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, May 30, 2014

Solving Mysteries in May Numbers

Kites single-handedly led May to another round of big black numbers.


Total income: +31.5%
Total COGS: +27.7%
Payroll: +10.5%
Marketing: +39.9%
Net Income (Profit): +313.8% (+$574)

Year to Date

Total income: +9.5%
Total COGS: +13.9%
Payroll: -48.4%
Marketing: -5.8%
Net Income (Profit): +85.7% (+$8,276)

I think I know why the YTD numbers are squirrelly. A "general journal entry" that my CPA instructed me to make for 12/31/12 added $4,400 to 2013's payroll.  

I don't know what the accountant's "correction" corrected, but I do know that this year's payroll is not really 48% behind LY's; in fact, payroll is running a little ahead of LY. At least $4,600 of the dramatic bottom-line improvement is an illusion. My actual YTD "profit" is (-$1,384) vs. (-$9,660) at this time LY. It's normal for a retailer to run in the red until November, btw; May was unusual in actually ending $391 in the black. The only thing these numbers tell me is that this year is likely to finish profitably.


My Mastercard security problem is theoretically solved. Back in March I got several charges for either $59.95 or $32.94 from GNC vitamin shop. I called Citizens Bank to dispute the charges and cancel my card. In April, those same charges appeared on my replacement card. I called Citizens again, disputed the charges again, and got yet another new card along with a snippy little lecture about internet security. Despite carefully refraining from entering my credit card info on any vendor websites, another $32.94 charge from GNC appeared yesterday. 

So I phoned Citizens yet again and insisted that we get to the bottom of this. Their fraud person rang up GNC's customer service department while I was on the line. Turns out that the thief opened a GNC account back in February with my credit card and was getting automatic shipments. GNC kept charging my original card number. Merchants who make ongoing charges can subscribe to an optional Mastercard service that forwards charges to a cardholder's current account regardless of whether the card has expired or been canceled. GNC never saw the replacement account numbers; they just kept charging the original card, and Mastercard kept pushing the charges forward. Citizens Bank and I were powerless to stop them.

I didn't know that merchants could do that, and neither did the fraud department at Citizens. GNC closed the thief's account and deleted my original credit card from their system, and that should be the end of that.

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Need More Tyvek, Mr Scott!

Bird kites are turning into the wind beneath May's wings, but supply problems are holding them down this year. I've only got four Create-a-Birds left, my single bestselling kite with 563 sold to date. Jackite is out of stock and won't make more until they need to reprint the Cardinal and Blue Jay. I can't argue with the economics of scale; all of the "small birds" are cut from the same die and Create-a-Bird is a weak seller for Jackite. Can I expect to see more in days? weeks? months? "Oh, months at least -- we haven't even ordered the Tyvek yet." That's likely to cost me a couple hundred bucks a month. 

I've sold 68 poles for nearly $3,000 since I started selling them as a dropship last year. Last week I found out that Jackite is out of their most popular sizes and colors until late June or early July. That's going to cost me another few hundred bucks. One problem with dropshipping is that I only discover out-of-stocks when I can't fill a customer's order. 

On the plus side, the long-delayed Switchables freight container is supposed to arrive from China today. At last count I had an unprecedented 15 styles on backorder.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Well, I didn't see this coming: I was able to pay off my Amex card in full, including the new $550 computer. One big kite sale and one big golf ball order made all the difference (in fact, this week has a good shot at being the best of this year to date). Cash is still a little tighter than usual but I'm not in debt.
The last financial hurdle for this year is paying my CPA's tax prep fee. Since he hasn't completed my return yet, I might be able to sock away the money before it's due and get a little bit ahead of the game. Once that's covered I can finally invest in that long-delayed website update and some new products.

The new Inspiron is working out fine, btw, except for one stupid quirk. Dell's power management scheme has a neat battery-preservation feature that continuously drains your battery to 85% and recharges it. However, the same scheme turns off the wireless card after 10 minutes on battery. You can forget about persistent wifi if you want to use the battery saver. In fact, it seems that you can forget about wifi on battery power altogether even when you set Power Settings/Wireless Adapter Settings/On Battery to "Maximum performance." Apparently that doesn't mean "never turn it off."

It's a good thing I very rarely have to unplug my computer.

Friday, May 09, 2014

What's a Mother to Do?

I totally spaced out on Mothers Day this year. The shipping window was already closing by the time I flipped the calendar to May and remembered that I ought to run a coupon. Sunday was the earliest I could've cranked out a newsletter and Wednesday was the cutoff for regular shipping. 

Oh well, I don't have any new products to flog anyway and it's hard to get enthused about the same old same old. 

Frankly, I gave Curio City precious little attention this week (with predictable results). My priority was painting the porch decks for the first time in 10-ish years...and that took twice as long as I had expected. It seems that I work slower at 57 than I did at 37. The rest of May is about yard work, putting in my vegetable garden, and generally getting the house ready for summer.

If rain prevents me from polishing off the porch today I'll see if I can pick up the Curio City ball that I dropped.

The garden will be in by Fathers Day and I have better "man products" anyway, so maybe I can make it up in June. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

April Squeaks In with Squirrelly Numbers


Total income: -6.4%
Total COGS: +1.4%
Payroll: -12.9%
Marketing: +143.2%
Net Income (Profit): -239.2% (-$1,060)

Year to Date

Total income: +4.4%
Total COGS: +11.3%
Payroll: -54.7%
Marketing: -11.7%
Net Income (Profit): +81.1% (+$7,687)

April would have been another good month (thanks to an unexpected Panther Vision revival and two stellar days this week) had the third week not flopped so badly. Quickbooks shows it $286 in the red; Excel says it squeaked into the black by $69. There's a day and a half left for Quickbooks to change its mind. I'd credit my recent pay-per-click refresh for the uptick if Analytics was showing any conversions. Either it's not capturing the sales or the customers are coming from elsewhere.

That's not farfetched. Only 48% of my traffic is paid search...meaning a slight majority is free traffic from organic search, direct visits, and referrals. Among the latter category, social media barely registers at all. Facebook, once a factor worth mentioning, continued its slide to insignificance with just 14 visitors last month; Pinterest brought 10. With a bounce rate of 80% both of them are a waste of time. 

May will be in my pocket if the Panther customer who threatened to come back next week for 200 more caps actually follows through. Most of these leads don't pan out -- I've had inquiries for hundreds of golf balls over the past few weeks with no results. But every now and then I score. 

Incidentally, the "profit" line actually represents a $1,905 YTD loss, versus being down by $9,477 at this time last year. I don't understand why it's so radically different from March's numbers. Something (payroll looks whacked too) must've gotten munged in my company file when I imported the file from my old computer. I still have the old file on my old machine, so perhaps I'll spend some time this afternoon running it down.


I had to cancel my Citizens Bank Mastercard again for unauthorized activity in the same amounts ($49.95) to the same payee ("GRC*MEANINGFUL BEAUTY") that forced me to cancel this card last month. The kid at the bank believes that the thieves are getting my number online. I only ever use this card to buy merchandise, and there were only two vendors that I placed orders with in both months. I have a very good idea which one is the culprit. Coincidentally or not, their SSL certificate expired a few days ago.

They agreed to set me up for Net 30 billing -- that is, being able to check out without paying by credit card -- but I won't even log into their site until they renew their cert. 

Oddly, Citizens says that they can't selectively block charges -- they can only kill the whole account. Pretty sure that Chase and Amex can both flag suspicious transactions for authorization. Citizens is a Mickey-Mouse bank in a lot of ways.


Lately I'm being barraged by spammers and telemarketers trying to sell me pay-per-click management, ess-ee-oh, or (most often) both. I don't know how they drew a bead on me -- it could be this blog -- but it seems like every operator in the field is harassing me these past few weeks. Very annoying.

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