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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, June 05, 2009

Whining, Grumbling, and Griping

My inventory reduction effort is not making any headway yet. Only golf balls and kites are selling with any regularity now. Even my old standby lighted caps are becalmed. I’m nervous about those. Panther Vision said that they’re slow, too, but that their business usually recovers in June. Let’s hope so; no other product is in the same league. Oh well, the newspaper says that retail sales fell more than expected in May. Maybe the depression is finally catching up with me. I certainly did not see the Fathers Day bounce that I was expecting this week; June is off to a very poor start.

Incidentally, I’ve carried those bird kites since I opened Curio City, and this is the first season that they’ve sold in any quantity. My pay-per-click bids must have finally reached the critical threshold.

The point of all this is that every time my open-to-buy recharges, I have to spend it on golf balls, kites, or caps. I could easily drop $2,000 today to replace merchandise with a decent sales history, and I have 20 catalogs with wishlisted new stuff stacked up...but my OTB is a whopping $679 this morning. I need to reorder $1,440 worth of caps to get optimum pricing, and I’m trying to reduce inventory, remember? Going $800 into the red is not going to help.

Maybe I’ll order fewer caps and swallow the higher unit prices. Maybe I’ll bring in one new product line today. These wooden puzzles that I’ve been eying for years have a free freight special ending today, and their minimum order is only $100.

Advertising costs (meaning PPC bids) keep creeping up faster than sales are growing. Google routinely runs $10-12 per day, and Yahoo adds another $3-4. The temptation to kill Yahoo Search Marketing grows stronger every time they hit my credit card. I don’t think that the $100 per month I’m spending there is driving anywhere near the $1,100 worth of sales that would justify it. I hate to do anything that I know will reduce traffic and sales. But the next time my account runs dry, I’m going to mothball it for a month and see what happens. What better time to try this than the summer doldrums?

I could shut down Constant Contact, whom I pay $20 a month for the capability to send out newsletters. The past three newsletters brought in no known sales. Maybe I suck at newsletters…but it does seem like a waste of money and time. I just sent out 281 emails this week. The 86 that were opened (30%) generated 29 clicks (34%, or barely 10% of the total distribution). AFAIK no sales resulted. Those are very typical numbers.

QuickBooks Pro 2009 is sitting in front of me right now, mocking me. Apparently I foiled Intuit’s evil plan by turning off the auto-updater; my copy of QB 2006 is not visibly crippled. I don’t want to go through the upgrade hassle that I wrote about last week, but I do own this $95 piece of bloatware now. I suppose I must hold my nose and install it next week. I'll soon see just how justified all the griping was.

We haven’t had a new reason to hate UPS for a few weeks, so here’s one: my application for the UPS-affiliated Visa card was rejected. It’s hardly surprising, given that my personal income is about 1/3 of the federal poverty line. But I think my main mistake was applying before my Advanta card was actually closed. Two of the three reasons given involved having too much available credit for my income. OK, I know that UPS really had nothing to do with issuing credit cards…I just thought they were overdue for a little more hatred. Maybe they’ll at least stop soliciting me every four weeks now.

I ought to have a Mastercard or Visa, but nobody’s raining down offers in this tight-credit economy. I could probably get the crappy PayPal card (pays off in “rewards vouchers” that are only good on PayPal purchases), or maybe one from Citizens Bank (anemic rewards program and no online application – I’d have to go inside a bank and talk to a human? No thanks!). No, for now I think I’ll lean on my business Amex and use my personal Chase Mastercard (cash back, yay!) where Amex isn’t accepted. Eventually the credit market will recover and I can get a decent card. Who knows? Maybe Advanta will even come back someday.

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