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, July 29, 2016

July Numbers (Already)

A couple of bulk sales unexpectedly put July in the plus column.


Total income: +10.6%
Total COGS: +12.6%
Payroll: +12.9%
Marketing: -12.3%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +34.2% (+$119)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$228


Total income: -6.6%
Total COGS: -5.5%
Payroll: -7.5%
Marketing: -2.2%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -13.9% (-$273)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$2,236

The negative profit means that my debt probably increased by more-or-less that much. Excel tells a somewhat happier story with income running $411 ahead of LY to land at 3rd best of 11 years. With a day and a half left to go, it only needs $46 (almost a sure thing) to take the #2 slot and $313 (it could happen) to be #1. 

Last August presents another formidable target thanks to three bulk kite sales and one bulk golf ball sale. I don't expect to match that. But then, July should have been a loser, too. It all comes down to these random big sales. 

I was resolute and canceled Constant Contact after 10 years together. They tried to talk me out of it until I quoted their own FAQ to the representative: " Our specialists will not pressure you to keep your account." It's kind of sad after all those years, but the $240 that I'll save goes straight to the bottom line.


Once upon a time, Panther Vision caps were the heart and soul of Curio City's business. Nowadays they're all but dead. Winter beanies kick some ass, but of course those only sell during the winter. Reviving caps would make a huge difference. Since mobile users now comprise roughly half of my traffic, I rewrote the page to address them. Shoppers using proper computers generally appreciate the thoroughness of my wall-of-text; those who don't can easily scroll through it. But cell phone shoppers don't read, and navigating a complex web page is a bitch, so I gave them instructions at the top of the page and moved the wall of text to the end. If I see any uptick in lighted caps I'll extend that approach to other products, and I might even delete the wall of text entirely. But I'm a stubborn old man; I believe that most shoppers appreciate getting as much information as they can find.    

Friday, July 22, 2016

Slimming Down While Bulking Up

I had two bulk order inquiries this week, and another big kite order arrived out of the blue. The first pilgrim bought half of the Switchables fixtures that she'd asked about. The second one balked when he saw the shipping charge for golfballs. July's going to be a good month on the income side -- which is surprising in light of light routine business -- but the profit side will be slim. The bills for the merchandise will hit next month. My software undercharged the osprey kite guy for next-day shipping by $25, and I have to pay both inbound and outbound freight for the Switchables order, which also got free shipping and my discounted bulk price. In an effort to salvage the golf ball sale, I told that guy about the free shipping coupon, so that's another hit if the order comes through. 

I keep saying that it's all about cash flow and profits are an afterthought, but that's only true while cash flow stays positive. Cash flow keeps the bills paid...except when it doesn't. Then you get negative cash flow, or "debt" to the layman. Profitability is how one pays off debt. If there's no money left after the bills are paid, there's nothing to throw at debt. 

Don't get me wrong; a healthy top line is a beautiful thing. But as long as the bottom line stays red my debt keeps going in the wrong direction. I'm stomping on costs as hard as I can...but since I'm a natural-born cheapskate there's not a lot to stomp on.   


Mailchimp's reports look just fine; in fact, they have some advanced reporting options that I can't use without implementing some scripts. I had expected an open rate of at least 50% from my stripped-down, recently-vetted mailing list. Actually got only 58 unique opens out of 157 sent (36.9%) and just 10 clicks. I hadn't expected very many clicks from this test newsletter, but you can see why they aren't worth $20 per month -- that would have been $4 per click at Constant Contact prices (assuming six newsletters per year). As for results...one person used the free shipping coupon and one (a family member) unsubscribed. I found that rude, even though she has never bought anything, nor ever will...but I suppose I don't need low-quality addresses cluttering my list or people reading my newsletters just to humor me. 

My developer says he'll have time to tackle my task list next month. I'll work on reviving email marketing after that.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Osprey Versus Falcon

A peregrine falcon and an osprey go into a very large aviary. Who flies out? For the past 10 years, falcon kites and osprey kites have sold almost exactly one-for-one. The two kites are identical except for their printed graphics. The osprey took a comfortable lead when the falcon went out of stock earlier this year, and it hasn't looked back. I haven't sold a single falcon since they came back a month ago; meanwhile, I've been selling about 10 ospreys per week. I really have no idea why the osprey won that battle. My product description gives the osprey a slight edge in deterring seabirds (especially gulls), but that shouldn't be enough to deliver a knockout. Most shoppers don't read the description anyway.

On the remote chance that an undecided shopper is reading this: choose the raptor that's native to your locale.


I bulldogged my way through the Mailchimp interface and cranked out a basic little test newsletter that should hit mailboxes tonight. If the chimp's delivery and reporting look adequate then I can cancel Constant Contact next week. Theoretically, my recently pared mailing list should get pretty close to a 100% open rate; realistically, I still hope for better than 50%.

I've approached my developer about re-implementing the newsletter signup box on my checkout page (and squirreled away some money to pay him), but so far he's playing hard to get, as developers are wont to do.

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