The end of the month brings numbers, and numbers bring contemplation. At least, they do for me. Here are January’s results:
Total income: -0.2%
Total COGS: +15%
Net Income (Profit): -150.4%
Cost Of Goods Sold is high because I wrote off $250 worth of greeting cards. Payroll, of course, is money in my pocket right now, so that’s good. Net income is tax-advantaged money in my pocket later on, so that’s bad. Some of that damage is from going way over my advertising budget, but most of it is obviously from taking the money in payroll.
Where’s the 15% sales increase I was looking for? Let’s spin the numbers and see if it flies out. My Excel spreadsheet makes the month look better (about $100 above LY) than does QuickBooks ($8 below LY). A couple of decent sales in January's remaining day and a half could still save it. Finishing ahead of LY at all is impressive considering that last January included a $1,200 sale; if you subtract that from LY’s numbers, you can pretend that this January beat LY by 30%. Pretending is fun!
February ought to be an easier target as I finally come back into stock on some key things (yes, Whisky Stones and 5-LED camo caps, I’m counting on you) that manufacturers were very slow to replenish.
Now let's spin the big picture.
Nationally, December’s economy was dreadful. I doubt that January will look any better. In the past week Verizon announced 11,000 layoffs, Macy’s is cutting 1,500 jobs, and Home Depot’s shedding 1,000. Only the tens of thousands of people who drop out of the workforce each month keep the unemployment rate from skyrocketing. With Obama’s newfound deficit evangelism, the federal government probably won’t keep propping things up for very much longer. My spin on the national economy says that the current “recovery” is statistical only, and we’ll revert to recession by fall. And yet, some corporations are reporting good Q4 earnings (more from draconian cost-cutting than from healthy revenue increases) and the stock market inexplicably remains elevated. The lords of capitalism must see bright spots that aren’t visible from down here in the trenches.
Locally, the housing market is struggling up off the floor. The Northeast is fortunate to have mature housing stock without a lot of new construction. We don’t have the large suburban tracts of McMansions that plague other areas, so the housing sector is better off here than elsewhere. State tax collections are up slightly and, thanks to about a billion and a half rescue dollars raining down from Washington, the governor has promised not to cut local aid. He is threatening to tax my beloved cigars to death – a $2 cigar that currently costs $2.67 would rise to an outrageous $4.45 -- but the legislature probably won’t let him get away with that (and cigars will become unattainable for me anyway when our household finances collapse). New restaurants are replacing a few of the dead ones. My spin is that as long as the federal dollars keep coming, our state and town will bump along in neutral.
Personally…well, as you can see, my Curio City paychecks are growing, but they still don’t attain minimum wage during the slow months. I don’t want to borrow any of the $30 billion that Obama wants to loan small businesses. His proposed tax credit for raising wages might be amusing if it reduces the tax owed on my K-1 income – I would consider giving myself a raise if it brings a tax break. My spin says that only reinvigorated consumer spending will get Curio City moving; I don’t see most Americans inclined to start buying unnecessary stuff yet, notwithstanding Apple's latest iThing.
Worst of all: Anne’s unemployment benefits end today. We’ll learn next week if she gets any more extensions. If not, we no longer have any reliable income. I don’t dare to spin this one yet. It would be catastrophic.
I thought that some of my Facebook fans might hammer me after the Simplaris Blogcast app posted last week’s controversial political diatribe to my FB wall. But there was only silence. The blogcaster apparently stopped working two weeks ago. When I tried to update posts manually I saw: “Application Simplaris Blogcast sent invalid response. There was an application error. Please try again later.”
Later never came. After thrashing around for three hours I’d only managed to remove it from my Curio City page and add it to my unused main account page. Flailing for another hour the next day somehow got it working properly again – I think. Every time I check up on it, I have to reactivate the app as if it were never installed before – it just doesn’t seem to “take”, as if FB is not saving it or something.
Nothing on Facebook ever works the way I expect. Because my Curio City page is a sub-page of a personal account that I never use, I can’t even find it without using my bookmark. Everything defaults to that unwanted parent page. (FB wouldn’t let me create a new account with Curio City as the main page, and I would lose all of my fans anyway if I did that.) Whenever I finally do trick some new plugin into working, FB developers change some little detail somewhere and my apps fizzle out – my Twitter feed app has stopped working twice, too (not that I care about Twitter).
Working in software development for almost 10 years taught me to recognize a crappy user interface when I see one. And I certainly see one on Facebook. Well, I have no choice but to keep wrestling with it. FB will eventually reach more people than my newsletter and this blog put together.
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.