.

The store will remain open, but expect delays in fulfilment.

I don’t generally keep track of stock levels for the items I cast – it requires an amount of work which isn’t rewarded, as I can normally simply cast anything which is out of stock. Bringing stock home means I can fulfil orders providing I have them items in-stock. If I don’t, I should be able to print them on-demand, but this is where delays will build up.

As before, print-on-demand items (3D Alien Worlds scenery, Bushido zones and accessories, movement trays) will continue to be fulfilled as normal.

Laser-cutting is almost always done on-demand, so will have to halt until I regain access to the workshop.

I really appreciate your patience during this, the weirdest of years.
Ben.

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Taking a Breath

It looks like I’ve finally caught up with orders, with no small amount of help from a friend. I’ve worked hard this week to also catch up with many of the tasks on my list for GCT Studios’ Bushido. As such, I feel this is a good time to take a break.

I’ve only taken a couple of weeks off in the 7 years over which I have been running MCM. Mostly, these have been when my wife has wanted to go on holiday or, unbelievably, our honeymoon. I have worked solidly, though often inefficiently, during the UK COVID-19 lockdown. I feel I’ve only managed in the last few weeks to adopt an effective working practice. You may recall that my father passed away in the first week of lockdown.

I’ve come close to being overwhelmed several times in the last few years, but right now I’m feeling very… compressed. It’s strange, because I’m also really optimistic about the future of the business and feeling like I have figured out a lot regarding my working practice. I need to stretch out, to take the pressure off for a short while, so I’m taking a week for myself. No holiday – I’m not going anywhere – just taking some time to play some video games, painting some miniatures, and tinker with some other personal projects.

During this time, the store will remain open, but orders will not be fulfilled until I return (likely on the 21st of July).

As a side note, myself and a friend run a podcast called Robot Dice Explosion where we discuss games in general, though there is a heavy focus on Bushido. I’m looking to do more with this project, including streaming some video games and tabletop games over on YouTube. There’s likely to be more of that over this week off.

Thanks for your support, Ben.