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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 03, 2010

You're a Mean One

Week Five of the Seven Weeks of Christmas was the high water mark of 2009. This year’s Week Five is breathtakingly bad. Superlatives cannot convey just how bad things are going. 2010 is almost certain to see my first-ever year-over-year decrease as this week single-handedly wiped out the gains of the previous 11 months.

On “Cyber Monday” I spent about $70 to lure an astonishing 474 visitors who placed 17 orders, yet sales still didn’t reach half of LY. Tuesday delivered a still-respectable 13 sales, but they were only worth $299 versus a benchmark of $650 – again below 50%. And so it goes, with each day finishing at a third to half of LY’s sales. Today I’m already at nine sales by lunchtime (which rocks) worth $161 (which sucks).

I am not quite ready to open a vein yet. Divorced of context, those wouldn’t be bad sales numbers. Money’s coming in, product’s going out, and I’m busily taking things out of big boxes and putting them in small boxes. Christmas isn’t over for two more weeks and it’s supposed to be a time for miracles, right? What’s lacking is the usual sense of panicked urgency. I am not as frantic as I should be.

So…who stole Christmas? I’m too busy for nuanced hand-wringing, so these thoughts are raw and unsorted.

Too many small sales – or rather, too few big ones. While the problem really is this simple, the solution eludes me. Where are all the people who should be putting half a dozen things in their shopping carts? I don’t think bottom feeders are the problem; I’m not selling more discounted merchandise than usual. I wonder if it’s cell phone shoppers. People’s IQ drops at least 25 points when they use smart phones. They are distracted and rushed and their reading comprehension nosedives. It stands to reason that they would only buy the one item that led them here, especially on a text-centered site like mine. Whatever the cause, this dearth of big orders is my big downfall. In a few minutes I’ll take 15 orders downstairs to pick, box, and ship. If those 15 orders averaged $50 I’d be feeling smug. Fifteen orders averaging less than $20 is unambiguous failure.

I can’t blame the economy unless there’s an inverse relationship at work. My sales were strong while the economy was in the dumper and they’ve been fading ever since it started to revive in September. Maybe big-ticket mass-market items are crowding out the cheap novelties that people contented themselves with when times were harder? It would be comforting to believe that forces beyond my control are to blame…which probably makes it wrong.

I did make some bad product gambles. I’ve written about the infamous Buckyballs several times, but at least those are selling a little bit and I can understand why they’re disappointing. Why is nobody at all going for Jumbo Magic Christmas Trees or Christmas Boots? People ordinarily love holiday novelties. I haven’t even sold a single set of Peace Sign Ornaments, which did pretty well last year. But I always bring in some turkeys every season; it’s just part of the game.

Old standbys are disappointing me, too. Panther Vision caps are doing OK, but not nearly as well as they should be given my advertising spend. Fuzz Scarfs are moving at about 25% of the pace I expected. These things should be sure bets. Are they just too old and familiar now?

Thank the gods for Whisky Stones. At least one product is approaching my sales expectations.

My bush-league marketing efforts are failing – pay-per-click ads have grown too expensive, the competition is too crowded, and – for the first time ever – I didn’t get any serendipitous media this year. Usually at least one product enjoys a gift guide recommendation or a review with a link. This year the media has passed me by.

Trying to milk “Small Business Saturday” instead of Cyber Monday was a really idiotic tactical blunder. Nobody ever heard of Small Business Saturday and it’s meant for B&M stores anyway, whereas Cyber Monday has gained traction in the popular mind. Two shoppers contacted me on Cyber Monday (a first) to ask about sales or discounts, and I had nothing to offer. Even if it was the same shopper twice, that’s an opportunity foregone.

I don’t have the time to work through these thoughts methodically. I’ve just got to get through the next two weeks. I’ll try to make sense of it later.

1 comment:

  1. Just to chime in about media, if media plays such a large role for you, you have to ask a question, did you do anything to get the media attention? did you send out PRs? maybe send some emails to media contacts? or wrote an article about gift giving?

    No offense, but hoping for media on merits of wishful thinking is not exactly a great business plan. Especially if it has been such a crucial part of your previous years sales.


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