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, October 12, 2007

Orange is hot

The Sunshop upgrade that began on August 25 is progressing nicely. The cosmetic changes are mostly done. After some functional fixes, I can import the catalog and start updating items. This will inevitably uncover more bugs. I still hope I can open this thing by Halloween.

Speaking of Halloween...What’s up with orange? I noticed it all over my new store templates: orange text, orange buttons, orange accents. It’s not a very appealing color, yet it’s pervasive on the web. Is it a fashion trend? Is there some functional reason to use orange? My wife tells me that it’s all the rage in women’s clothing this season, and I’ve even seen a disproportionate number of new orange cars. Orange is hip. Orange is now. Orange is happening.

Orange is ugly. It will look dated a year or two from now. I’m having all the orange removed from my design.

Reasons to hate UPS: The charge that appears on my statement often differs from the nominal charge at the time of purchase. Sometimes they credit me a few cents, sometimes they surcharge me a few cents. Altogether, it makes little to no difference in the monthly spend, yet this practice makes my charge statement difficult to balance.

Christmas Merchandise: I recently pushed my open-to-buy deeply into red ink with a Fascinations levitating globe order. This is one of a handful of vendors with whom I bothered to establish credit, so the bill doesn’t go on my credit card. Christmas sales will be pouring in – or had better be – when it comes due in 60 days. It almost shouldn’t count against my OTB at all.

Nearly 50% of my annual business will come in November and December. So I am continuing to order despite a dearth of current sales to recharge my budget. I might even carry a credit card balance for a month – heresy!

Speaking of my credit card...yesterday Advanta called to tell me that Mastercard had informed them that my card number was compromised. My corporate MC account is on hold and a new card is being sent. Luckily, I have a fallback Amex card.

You could just visit my New Arrivals page to see where the money’s going…but since one purpose of Curious Business is to create links for the benefit of search engine spiders, here they are:

PurseHooks were one of the two products that I found at the fall Boston Gift Show. I have since seen them everywhere. I think they’re going to be like lighted caps -- a cool novelty just six months ago, they’re now sold at Sharper Image and the QVC shopping channel. I can see this being an ongoing problem for Curio City: When products reach a certain level of success, they’re no longer appropriate for my store. If I’m right, the purse hooks are at the beginning of that arc. They’ll do well through xmas, and maybe into Valentines Day if I’m lucky, before they attract the Walmart crowd.

Record purses (the other product that I found at the Boston Gift Show) are a natural companion to purse hooks. These also tie into my Vinylux line, which sells steadily if unspectacularly. Vinylux has achieved fairly wide distribution over the past few years and may have lost its novelty. The record purses, OTOH, are brand new and exciting. If their creator can supply them consistently – and especially if she can accommodate special orders in a timely way – they could become the Next Big Thing. Alternately, supply vagaries could send them the way of my late lamented typewriter key jewelry. Customers like these recycled art products, but their very authenticity makes it very difficult to supply the most popular designs. Just as each typewriter keyboard had only one “M” key, there’s also a finite number of surviving copies of any given LP. Selling them online adds another familiar challenge: It’s going to be very difficult to reorder the best-selling titles, and I’m not sure that photos will be enough to drive impulse sales. If I have to make new product pages every time I restock, they might not be practical for me.

My last major investment went into levitating globes. These big-ticket items sell steadily when I can afford to keep them in stock, and the manufacturer has several new models for this Christmas. They don’t sell them to big retail chains -- hooray! On the down side, complaints about defective units leave me anxious about their quality. They’re bulkier than most of my products and getting them here from California is quite expensive. The closely related Floating Ideas has never sold a single unit. The number of variations on each design, plus chronic stock shortages, makes it difficult to present a coherent, reliable line of floating globes. Despite these concerns, I restocked four older styles and introduced three new ones.

The order just arrived yesterday. This afternoon I need to unpack it and photograph the new styles. I need to see a copy of the invoice to ensure that I got the special pricing on Zero G Sports. The Golf version has sold slowly at a discounted price. Fascinations is offering the rest of the line at a special discount, so I’m bringing those in, too.

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