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, July 31, 2009

I'm Back

Our Berkshires break was wonderful. The weather cooperated for a concert on the lawn at Tanglewood and our garden tour of Naumkeag, the former summer home of the Choate family (no direct relation to the late actor Tim Choate, better known as Zathras). We went to an exhibition opening for the Williams College Museum of Art, saw the O’Keefe show at The Clark, visited MassMoCA, and even saw a play at the Berkshire Theater Festival (good lord, theater is expensive! Not as bad as going into Boston for a play, though). We walked our customary three miles on at least half the days that we were there, had a day or two of down time at our rented mountain cabin, and still managed to visit most of our favorite restaurants. Behaving like employed people was refreshing while it lasted. Now I’ve got a year to recharge the vacation budget before we can go back out west.

On our first night in Williamstown two customers who received the wrong orders called me. Yes, I carelessly switched two mailing labels again – the third time I’ve done that, I think. Being 150 miles from home made solving it nearly impossible. But I got lucky: Both customers cheerfully agreed to send their misdirected packages to each other. I reimbursed them for their expense and refunded their original shipping charges, leaving everyone satisfied. Or at least not angry, which is the best I could hope for in that situation.

I’m seeing tentative signs that the economy has bottomed out.
After going nowhere for six months, my wife’s job search produced several leads last week. Curio City’s traffic is up slightly and I’m averaging 2-3 (small) transactions per day again. Maybe I’ll see reliable (small) paychecks again next month.

Apples & Oranges

Calendar drift moved LY’s first week of August into this year’s end of July. Since we also changed our summer vacation from August to July, comparisons between the two months are whacked. I should probably change my spreadsheet from full weeks to straight calendar-month accounting. My Excel file would need a drastic overhaul, but I’d only need to do it once, rather than shuffling weeks between months every couple of years. It’s a silly statistical niggle of interest to nobody but me. Anyway, this July has one more week than LY (34 days in all), but also includes 10 vacation days during which Curio City did a whopping $95. Those two factors ought to roughly cancel out.

Total income: -15.7%

Total COGS: -20.4%

Payroll: -45.5% (ouch!)

Net Income (Profit): +363%

The YTD numbers:

Total income: +6.4%

Total COGS: +7.0%

Payroll: +16.9%

Net Income (Profit): -91.6%

Higher payroll is harming profits. My personal bank account likes that trend on a week-to-week basis, but I’m going to miss my year-end bonus. At least the YTD bottom line is slightly in the black.

I don’t know what to expect from August. The month has one less week than Aug. 2008 did, but no time out for vacation. I hope those factors cancel out.

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