Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, August 01, 2014

The Few. The Proud. The Converted




July


Total income: +6.9%
Total COGS: -2.2%
Payroll: +37.4%

Marketing: +28.7%
Net Income (Profit): -68.1% (-$122)

Year to Date


Total income: +13.4%
Total COGS: +54.7%
Payroll: -36.7%

Marketing: +13.1%
Net Income (Profit): +44.6% (+$4,153)



Curio City ordinarily "closes" for a week of vacation in July (in which "closing" means putting all advertising on hold, posting delayed shipping notices on my home and new pages, and changing my order acknowledgment email to warn of shipping delays.) I'd hoped to widen my YTD lead because we couldn't afford a vacation this year. That didn't happen.



Oh well, it's just July. August's targets don't look terribly daunting, but August is really another throwaway month.



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Trivia junkies might enjoy the June statistics that Google Analytics sent me:
3,799 unique visitors seems like a lot to me. 461 were returning and 3,338 came for the first time. 72% bounced away after seeing just the landing page. The average person spent 1:16 looking at three pages. 2,901 were from the US; the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany rounded out the rest (I typically get two or three international sales a month).

Of those 3,338 first-time visitors, 2,124 came from paid Google clicks, 586 found me in organic Google search results, 224 came here directly with no referral, and 207 came from Bing and Yahoo organic searches. I turned off my Microsoft ads last month so there was no cpc traffic from Bing or Yahoo, which I doubt that Google measures accurately anyway. Twelve hundred unpaid visits is pretty good considering that I've never done any professional optimization.

Google only reported 22 "goal completions" -- or sales, as I like to call them -- for a dismal success rate of 0.7%. Maybe Google only measures the visitors that they sent me. Sunshop recorded 58 sales, or 1.5% of my total unique visits. I'd like conversions to run at closer to 2%, but I can live with 1.5% in the dead of summer. A "normal" rate is anywhere from 1-5%.

My strategy for increasing the number of visits and the conversion rate is simple and clear, but it requires money and the cooperation of my developer...neither of which I have right now. Maybe in a few weeks. 

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Speaking of no money, I had to carry a $1,600 Mastercard balance into August with just $38 left in checking. There's very little hope of getting caught up as long as most of my sales are dropships; nearly every sale that I make increases my debt. It will take a Christmas miracle to make it all better, especially since I can't afford any new merchandise. It's weird to contemplate a final death spiral at the same time that I'm turning in black numbers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Prodigal Blog





I skipped a couple of weeks because it's July. There's nothing going on. After 400 posts I've run out of things to say about nothing. 

"Curio City Online fans want to hear from you!" gushed Facebook's email. Maybe they do. I wouldn't know since Facebook doesn't actually deliver my updates. It's no secret that they suppress business posts if we don't pony up money to "boost" them; fewer than 20 of my 200 followers will see this update unless it gets a few Likes, and that only ever happens when I beg (which is bad form) or during the Christmas season (when everybody's suddenly interested in a weird little retailer). 

PayPal, OTOH, has not been a waste of time, although it did take more time than it should have to get it to that point. Payment processing costs are down noticeably. Getting them to honor the deal that we negotiated took at least half a dozen emails after numerous spot-checks over a couple of months caught them slipping into their old standard terms. Trust, but verify.

PayPal conveys almost no information about my customers (like what type of credit card they used) and gives me no control whatsoever over fraud filtering. Their attitude seems to be "don't worry your lucrative little head about it." That hasn't been a problem...yet. Given the number of complaints I've read about PayPal arbitrarily taking back deposits, it's probably just a matter of time.  

My open-to-buy turned black this week for the first time since last Christmas. That's an accounting technicality since I'm currently staring down a $2,400 Mastercard bill with just $700 in the bank, but it was nice to see before a couple of deferred reorders immediately restored the customary red ink. There just ain't no getting ahead.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lightning Strikes Twice





One fun thing about this game is that the score can unexpectedly change at any moment. June was sailing calmly into the fail column, propelled mostly by the Jackite inventory shortages that I explained last week. On Tuesday, out of the blue, a $500 6-led cap order moved it up to the "meh" zone. On Wednesday, $900 worth of Bald Eagle kites with poles (dropshipped, naturally) kicked it up to awesomeness. (The eagle kite, btw, is a proven Canada goose repellent if you know of any golf courses or parks that need to solve that problem. Just sayin'.)

June

Total income: +33.2%
Total COGS: +109.5%
Payroll: +36.5%
Marketing: +177.9%
Net Income (Profit): -570.6% (-$1,118)

Year to Date

Total income: +13.5%
Total COGS: +24.6%
Payroll: -43.1%
Marketing: +11.6%
Net Income (Profit): +75.9% (+$7,186)

With the year half over, I'm unlikely to achieve the 21% increase that I had hoped for. But I'm up double digits from last year's awfulness. With a few more lightning bolts...who knows?

What's going on with the Cost of Goods Sold? Two things: First, at this time LY I put $400 worth of merchandise that the vendor never billed into inventory at zero cost. They eventually caught up with me so that gets reversed later in the year. Second, shipping expenses for dropships go into COGS rather than the usual office-expense line, and single-item shipping is far more expensive than bulk order shipping.  

I finally paid for tax preparation this month, an expense that I usually book in March or April. Those two things account for most of this month's hit to Net Income. My paychecks are so small that big percentage swings there don't really affect anything.

I can't afford to replace those 6-LED caps until my August credit card statement period opens on July 13. I probably won't lose any sales during the month that I'll be out-of-stock, but one never knows when lightning might strike. One does know, however, that it can't strike if one has no merchandise.

At the moment I have $1,000 in the bank against July charge bills of $3,400...and Monday is payday -- that's nice for me, not so nice for my company. I have about a month to close the $2,400 difference. It's going to be a long and unforgiving climb back to zero.   

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"GRC*MFBEAUTY VITAMIN" has charged my business Mastercard $32.94 every month since March. I don't take vitamins and I'm not beautiful. I've changed my account number twice after dutifully disputing each new charge. I thought it was finally solved last month when they sent me this email:

We acknowledge your statement that you have never placed an order with us. Account number xxx-xxx-xxx has been canceled due to reported fraud. In addition, your credit card has been removed from file. There will be no further charges to your account.

Hah! Another $32.94 charge appeared on 6/24. And just to really piss me off, they're challenging the May chargeback, meaning that I had to actually pay the damned thing to avoid interest. Have I mentioned that I'm especially cash-poor at the moment? If there's any consolation, I know that the merchant pays a chargeback fee (typically $25) every time they lose...and the industry is biased for merchants to lose. This company is going to be out hundreds of dollars when all's finally said and done.

Yesterday they apologized again and offered to send me a check for $98.84 to cover all three charges. Since I've only paid out $32.94 so far (and that one's still in dispute), this bribe will actually put me ahead. Now I can stop disputing the charges and just pay them to put an end to this -- assuming, that is, that they don't pile on any new ones.

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