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.
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Friday, February 04, 2011


Weather is local and my business is international. The Internet doesn’t get snowed in. But everybody lives somewhere. When storms afflict 2/3 of the country for two days there are bound to be consequences.

This week’s back-to-back snowstorms made me wonder how weather affects a virtual business. Boston is having a horrendous winter. Local snowfall to date is 70 inches, with more due tomorrow. A normal winter is just 40”. We’re running a little behind the record 102” in 1995-96, but the absence of our usual thaws between storms has created a deeper snowpack than I’ve seen in the 25 years that I’ve lived here. Side streets are down to one lane, there are no sidewalks, and drivers – especially Miata drivers -- can’t see over the snow banks.

When snow keeps me from driving to the post office, I post a “shipping delays” notice on my News page and remove expedited shipping options (because someone will inevitably spend the big bucks on Next Day Air when I can’t get out of my driveway). That doesn’t noticeably affect sales because so few shoppers ever read the News page, but it does cover my ass. I can’t receive shipments, either – vendors will only ship to my commercial UPS Store address, not my residence. That hurts if I’m waiting for an important reorder in the run-up to Christmas. I’ve had four days this year when no merchandise could come in or go out.

There’s a small productivity hit, too. It can take me anywhere from two to four hours to shovel us out, depending on each storm’s nasty factor. That eats up most of a workday. Being tired and sore harms my stamina for days afterwards and being depressed saps my motivation.

Sometimes blizzards shut down my suppliers. Switchables were selling beyond expectations – so much so, in fact, that I ran out of the most popular designs. I put off reordering for several days to take advantage of Switchables’ February special. I finally dropped my big reorder on Tuesday the 1st with the expectation that this local company would deliver by today. But the massive storm that shut down New England on Tuesday and Wednesday screwed that up, so the $75 I saved probably cost me more than that in missed sales.

Sales were on the high side of normal this week. Was that because of the storm, in spite of it, or unrelated? Some people who would have been in stores undoubtedly shopped online instead. But office workers who ordinarily shop from work weren't there. Those factors probably canceled each other out. On the whole, I think the relentless winter encourages people to stay home whenever they can, and that probably works in my favor.


After I posted last week’s jewelry lamentation, an order for two necklaces landed on Saturday. My resolve to continue advertising Bottled Up jewelry for another week was validated. I did get one more small jewelry order this week. Altogether, though, $200 worth of ads brought in $200 in sales. Rather than throw good money after bad I declared the effort a failure and shut down my ads today. The only winner was Facebook.


Malaysian pirates sailed in again almost exactly a year after they robbed me the first time. Fraud control repelled them this time. I’ve had legitimate sales to Malaysia before, and I might have rejected a real customer who was trying to place a valid order. But I doubt it. I have added Malaysia to my blacklisted countries.

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