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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, December 11, 2009

Saved By the Stones

Remember how I expected Week 4 to finish thousands of dollars behind LY’s corresponding week (which benefited from a free mention in the NY Times gift guide)? Instead, I finished less than $100 down. 2008’s stroke of marketing luck moved about 300 Recycled Motherboard Christmas Trees at $10 a pop. (I just sold out of those this morning, btw). This year I moved 150 of the surprise bestseller Whisky Stones at $20. I made the same amount of money on half the work. Sweet! Maybe next year I’ll find a $40 product that’s good for 75 units.

Week 4’s unexpected success crippled Week 5. First Panther Vision tied one hand behind my back by selling completely out of Power Caps. I effectively ran out on Wednesday and can’t get more until next Friday, Dec. 18…optimistically. Then I tied my other hand by underestimating the run on Whisky Stones; I ran out on Monday. Sales fell when I stopped advertising my nonexistent products and continued to slide all week. Week 5, which should have been the single biggest week of the year, threatened to deliver the huge setback that I had expected in Week 4 – it was struggling to reach 50% of LY. And then, another last-minute miracle saved my bacon again. My last 60 packages of Whisky Stones came in. I sold 18 sets within two hours -- without advertising. While this week will still be down, it won’t be as bad as it looked this morning.

What’s bizarre is that my workload remains heavy, with 15-20 sales per day. They’re all small orders. I’m getting almost none of the grab-bag orders that I’ve seen in years past. People aren’t impulsively putting a dozen items in their cart this year. Because the process of putting things in boxes is only a small part of the labor in filling an order, one $10 item is nearly as much work as a $200 order with a dozen products. I know I ought to be grateful for all these little sales, but I’ll admit that I cringe every time one comes in.

Well, at least my on-hand inventory is shrinking. I’ll be effectively out of old 2-LED caps by the time my Power Caps finally show up. I have less than $18,000 worth of stuff in the cellar. If only it weren’t the most desirable stuff that’s gone!

With only one week left, nothing that I do now can affect the outcome. The caps either will arrive in time to make a difference, or they won’t. Whisky Stones are out of the picture. Customers either will flock to something else (save me, Switchables!), or they won’t. Week 6 either will reverse some of Week 5’s slide, or it won’t. December either will completely cancel out the previous 11 months’ sales increases, or it won’t.

The Boston Globe’s holiday gift guide mentioned two products that I carry: Whisky Stones (moan) and the Pop Quiz Blackboard clock. That clock was actually introduced a year ago; it’s the white “graph paper” version that’s new. I only have three left in stock; should I panic buy? Hardly. The Globe only promotes stuff from bricks-and-mortar stores within the city limits, and their readership has fallen to barely 200,000 people (from over 500,000 just a few years ago). It was worth a Facebook bleat, but nothing more. I’d be happy to move the three that I have left.

Here’s something cheerful: I have a new reason to hate Sunshop. Or maybe it’s just more venom for old hatred; I didn’t check my own post archive.

A customer flipped out after I shipped her order correctly. She had entered different ship-to information in the PayPal interface, but Sunshop ignored it. The ship-to on my packing list was her default PayPal address. It turns out that I had reported exactly the same bug in October 2008. Ah, nostalgia! Turnkey replied then that “we may have to take a look at this”. This year, they invited me to add it to their bug tracker. I swear I feel like I work in software QA again. I wish I was earning that kind of money.

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