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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, October 04, 2013

Existential Crisis Part 3: Getting Better at This

Saturday is usually the weakest day of the week. Last Saturday belied that trend and bent the needle on September’s numbers enough to warrant a happy revision.

September (rev.)

Total income: +28.3%
Total COGS: +61.7%
Payroll: +18.1%
Marketing: +158.3%
Net Income (Profit): -1314.7% (-$569)

Year to Date (rev.): 

Total income: -15.4%
Total COGS: -16.6%
Payroll: -16.1%
Marketing: -3.2%
Net Income (Profit): -48.3% (-$629)


A big increase in sales would make my whole existential crisis moot. By “big increase,” I mean recovering this year’s anticipated 16% decline AND adding a little bit of real growth on top of that. A 20% increase from 2013 to 2014 would do it. I can roll with one down year…but not two.

The Christmas rush pumps me up and then my enthusiasm gradually deflates along with sales. Putting more time and effort into the business does help in a general way, but there’s no obvious payoff for working hard during the slow season. As the song says, “Ninety days is a long time to work for no pay/Building a boat that might sink in the bay.” By summertime the becalmed Curio City has slipped down my priority list. 

Staying focused would make at least some difference, and the prospect of getting another job does focus my mind. Can I make 2014 a turnaround year? It’s not like I’ve been holding back any brilliant ideas for just this occasion. Getting an outside job, though, would make it very difficult to step up my Curio City game in any meaningful way.

When I looked for 2013’s punch list of objectives to see if I could tick anything off, I couldn’t even find it. In fact, the last time I listed goals was January 2012 and virtually nothing on that list got checked off. So making a new list and following it through is a good place to start.  

There’s no mystery about what caused this year’s decline: The death of long-time mainstay Panther Vision caps. Either reviving that line or finding a new one like it would solve everything. The trick is figuring out what caused the decline. I don’t think that the product is dead or the market is saturated, and I’m not aware of any killer new competitor. Did my advertising die because nobody’s searching for them anymore, or do I just need to refresh my advertising? Writing new ads didn’t make any difference. Maybe the six-part course in Google Analytics that I signed up for will help me answer that. 

And therein lies the rest of the answer: I have to get better at advertising and marketing. As much as I hate doing that, it beats bagging groceries. Last month’s numbers demonstrate the futility of simply throwing more money at what I’m already doing. In May I changed an email’s subject line to “Marketing/SEO crap I ought to check;” it’s still sitting in my intray, because who cares about marketing/seo crap? Same deal with Pinterest; I created an account two years ago and never went back to it, because who cares? Well, I need to make myself care.

Finally, I have to make some stab at optimizing my store for mobile devices. There might be some halfway measures I can take while waiting for the long-promised, oft-delayed Sunshop 5.

I did do a couple of things right this year. Corn-n-Tater bags will never have the universal appeal of lighted caps, but they are finally coming up to speed. The 70 that I’ve sold so far have brought in over $900 at a good markup, and they have the potential to sell hundreds more as long as I can remain the exclusive online distributor. 

Adding poles and dropshipping to bird kites also paid off. I’ve sold 42 poles for almost $1,800 and who-knows-how-many kites to customers who would have gone elsewhere if poles weren’t available. Dropshipping brought some new headaches but no disasters. In fact, I just changed all of my on-hand kite quantities to 999999 to prevent missing sales due to the small inventories I keep on hand. I’ll still keep a few of each in stock to fill small orders myself. I still might regret this flat-out commitment to dropshipping, but it’s worth the risk.

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