Last year, I took 10 days off at the end of July/beginning of August. This year, we were gone for only seven days during the same period. In both years, I suspended my pay-per-click advertising and posted messages about delayed shipping on my front page and my news page.
Rather than drying up entirely, business only fell by about 35% from recent weeks.
It might not surprise you that I re-thought a few things during my downtime.
For one thing, I’m less enthused about blitzing the lighted caps. The cheaper clip-on unit is selling much better. The two products have generated about the same number of dollars, but the clip-on’s superior markup makes it much more profitable. The wholesaler will even dropship them, reducing my inventory needs. It makes sense to promote the more expensive caps and enjoy the splash effect on the cheaper clip-ons. But I’m less inclined to put big money into advertising and inventory. Maybe I’ll try the free-sample route instead, and hope for some review ink. If I seek editorial instead of advertising, I’m probably already getting too late for Xmas. Magazines have crazy long lead-times.
I’m more focused now on overhauling my store, a process with two components.
First, the incredibly-delayed Sunshop 4.0 is finally available. Today a Turnkey representative suggested that I can avoid potential havoc by running a copy of my existing 3.5.1 store while Eric tweaks the new version. Why didn’t I think of that?! It would be most awesome to step smoothly from my current version to (ta-da!) a polished install of the new version – especially if I can include some cosmetic updates.
Second, now that I have stronger ideas about my merchandise selection, I’m more eager turn non-conforming items back into cash. That’s going to involve setting up some eBay auctions to get rid of entire categories of merchandise at fire-sale prices. I have to be careful not to panic-sell stuff that might do well in a physical store. And I need to remember that I still don’t have it figured out. The cap lights worked as I expected. The dog Frisbee didn’t, yet, although I just announced it to 450 newsletter subscribers yesterday. The rain gauge didn’t work, even on sale. The barbecue thermometer went nowhere. My new jewelry line is disappointing. I’m working toward a better focus, but I sure don’t have a formula for success yet. Despite all of this hedging, I want to liquidate entire categories – such as Travel, Pets, and most of Home Decor – that don’t fit my plans. At most, maybe 100 of my 385 active products are really on track.
I still have cold feet about opening a store next year. Financially, I still believe that it’s necessary. At the rate the web business is growing, it could be another five years before it starts paying the bills, so I need to up the ante. But personally, I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for a store. In fact, I dread it taking over my life.
In the wake of our Berkshires vacation, I’m reviving the “Exile on
The southern Berkshires – Stockbridge, Lee, Lenox, Great Barrington – are the logical place to establish a new gift shop. They already have thriving commercial areas, and most of their focus is country kitsch, so
The Williamstown area is too sparsely populated to support a gift shop unless it’s right in the commercial district on Spring Street or Water Street. And then I’d be competing with Where Did You Get That?!. You might remember that this Williamstown gift shop was one of the early inspirations for
This brings me back to
I suppose there are other options, like Lanesborough. Superficially, it’s just a commercial st
BTW: I’ve decided to make my blog labels more desc