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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 01, 2008

Taking the Bull By the Horns

After last week’s malaise, I forced myself to grapple with some unpleasant details that have been piling up. Sales are down, and things are slow as I wait for vacation to arrive and my OTB to build up. Most of what follows is pretty picayune.

First I tried to resolve a mildly irritating customer return problem. A customer wants to exchange the record purse that she ordered. Being the buffer between the customer and the vendor is costing me more time and postage than it's worth. The vendor is even less thrilled with this than I am. To make it doubly challenging, the customer has a Yahoo.com email address, so I can only sporadically reach her via email. (Yahoo blocks most of my email as commercial spam). To make it triply challenging, email communication with the vendor is often slow and spotty, too. This is the slowest-motion transaction ever. I hope that it wraps up with everybody's feathers smoothed before I leave for vacation. But I doubt that it's possible now. As of yesterday, the returned purse still had not arrived.

I finally followed through on the bluster of my past few posts: I reset my open-to-buy number to zero. (I know; go ahead and catch your breath.) Customers last week obligingly bought merchandise that I either have in plentiful supply, or won’t reorder at all, so the newly liberated dollars increase my nice new black OTB number without compelling me to immediately replenish the merchandise. I’m a little concerned that my bestsellers have stopped selling for the moment. Most of the old merchandise that is moving out now is discounted to break-even, or a little better. But some of these dollars have been locked up since late 2005, so I'm pleased to get any of them back.

Vendors can smell money. They have been calling and emailing lots of tempting new items and special offers. I remain resolute, at least until after vacation. Grow, little budget, grow!

I chased down a missing Fascinations backorder. I’ve sold a couple of floating globes lately. I need more. Their warehouse called on 7/12 to ask if I wanted my backorder shipped. Yes, please. I followed up with them on 7/26. As of today, I still don’t have the merchandise or an invoice. Are they really that backed up on order fulfillment?

I found out that my software supports quantity discounts. Displaying a discount schedule might deflect some of the wholesale inquiries from the clueless that I receive almost daily. But alas, bulk pricing applies to a product’s individual variants, not to the total quantity ordered. I can’t give you the 24-item discount price if you buy six each of four different cap styles. Since I don’t ordinarily stock more than 24 pieces of any individual color/style, the feature is worthless. I did implement bulk discounts for a few items that don’t have variants, but that’s just tinkering. Maybe I can eventually have it customized to work the way it ought to work.

Most significantly: I begged my current developer (Eric, who's been with me from the start but would like to be freed) to bring my site up from version 4.1.0 to 4.1.4 – ideally while I’m on vacation -- so that I can try once again to hire a new developer. Yes, I decided to grapple again with that old problem. A new developer will undoubtedly be expensive, but I have got to have regular support if I’m to keep growing. I will simply have to find a way to pay what it costs.

Despite whittling away at my PPC ad campaigns, Google is still costing in excess of $10 per day. Traffic last Tuesday zoomed to 175 visits – the busiest day since June 5. Yahoo still burns $5 daily without much result. Together, I’m spending up to $450 per month on search engine marketing, with a $250 budget. I’m reluctant to slash ads that are bringing visits, but if those visitors aren’t buying, they're just a burden. My OTB reset maneuver means that my bank account is running much closer to the bone than previously, so I can’t tolerate significant, ongoing overruns in PPC ads. I need to keep cutting, slowly and surgically.

That's it. Unless something extremely unexpected and interesting develops, my vacation will preempt blog posts for the next two Fridays. I'll be back on Aug. 22.

Possible future topics:

  • Legal extortion
  • The zombie store
  • Wacky ideas

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