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, March 27, 2015

Out of the Blues and Into the Black

...You pay for this and we send you that. Hey hey, my my.

Being able to post black ink for the first time this year does a lot to dispel the winter blues. Christians buying Dove kites for Easter pageants led March to profitability. Quickbooks puts me ahead by a healthy $296; Excel only grants me $143 to the good. Either way comes with a plus sign, and the fiscal month still has a day and a half to go. 


Total income: +3.6%
Total COGS: -2.6%
Payroll: +3.5%
Marketing: -85.5%
Net Income (Profit): +123.9% (+$714)

Year to Date

Total income: -16.8%
Total COGS: -14.3%
Payroll: -16.1%
Marketing: -4.6%
Net Income (Profit): -30.5% (-$174)

Income's up a wee bit and costs are down...but that's only because Google hasn't taken its pound of flesh for March yet. April's marketing spend will be correspondingly inflated.

If the person with whom I've been dancing for a month follows through with her promised bulk Dove kite order on Monday, her $1,000 will wipe out my year-over-year deficit and give fiscal April a strong shot at more black ink -- not to mention enabling me to pay off my Mastercard. I never count on these windfalls until the money's in the bank, though; at least 3/4 of them fall through. 

I'm losing the argument with myself against going to the Cavalcade of Crap. It looks like Monday's weather isn't going to suck. The Pro argument is still "I really should go" and all the Anti camp has is "but I hate it." Not having any money matters less than you'd think because I never have any money. So I'm going to waste a couple of hours on Monday at that sad little trade show (plus an hour commuting each way, plus the expenses of lunch and T fare).

Friday, March 13, 2015

February Is the Longest Month

I'm one of those annoying "SAD" people who get depressed every winter. February is always when I bottom out. And this February was one for the record books: The snowiest ever and the second-coldest in history. There is still a solid two feet of snow on the ground and the Boston Globe says that it won't be gone until late April. Boston is 1.9" short of the all-time snowfall record. Whether it tops that or not, this was the worst winter ever.

For the past 10 years I've started most mornings with a three- or four-mile walk. I require (1) enough bare pavement that I'm not slipping and sliding; (2) it's not actively raining or snowing; and (3) it's at least 25 degrees (30 if it's cloudy or windy, and 35 if it's both). My mileage always sputters from December through February, but this year an unprecedented eight weeks went by without meeting my walking criteria even once. I gained five pounds. I eat and drink too much when I'm depressed anyway, so being inactive in February is especially detrimental.

It didn't help that Iggy died the day before our first big blizzard, and Curio City's been slogging through one dismal week after another all year. I haven't been motivated to do anything about anything.  

Fortunately, February eventually ends. This year it dragged on (in spirit) from the last week in January through the first week in March. But we've set the clocks ahead, the snowbanks are shrinking, and my Burpee seed order came yesterday. Spring's not here yet but winter's back is broken. The new Switchables finally shipped and they're selling nicely. Kite sales are back, led by the Dove of Peace for Easter. This week is already the best of the year to date with a day and a half left to go. The Commonwealth is paid, my CPA's fee is in the bank, and I can finally start whittling down my alarming Mastercard balance. If sales hold up for a few more weeks I'll be able to make some forward progress by May.  

The Cavalcade of Crap is coming up at the end of the month. Will I go? I don't know. I haven't any money and hate avoiding salesmen. OTOH, finding new products is my main goal for this year, and it's not impossible that I might find something worthwhile at the Boston Gift Show. Getting motivated will probably come down to the weather. The mile-long walk from South Station to the convention center (and back) is miserable when it's raw and wet, as March usually is. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wobegon City: Where All the Sales Are Below Average

Two lousy weeks killed February. Most of the month saw the expected 1-3 sales per day, but they were way below the historical $40-45 average. Feb. 3-7 averaged less than $20 per transaction. At $34.38, even the biggest sale was below average...and the smallest was $7.82. I don't mean to be ungrateful, but you're supposed to add little knickknacks to bigger orders, not buy them alone. A $3 shipping charge should deter you from buying a $5 product by itself. I probably ought to either stop carrying the cheapest stuff or pad the shipping charges.

The week of Presidents Day is always a low point (as are school vacation weeks in general). The five sales totaling $93 from Monday, Feb. 17 through Saturday the 21st still managed to disappoint very low expectations this year. If that's not my worst week ever, it's a contender.

Business was fair-to-middling outside of those two deserts, but not good enough to head off another huge percentage decline:

Total income: -32.5%
Total COGS: -27.0%
Payroll: -44.9%
Marketing: -11.9%
Net Income (Profit): +22.3% (+$44)

Year to Date

Total income: -29.5%
Total COGS: -24.0%
Payroll: -26.4%
Marketing: +32.4%
Net Income (Profit): -13,553% (-$930)

There's nothing to like there. I really thought that last February's numbers would be low-hanging fruit. March ought to be easy, too, but I take failure for granted nowadays.

Switchables' slow boat from China didn't dock on Feb. 6, as expected. Since I was completely out of plugs (#4 bestseller with 698 sold) and most of the popular holiday-themed covers, I suspended my advertising to save two or three bucks a day. I just turned them back on yesterday when a fixtures backorder arrived unexpectedly. 

Funny thing is that Switchables still sold reasonably well this month (February is when people snap up the Valentines, St Patricks, and Easter designs). If I'd had normal inventory I might have made my month. They resupplied my Easter designs yesterday, but the St Patricks covers are gone forever. 

You'd think that the product scarcity would hold down my Mastercard bill...but noooo. I have to keep replacing the stuff that people are buying. I need to raise $2,260 by March 15 to pay off the credit card, hire my CPA, and pay the state. At the rate I'm going it will take four weeks to raise that much, and only if I stop spending money entirely. Massachusetts gives me two weeks, whereas Mastercard will be happy to carry me forever, for a price. Guess what gets punted down the road.

As I sit here diligently not spending money, I'm doing the legwork to greatly expand the Metal Earth department. In my dreams I would add 80 new models. I'll only ever be able to afford a fraction of that, and possibly not until next Christmas. Gathering and formatting graphics for all of them is slow, tedious work. But I'll be ready if the money ever materializes.   

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