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, November 27, 2015

Halfway Through the 7-Week Slog

A serious surge after I posted here last week whittled the Week 3 gap down from $1,250 to just $350, and the month entered Week 4 running $200 ahead of LY. Business is solid.

As of right now, Week 4 is $900 ahead of LY and November will surpass LY by a comfortable $1,100. Far from becoming the Worst November Ever, it's now the 4th worst...or 7th best, for you annoying optimists, and likely to move up one more rank. However you slice it, it's been a very good month; even that notorious sourpuss Quickbooks agrees. 


Total income: +21.2%
Total COGS: +29.6%
Payroll: -0.2%
Marketing: +27.5%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +75.4% (+$126)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$294

Year to Date

Total income: -4.7%
Total COGS: -2.1%
Payroll: -6.5%
Marketing: +5.0%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -94.1% (-$1,218)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$2,512

I'm piling up the sales at great cost, especially in advertising; COGS jumped when I had to write off a pile of old dead merchandise with even deader batteries and $110 worth of stock got lost in transit (my fault for providing an incomplete address).  While this year has a shot at beating LY's top line, I don't foresee the bottom line turning black.

I'm sure that these numbers will increment substantially over the next day and a half. Today's Black Friday and we're in that sweet stretch where every day matters. Even though business is strong, inventory shortages are going to make December's targets tough. People aren't buying enough of what I've got and I can't get enough of what they want.

Metal Earth finally took off: Amount spent: $1,833; amount earned: $578. I wish it had come to live three or four weeks ago so that I could've reordered the hits, but a two-week turnaround makes it too late now. That's probably for the best since I've yet to recoup what I've already spent and my credit card balance is still hovering stubbornly over $5,000.


Package thieves are out in force; I've gotten two reports of missing packages. One was nearly a month after delivery, so that's easy to dismiss, but the other was a Priority Express package that was reported lost just hours after it was supposedly delivered. Theft is the most likely explanation. Throughout November and December, thieves trail after delivery vehicles and snatch packages from porches. "Nice neighborhoods" are especially vulnerable, since rich people get the best stuff, but opportunists will grab and run wherever they see parcels sitting unattended.


AOL decided last week that it doesn't like email from Curio City, leaving me unable to reach many of my elderly customers (if you're using an AOL address you're probably over 65). Their "postmaster" supposedly " added some protection for your IPs." Yeah, that didn't work. Naturally this would happen just as business is peaking. I think it's straightened out after more back-and-forth.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Social Randomness

Week 3 of 7 is going to end $1,250 in the red. Thanks to LY's $1,500 bird kite order, this week would have "broken even" at $1,500 behind LY, so the negative $1,250 result counts as a positive $250, as far as I'm concerned. Rationalization aside, though, November's now running $750 behind LY and I'm facing strong numbers next week. Pulling this month out of the fire is unlikely. In fact, it's likely to be the worst November on record -- a distinction that would've fallen to last November had it not been for that big kite sale.  

Someone shared a years-old Facebook post about Panther Vision beanies; that Random Act of (social) Media was worth somewhere around $250. As an antisocial person, this social media stuff baffles me. I stopped paying attention to Facebook long ago, after they admitted that they suppress business posts. It never occurred to me that a real customer might visit my page, read ancient posts, and actually share one (likes are all well and good, but shares are pure gold). Unfortunately, the mini-rush panicked me into placing another $600 reorder.   

That will probably prove to be a good thing; Panther is already sold out of yellow, orange, and orchid beanies. The popular navy, black, and camo hats are likely to disappear next week. I knew that would happen and stocked up early. Right now, I'm nervous that I have too much inventory; in a couple of weeks I hope that it will prove to be too little, which would mean that my overall buy was just about right. 

I'd hoped to use December to pay off the $7,400 debt that I've already incurred, but circumstances compelled me to add another $1,400 in reorders. Oh well, needing more stock is a good problem to have. I just wish people would buy some of my other stuff like, oh, Metal Earth (Amount spent: $1,833; amount earned: $210).

Friday, November 13, 2015

T Minus 7...

It's time to start counting down the Six Weeks of Christmas, which actually last seven solid weeks this year (Nov. 1 through approximately Dec. 20). Since the holiday is actually on a Friday, I should enjoy the first couple of days of the holiday week as well. So where are we at?

Week 1, ended 11/7, came in $79 ahead of LY, or about 8%. Yay.

Week 2, ending 11/14, is already $410 ahead of LY, or more than 50%, with a day and a half left to go. Double Yay.

I'm afraid that Week 3 is heading for a big "Boo" because LY included a $1,500 kite sale. The $489 lead that I'm bringing into it certainly helps, but there's still a long way to go. Even though November is shaping up pretty well in general, it's probably doomed unless lightning strikes again this year. 

My first Metal Earth order finally broke the ice. Amount spent: $1,833; amount earned: $198. I'm sorely tempted to squeeze in one more small order if the floodgates are opening (who would've guessed that the Farm Tractor would be the first to sell out?), but I'm already dragging a massive credit card bill into December and break-even on Metal Earth is still a long ways out. So, No. 

Good old reliable Panther Vision beanies are good and reliable, as expected. Probably going to need at least one more reorder there. Panther has a history of running out of stock right around now and my credit card statement period just rolled into December, so I'd probably better do that today.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Locking Down Christmas

It's officially time to start panicking over my slumbering Metal Earth models. Just because I'm compulsive about such things, I'm going to keep a running tally. Complete sell-through would bring in $3,400; realistically, earning just $1 more than I spent on them will be a win. Amount spent: $1,833. Total sales: $0. 

I spent a week creating all the new product pages. Then I updated my Google Shopping product feed so that they'll appear wherever Google Shopping stuff appears. Then I raised my pay-per-click bids on Google and increased my daily spending limit from $35 to $41 (compared to $15-20/day during the summer). Then I whomped up an email newsletter and updated my mailing list. The newsletter ships tonight. 

Then I discovered that my template was resizing the main image on each product page to thumbnail size. Crap! Well, tiny pictures could explain a lot. Dimly recalling a forum post complaining about Sunshop's image resizing feature, I backed up all 3,833 of my image files before running it for the first time because I didn't relish re-uploading 50+ images one-by-one. The backup took so long that I decided to do it manually after all rather than run the risk of using that Sunshop tool. Then I discovered that one of the old pages that I had cloned for a template still had giftwrapping options...so I had to manually delete all of those. And with that, another full day was lost to Metal Earth. 

All of my Christmas merchandise is here now (although it's not all on display yet) save one order from the vendor that I put off until last. I won't name them because Google sees all and public criticism has come back to bite me before. This vendor was once one of my biggest suppliers, and dealing with them was always a struggle. They take orders through an independent sales rep who was always indifferent to my tiny account and usually screwed up my orders. More often than not the company would then screw up the billing or packing and I'd have to go through the incompetent sales rep to fix it. Then there's their products: They've discontinued most of the successful ones. Over the years they have moved more and more to prepack assortments. You cannot order a dozen black widgets; you must take four black, four red, four green, and four blue widgets -- if you want the successful variant you have to take the unpopular ones with it. Since I already have enough unpopular stuff in the cellar, I've been buying less from them each year. 

Having put that headache off as long as possible, I tried to bypass the sales rep (who never bothered to contact me) and order direct this year. After all, the company sends daily special-offer emails; they must want orders, right? Well, not through their website. I found an annoying Flash version of their catalog online (they stopped mailing me paper catalogs a year or two ago) but their order form is nowhere to be found. They ignored my email to the address in their promo emails. My second attempt got forwarded internally twice by people who didn't want to handle it before someone finally sent me an Excel stock list, which I promptly filled out and emailed back. Finally they sent my little order to the damned sales rep, who called me for my credit card information. :eyeroll: After hearing nothing for several days, I emailed for a status update. After a couple more of days of silence I got a reply saying that their end-of-month inventory had backed up shipping and the order will go out this week. Yesterday, their shipping department called for my credit card information, which the sales rep had screwed up. I haven't received shipping confirmation and still don't know if my order's on its way from Rhode Island (just an hour's drive away) or not. Assuming they don't charge my credit card for an order that's never forthcoming, I am done wrestling with this company. Their stuff just isn't that important.

Google says this company has just 11 employees. I either dealt with or was spurned by five of them. I'd punt them to the curb if some of their products weren't proven holiday hits. Not that they'd notice or care....

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