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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, December 18, 2015

Week 7: Another Christmas In the Bag

Week 6 finally surpassed Week 5 by a wee bit and finished just a couple of percent behind LY, bringing the month-to-date deficit to about $500. Disappointing, but not deadly.

Week 7 needed to average $283 per day, or a little over half of last week's sales. The odds did not look good. It looked like Christmas died on 12/10, two days earlier than LY. Then Sunday kicked this week off with 21 orders worth over $1,000. The daily average right now stands at $406 and the week is ahead of LY by $450 (almost erasing the deficit in the previous paragraph) with a day and a half left to go. That means I will definitely overcome my first and biggest hurdle, paying off my Mastercard.

Advertising is breaking the bank now, so I've been hacking away at it as much as I dare. I keep paring the least profitable keywords on Google and nudging down my budget, but the daily spend stubbornly persists. Turning off my Panther Vision cap ads for the first time ever felt like a radical move, but with my stock so depleted it also felt like the right move. I was down to advertising only beanies, Switchables, and Metal Earth on Bing. Then a run on Switchables fixtures cleaned me out last night, so I shut down those ads, too, until I was able to reorder this morning.
As much as I hate to do anything that will cut revenue, I can't keep buying $100 worth of clicks per day as sales fall into the $300 range -- especially as my stock continues to deplete. Paying off all of the advertising on my bloated Amex bill is my next big hurdle; Google is the only one getting rich here...but of course we all know that that's how the game is rigged.  
The $1,833 that I invested in Metal Earth has now returned $1,951. Profit! Betcha didn't see that coming, did you? I've spent more than $400 advertising those in the past 30 days. Converting a sale costs an average of $11.25 for a product that sells for as little as $6. That's fine when people buy four or five models at a time, but it becomes a losing proposition when the orders dwindle to one or two pieces. Postage overcharges probably cover most of the ad expense; without getting into the nitty gritty of it, Sunshop product weights have to be at least 0.25 pound, and Sunshop doesn't know about flat rate boxes. Shipping charges for single-piece orders are accurate, but they start to diverge as people buy multiple pieces. Those unintentional overcharges can reach as much as five bucks on >4-piece orders going to the West Coast. On one hand, overcharging for postage is slimy and I don't like doing it; OTOH, I obviously need the revenue and fixing the rate lookups would require some custom programming. 

As for Week 8...well, there is no Week 8. I consider next week to be post-Christmas as sales drift back down to the high side of normal, and then to the low side of normal the week after that. I'd have to beat those targets by rather a lot, percentage-wise, to save this month from edging out last December as the "Worst December since 2007." It could happen. It probably won't.
So now the focus is on paying off Amex and cutting the ad spend. Then comes restocking. Then paying taxes. If I can get past those three barriers I'll be around for another year. With powercaps and Switchables both coming next week, I'll at least have something to sell after Christmas.


  1. Matrix12:59 AM

    I have finally got a feel for retail.... Jesus its brutal. We got a lot of work to do. Thankfully i got really good team. But man, i can feel your pains now, very tough. And we do drop shipping, so its just ugly. We need to charge a lot and then most still go to our suppliers... brutal. On good side, our seo going up still and as long as we can grow it, we should be fine.

    1. Ten months out of the year I like being a one-man operation because it gives me complete control over everything except vendors and customers. During November and December I sometimes wish that I had a partner and a staff. ("Jesus it's brutal" made me LOL.) I hope your foray into retail is profitable for you, because as you say it's very tough.

  2. Matrix2:04 AM

    It has been educational and also strange, its not profitable (as was expected) yet but we done some decent sales and getting much better understanding for the sales and the market. Thankfully i run it pretty lean now (i have a small team) and at some point we had about 13 people working on it, now we "think" we got main elements in place. I am coming from service side with very minor retail experience, was forced the hard way of adaption. Now that we seen some holiday process and how it runs, we have to figure out our next steps.

    1. The main challenge for me is keeping a pulse going through the rest of the year, when income slows to a trickle and just meeting core operating expenses is hard. Maybe summer will be a stronger season for your souvenir market than for my gift market.

  3. Matrix12:28 PM

    Why not start another site, but more nitch that could counter summer lull? You already know everything there is to know about inventory management. Ya, summer might be a good one for tourists, i am still wading into this with caution as it never as it looks. Online retails getting very hard due to rising competition, we went for souvenirs because it gave us sage heaven nitch (one that always will be there) but over all its pretty brutal.


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