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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, September 30, 2016

The Good-Bad, the Bad-Good, and the Pretty Ugly

This month's numbers look good because September 2015 was so weak. It's a clear win when income goes up and advertising goes down. Coming in as the 9th-best/3rd-worst September ever doesn't mean much because this September had only four full weeks, versus five last year. The QuickBooks numbers below are a better apples-to-apples comparison.


Total income: +26.8%
Total COGS: +31.4%
Payroll: +44.7%
Marketing: -9.7%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -1.9% (-$8)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$451


Total income: -6.7%
Total COGS: -5.9%
Payroll: -6.4%
Marketing: -4.9%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -19.3% (-$392)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$2,417

I haven't had a single sale since my developer switched my site from "http" to "https" and implemented the new AdWords script (see below) on Tuesday. I get nervous when a big drought follows technical changes to my site. Sure enough, last night I noticed that Firefox was showing my product pages as "partially secure" and displaying a yellow warning triangle. Uh-oh. It turned out that my reCaptcha plugin was broken, and the Reviews tab has a Captcha to thwart bots. Fixed that and the lock icon turned green. I still haven't had a sale, though, so I'm not sure that was *the* problem...but it was definitely *a* problem. I'll feel better if/when I get a real sale...the four-day drought makes this the worst week in, well, maybe ever.  
Something good-bad happened: I finally hired my developer to implement the AdWords value-tracking code that I couldn't do myself (and that Google wouldn't help me with). That's good because it will allow me to control one of my biggest expenses more effectively over the long haul; it's bad because I had to pay up-front for something intangible. As it turned out, implementation required several hours of reverse-engineering to discover some necessary Sunshop variables, so Google's support wouldn't have been able to fix it anyway. It would have been nice if they'd told me that and saved me six weeks of grief. 

Then something bad-good happened: A product that caught my eye led me to a new vendor with dozens of products that fit into my unusual/useful philosophy. That's bad because bringing in all of the items I want would set me back a cool $2,400 that I don't have; it's good because I'm confident that this stuff will sell, and until now I had nothing but the same old, same old for Christmas. Then it's bad again because I see most of these products on Amazon for a lot less than full price. One product, for example, costs me $19 apiece. Because it's sold in dozens and comes in three colors, I'd need $684 (plus inbound freight) to bring in the minimum assortment. I'd make that bet if I could sell them at $38. Since it's retailing for as little as $24 on the Amazon, that's one big investment I won't be making. In fact, competitors are selling many of these products at unacceptable prices (an $80 globe retailing at just $105, for example). A shark ice mold that costs me $5.50 (plus inbound freight) can be had for $6.49 with free shipping on the Amazon -- how can anyone make money on that? An umbrella that costs me $17 is going for $25 with free shipping. This got less bad when I realized that Amazon logs me in as a business account, so I might be seeing prices that aren't advertised to the general public. 

In the end, I decided to focus on just six of the 14 products that I wanted. That still sets me back $1,100. But I ain't ordering anything until I start getting some business again. 

Finally, something good-good is in the pipeline: I have a line on a part-time, work-at-home editing gig that pays such a handsome hourly rate that working just 12 hours per month would effectively double my income. If it pans out -- and it's not in the bag yet -- I'll cut my pay in half next year to pull Curio City mostly out of debt. As much as I hate to take it out of my own hide, that's the only way I can see it surviving. QuickBooks says my profit margin last year was -4% and I'm running at -7.5% so far this year. No way I can dig out while expenses exceed income.  

What's pretty ugly is that my debt actually crept up last month just as I'm on the verge of burying myself in Christmas purchases. The cautious debt ceiling that I had defined just two weeks ago has to fall unless I'm willing to paralyze the holidays, and a retailer who can't play the Christmas game is already dead.   

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