Welcome to Curious Business

Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. 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, June 01, 2007

This Isn't the Post You Were Expecting

I never got around to starting my store-opening financial analysis last week because life got a little too busyl. Alas, this does not mean that Curio City got busy. Despite a very nice sale on Sunday that started the week off on a hopeful note, a 3-day shutout will bring it in way below LY, and May will finish at least 50% down overall. I still don’t know why.

With each day that this sales slump drags on, I spend more of my time working in the garden and around the house, and less time hunched over this computer. There’s only so much work I can do with no sales to process and no operating cash to spend (and no paycheck for motivation). This week's big news was the death of our 20-year-old clothes dryer. I had to move all of my Curio City stock – at least 100 boxes -- to clear a path to our bulkhead. After the new dryer arrives today, I’ll have to move it all back. At least I can reorganize and consolidate my inventory, making the "warehouse" more efficient if sales ever return to normal.

Lest I give you the wrong impression, “slacking off” still means spending 3-6 hours a day on Curio City, seven days a week. I read traffic reports, tinker with my PPC campaigns, look for new merchandise, evaluate forecasts, answer email, and hope that growth will resume as mysteriously as it stopped.

The Sunshop upgrade is the only thing I can see that might restore some momentum. Turnkey hasn’t updated their release news since May 18. They’re still working on gift certificate functionality (hooray!) and the ability to modify orders at the product level (huh?). There is no indication when they might release a stable and complete version.

I wrote a 1,000-word essay for the Yahoo Ultimate Connection Contest, which will award $25,000 worth of free clicks, a website makeover, and a year’s worth of marketing consulting to some lucky small business. Winning a $40,000 prize would certainly change everything. I’ll post my contest entry here when I’m sure that it didn't win.

My Father’s Day newsletter flopped despite what I thought was an extravagant free-freight offer on 15 featured products. 422 emails went out. Seven bounced. The 83 that were opened brought 26 clicks. No sales. All of the hours that I spent finding a new jewelry line, negotiating terms, creating product pages, featuring it in two newsletters, and creating PPC ads yielded one sale of women’s jewelry to an acquaintance from Octopus Overlords, and one expression of interest from a friend. The 26 clicks that I got from the hours spent writing my newsletter would have cost me about $3.00 on Google. My time these days is worth about 25 cents an hour.

I do have a hopeful eye on one cool new product line with good sales potential. The minimum order to get started is over $500 (my OTB right now is $150, and I have several reorders stacked up already). Some competitors sell very similar items for a lot less than I’d have to charge, and at least one website sells the identical product below my price. But their site looks kind of cheesy. I’m leaning toward bringing them in and emphasizing superior quality (while hoping that shoppers won’t price-compare too aggressively). I really like this product. Maybe my enthusiasm will be infectious.

Next week I’ll see if I can get to the financial analysis that I promised you last week.

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