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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 07, 2013

Baby Steps

I’ve dropshipped a lot of bird kites since I made poles an optional add-on (a move that has so far generated $639 in poles and probably landed a few sales that would’ve otherwise gone someplace else). 

“Dropship” means that the customer orders from me, then I have my vendor ship the product to them directly. It's great, in theory. I don’t have to pay for the stock until it sells, and it doesn’t take up any space. Sending the order to Jackite is less work than is shipping it myself. What could possibly go wrong? 

More than you might think. I’m at the mercy of another company whose shipping department isn’t always as prompt or diligent as I am. If a customer pays for Priority Mail shipping, I can put that instruction on the vendor’s order form…but they usually default to UPS Ground anyway. I’m not privy to Jackite’s stock status; I only found out that they ran out of 16’ poles after I had to upgrade a customer to the 20’ version at a loss of $10. If a customer is unhappy for any reason, they come to me. I sometimes have to accept returns on merchandise that I didn’t actually provide. And invoicing errors inevitably crop up – at the moment I’ve got one order from March that was invoiced but never charged, one from April that was double-charged, one from last week that gave me a tracking number with no invoice, and one from yesterday that hasn’t been acknowledged yet at all. So far I haven’t had any fulfillment errors, but I’m sure that’s just a matter of time.

Increased sales make up for a lot of these sins, but the step that I took today is still a leap of faith. I have always limited sales to the inventory that I actually have on hand. I never keep more than two or three expensive American Bald Eagle kites in stock, and when I sell out (as I did a few minutes ago) I can’t sell any more until I replenish my inventory.  

Today, for the first time, I changed the on-hand quantity of a sold-out kite from “0” to “999.” Yes, I have removed my inventory limit and placed myself completely in the vendor’s hands until my reorder arrives (whereupon I’ll return the on-hand quantity to its actual value). 

Thinking really big, I could remove all on-hand inventory limits from all of the kites. That would inevitably lead to more errors…but the occasional bulk sale might make it worthwhile. Ultimately, I could stop stocking these kites entirely and go 100% dropship. They are the largest, bulkiest product that I carry and the most time-consuming to ship. Most home-based retail sites are primarily or exclusively dropshippers, so expanding that aspect of my business is hardly a radical idea.

Giving up control and relying on outsiders always makes me anxious. Let’s start with baby steps. Right now, I’m nervous enough about having 999 assembled Eagle kites for sale when I actually have none in the cellar.

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