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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 11, 2010

The Next Big Thing

The year’s already half over and Christmas is bearing down. I need a new hit product.

Last year’s darling Whisky Stones are ubiquitous now. I had a great run with them as one of their first peddlers. The retail price is still holding up so far, but some competitors are throwing in free shipping, and that always leads quickly to discounting. Although they aren’t dead yet -- I've sold four sets this week for Fathers Day -- Whisky Stones won’t be this year’s wunderkind.

I'm counting on Panther Vision Power Caps to stay on top again. After four years as the backbone of my business, I’m nervous about their staying power…but so far, so good. Maybe last year’s inventory shortages will carry forward into some pent-up demand this Christmas.

Customers introduced both of those products to me. I’m neither a consumer nor a shopper myself. My oblivion to retail might enhance Curio City’s attempts at unorthodoxy, but I’m blind to new products that don’t come from my existing suppliers. I'm getting a better sense of what does and doesn't work and I can usually recognize a great new item when someone else points it out. The ideal Curio City product has these characteristics:

• It’s useful, functional, or practical, versus merely decorative
• It’s clever in function or design
• It’s unique – no competing product does exactly the same thing
• It’s unusual – you won’t find it in mainstream stores or websites
• It’s of high quality
• It’s classic or retro, not trendy
• It’s cool, not kitschy or crafty or countrified
• It sells for $10-$40
• It’s compact, lightweight, and durable enough to ship safely and economically
• It lights up. (People love brightly colored lights!)

I've already got my eye on a few novelty products. Novelties add interest to my store and bring in steady revenue, but the best of them only sell a dozen or two units. The bacon-themed items arriving next week violate my own “not trendy” principle, but that meme is getting so old it borders on retro.

Anyway, if you ever come across some amazingly clever new thing that meets some of these criteria (nothing satisfies all of them), by all means email me. If the pricing and logistics work out I’ll give it a whirl. Nobody knows what will really sell better than my customers do.

DayClocks were my first big hit and one of my original products (SKU 37 isn’t linked because it’s out of stock right now). I sold hundreds of them at $40-50 before discounters ruined them; now some bottom feeders are clearing less than $5 on each one. I quit advertising them ages ago. Logically, I should have discontinued them when I sold my last Classic DayClock yesterday. But, as an isolated work-at-home person, I frequently lose track of the day of the week. I actually consult my DayClock regularly. It’s a signature Curio City product even though it no longer carries its own financial weight and you can buy it at (shudder) Walmart. As long as it still sells any units at all, the DayClock will have a home at Curio City.

I usually can’t spot the hot Christmas product until October, if one is going to break out at all. I do need something, and I haven't seen it yet this year.

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