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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, August 17, 2007

Nose to the Grindstone

Business is still strong relative to LY. I’ve had only two zero-sales days all month, despite being “closed” for several days. The corresponding period LY contained 11 shutout days. Dare I dream of recovering from the poor Spring holidays? Yesterday brought an unexpected sale of $300 worth of clip-on cap lights! I still don’t know where that one came from; neither Google nor Yahoo show a conversion on those keywords yesterday. So: Yes, I do dare dream of making two of my 2007 goals. I won’t double LY sales, but I might very well turn a profit and earn as much in salary as I reinvest in startup money. If this trend holds up, I might even reevaluate the whole Curio City Offline vs. Curio Megalopolis Online issue. (Are you getting the sense that I really don’t want to open a store?)

Right now I feel pulled in at least three distinct directions, and I’m making only fitful progress in any of them as I dip in first here, then there. Rather than do the responsible thing and return to my pre-vacation punch list, I decided to concentrate on merchandise this week.

Remember a product called “Ultra Bright Finger Lights”? Last weekend, while taking advantage of a special discount from the supplier of my bestselling 5-LED clip-on cap lights, I happened across these new “Rocket Rings”. It looks like the old finger lights have returned at a much lower price. Despite being burned by the quality of the older product, I decided to take a chance on these new ones. I ordered aggressively to earn their quantity discount on top of the one-time incentive, producing an outrageous markup on this little item. It’s a gamble, having not actually seen the product yet. I’m hoping that they’ll blow out before the batteries can go bad. If the novelty of LEDs ever wears off, Curio City is sunk.

Speaking of LEDs, it was time to reorder Temperature-Controlled Faucet Lights -- a steady, if unspectacular, seller that surges around holidays. I put off dealing with this vendor because they aren’t set up for online orders. Because my office is two sizes too small, I have to fold up my computer desk, crawl on the floor to an inaccessible cubbyhole, and dig through an unsorted pile of moldering paper catalogs. Paper price lists are always inaccurate or incomplete, and their Left Coast location means that shipping is expensive and their hours are inconvenient. I visited their website anyway, on the off chance that they’ve come into the 21st century. No such luck. But I did find a potential new product: the Peeramid Book Rest. They aren’t crushable, so I’d need to lay in a supply of boxes especially for shipping them. They might be too expensive – even my wife balked at the price, which is a red flag. On the plus side, they are not widely available online; the only other store that I found is selling them for full retail. I’ve asked for a sample. If the quality is there, they could be a nice niche product. They don't have LEDs, so they're risky.

Then I had to deal with the Panther Vision (the lighted cap people) again. This company has an awful website, a very confusing product line, Byzantine pricing, and spotty e-mail communication. I think my willingness to bulldog through these obstacles gives me a competitive advantage -- many of my vendors are difficult to work with -- so I persevere. Most of my questions were answered yesterday, and I can now work up an order (another task that I’m procrastinating on at this very moment). I’ve got a lot of money in this line now.

As long as I’m writing orders, I did the preliminary work on some expensive new Christmassy products from Fascinations and Can You Imagine – “preliminary work” meaning price comparison, grabbing images, and creating the items in my databases. Their new products are coming out of startup money (my “rescue cash” plus the remainder of my Phase 2 money), so I can place these orders anytime. Reorders have to come from my normal open-to-buy budget.

I’ve got my eye on about $450 worth of new globes from Fascinations, plus a $500 reorder. Their globes always do well around holidays. CYI never quite lives up to its promise. The few products of theirs that’ve done really well became unavailable. The rest of them just dribble out. I came up with about $500 I’d like to spend with them, and that’s speculative. I think I need some new vendors. The always-disappointing Boston Gift Show is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Finally, I needed to reorder some boxes and shipping supplies. I hate wasting money on crap like that. (I hate spending money on anything, but especially on consumables…except for alcohol and tobacco, that is).

In the midst of all of this ordering, the long-delayed Sunshop 4.0 upgrade was finally published. My contract developer (Eric) has made the time to install it for me. Since it comes with no documentation whatsoever, I have to pore over their features list, figure out which new features I want to use, figure out which of those will automagically work and which will require some development assistance, and figure out which old features (like Google Analytics) the upgrade will break. In other words, I’m suddenly looking at Web development again.

Next week, unless Sunshop takes over my life, I intend to get busy on my markdown project – clearing out the old crap so that I can overhaul my Bargain Bin department and hold a real sale. My first effort at that – selling off light switch plates in a lot on eBay – went nowhere. I don’t know whether to try those again, or stop wasting the listing fees.

From the MORE REASONS TO HATE YAHOO Department: Today I got an “Editorial Status Update” saying that “Ads and/or keywords you submitted were reviewed to ensure that they comply with the Editorial Guidelines. Keyword results: Pending: 1 Declined: 0 Removed: 1.” That’s weird; I haven’t submitted any new Yahoo keywords lately. I must’ve edited an old ad, as I routinely do. Investigation showed that “The keywords referenced by this alert no longer have an editorial status of removed, so there are no results to display. These items may have been resubmitted for editorial review or deleted.” WTF, Yahoo? Not only will they not tell me how I transgressed; they won’t even tell me what they removed. Arrogant bastards.

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