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.
Friday, November 26, 2010
The Turkey Month
First there was Black Friday, and it affected me not at all. Then there was Cyber Monday, and it affected me not at all. Now, courtesy of American Express, there is Small Business Saturday. Anne told me about it last Sunday morning. I signed up for a free $100 Facebook ad even though the promotion supposedly ended three days prior. These geo-targeted ads hawk physical stores, so it should affect me not at all. Even though the “official” promotion is a non-starter, I sent out a newsletter with a coupon that I still hope will spur more than the one sale it has garnered so far.
When we last saw Week Three, it was dragging behind LY by $850 with a day and a half left on the clock. I had hoped to narrow down that gap by the $450 that I racked up during the corresponding two days last year. But a good Saturday couldn’t make up for Friday’s embarrassing $40 total and the week ended down $600 – my biggest Christmas shortfall yet this year. It would’ve been a weak week even without that $160 customer return blowing a hole in the middle.
Last year a single $1,000 day pushed the otherwise lackluster Week Four (Thanksgiving week) over the top. This year a surprise $750 lighted cap order placed on Thanksgiving morning kept Week Four in the game. Now I just need average November sales on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to finish the month very close to LY. (My weird accounting calendar puts Sunday the 28th in December).
Total income: -3.7%
Total COGS: +3%
Net Income (Profit): -3.9%
Year to Date:
Total income: +12.1%
Total COGS: +23.2%
Net Income (Profit): -59.3%
UPS plumped up my COGS last week by losing an incoming shipment worth $124. I’ve filed a claim for reimbursement, but even if it goes through I don’t have that merchandise to sell and I’m carrying a $124 inventory shortage on my books. This year has thrown me one such curve after another.
Inventory shortages made December '09 weaker than expected. That means there’s still a chance that this December will repair the damage of the past few months and get Total Income back to my +15% goal.
The 900-pound gorilla who’s paying obscene bids for lighted cap keywords turns out to be an amazon.com seller pushing the cheap 2-LED version that Panther Vision created for the promotional market. Although he must be doing amazing volume, he can’t be making much money between his bargain prices and ridiculous advertising costs. Since I don’t carry that inferior product line he’s not a direct competitor at all. He can have his $2.00 clicks. In fact, I gave him a few clicks just for fun.
The manufacturer of Buckyballs is freezing out competition with an absurd $4.00 per click bid for that keyword. The maximum financially justifiable bid for that product belongs in the 50-60 cent range, and 40-45 cents is more realistic. They solicited retailers, required us to sign a price maintenance pledge (no discounting), and then kept us little guys from advertising – pretty slick! I’ve sold a few sets, but it’s nowhere near the star product that it should have been. I’m not going to need a single reorder. I should have believed the instinct that told me it was too mainstream.
And now I have a personal confession: My attention is not 100 percent focused on Curio City right now (shocking, I know).
My sole hobby is PC gaming – specifically strategy and epic-scale wargames, not the action games that kids play on consoles. When I worked in the industry, I needed to replace or upgrade my gaming PCs every couple of years. But when I traded the lucrative world of game development for the impoverished life of a self-employed shopkeeper, I lost both the compulsion and the means to keep my gaming machine up to date. My current 7.5-year-old gaming rig hasn’t been able to run anything new in the past three years.
Civilization 4 and Galactic Civilizations II are both wonderful games, but even with mods one can only squeeze so much gameplay from them. And so, despite my busy season (and biggest paychecks) being hard upon me (and with the tragically flawed but still compelling new Civilization 5 enticing me) I raided my ever-shrinking savings account to buy a new PC two weeks ago. My screaming new machine arrived from Cyberpower Tuesday night.
To say that both Thanksgiving and Curio City are distractions from what I really care about is putting it mildly. In the three and a half days that I’ve had the machine I’ve only managed to devote a few hours to setting it up…with almost all of that time troubleshooting its network connection. Getting a Win 7 machine onto an XP network is turning out to be trickier than I expected since I’m a newbie with the latest OS and not very good at networking in the first place.
Anyway, as soon as I get today’s orders on their way I’m spending the rest of the weekend doing what I want to do, rather than what I should be doing. I hope that I’ll have the new beast fully up to speed and ready for gaming by Cyber Monday.