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, June 30, 2017

Keeping the Streak Alive

June was another good month. Beating LY was unexpected because a blueberry farm in Maine bought $1,400 worth of kites last June. Because most of this month's orders were dropships, I had to buy $2,000 worth of merchandise to drive $4,100 in sales, which means that only a trivial fraction of my sales came from the old inventory that I'm trying to dump and implies that business is going to crash hard after kite season ends. I can probably squeeze out one more good month before that happens.


Total income: +28.7
Payroll: -2.5%
Marketing: -27.78%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +2,412.6% (+$2,809)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$2,693

2017 YTD

Total income: +15.1%
Total COGS: +13.4%
Payroll: -29.3%
Marketing: -36.3%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +219.7% (+$4,299)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$2,342

The five-figure Blue Hills check that I've been awaiting for months finally arrived. It came so close to the end of the month that I decided to take it in the next quarter so that I can avoid giving the government its third for another three months, rather than in the next two weeks. So the numbers above include a little Blue Hills income, but they're close enough for Curio City. Excel says that this was the third-best June ever, and it only needs another $160 over the next day and a half to capture second place

I've reduced my debt from $8,800 to $4,200, but that progress will end when kite season does. Curio City's profit should disappear of its own accord. If it doesn't, I'll make it evaporate with markdowns.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The How and When of Closing a Store

Closing a store is similar to what I imagine divorce must be like: One must endure a lot of confusing and emotionally charged milestones before one breaks through to a promising, yet seemingly distant, future. Here's my tentative roadmap for Curio City:

ONGOING: Stop ordering new products. Debt has already forced me into this; now I'm just formally stating that it's a policy.

ONGOING: Stop replacing sold-out products. Again, I've mostly stopped already. I'm only reordering 100% sure-fire sellers (kites, basically), and I'll continue to do that at least until I'm entirely out of debt.

ONGOING: Discount/write off very old stuff: I need to round up some ancient products and test them to see if the batteries are dead. If they are, I need to decide whether they're worth the cost of reviving with new batteries. They usually won't be worth spending money on. For example, I paid $2 apiece for these PetLits in 2012. After five years in storage, they're probably spent. They aren't selling at $4. Maybe they'll sell at $3, or maybe they won't; does a buck really make that much difference in someone's purchase decision? If it costs me a buck to replace each one's battery, the cost goes up to $3, so in the best case I'm merely recovering my cost, and it's more likely that I'll end up with dead products that cost me $3 instead of $2. It's better to write them off and cut my losses. I should be doing this right now, but handling old failed products is really depressing, to be honest. Somehow it never floats to the top of my to-do list.

ONGOING: Cut back on advertising: This has been a long-term goal, and it's down by better than 50% (while leaving sales flat). At some point I will cut it to zero; probably not until after Christmas, though. Meanwhile, I continue trying to stomp on it.

AUGUST: Let unneeded URLs expire: I only need to keep curiocityonline.com and krakenenterprises.com. It never made much sense to pay for .biz or .net except as a defensive thing.  

DECISION TIME, Sept. 30, 2017: Am I going to support this Christmas with new/replenished stock? If so, I need to do some very careful, limited buying beginning in October. This will largely depend on whether my debt is paid off by then. Right now, I'm inclined to simply sell down as much existing stock as I can without buying anything more. 

November? Announce a clearance sale. I'd need to find a way to exclude kites from that.

MARCH 2018: Let the UPS Store box expire, or renew it for another year? I only need this address for receiving packages and deflecting junk mail. I won't need it once I'm sure that I won't get any more shipments. But I probably ought to keep it as long as Curio City is still doing business. It's my Blue Hills address, too, but there is no reason that Kraken Enterprises can't "relocate" to my home address after Curio City is gone. 

This will mostly depend on whether I decide to sell kites through another summer. I'm inclined to do so after this year's successful May and June, but $200 to renew this for another year (even though I'll only need it for six months) seems pricey. 

JUNE 2018: Close hosting account: This is a point of no return. I'll need to pony up another $150 if I want to keep going through the end of kite season. This looks like a fairly likely closing date; it will depend (a) on how much non-kite stock I'm still trying to get rid of, and (b) on how steady my Blue Hills income has become.  

SEPTEMBER 2018: Let curiocityonline.com lapse. Another point of no return. Renewing it only costs around $20, but coming as it does at the end of kite season, and before another Christmas season, makes it seem very sensible. I really don't want to flog another Christmas after this one, so if I didn't close in June, I will certainly do so in September. 

One of life's cruelest ironies is that time flows subjectively faster as one grows older and closer to death. By age 60, a year seems to fly by. So, while a year from September might sound like the distant future to a younger person, it's right around the corner in my mind.  

AFTER CLOSING: Write off everything that's left. Even after spending a year winding down, I'm still going to have $10-15,000 worth of stuff in the cellar. Writing it all off will be a huge one-time tax deduction. I'm not sure yet how I'll physically dispose of it. 

Cancel the Curio City Mastercard...but not the Kraken Enterprises Amex. Think about opening a Blue Hills Visa.

Close the Curio City checking and savings accounts.

Reevaluate maintaining Kraken Enterprises. Being a corporation costs me around $1,000 per year. It made a lot of sense for Curio City, but it doesn't offer any tangible benefits for Blue Hills alone. Killing Kraken without shuttering Blue Hills would be messy, though. And since Blue Hills has almost no other expenses, it won't be hard to cover the cost of keeping it going. The main drawback would be continuing to pay my CPA for a separate corporate tax return instead of folding Blue Hills into our personal returns. I might have to reconstitute Blue Hills as a partnership or sole proprietorship. This gets into lawyery/accountanty stuff that's over my pay grade.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Blow-away May

This was the second-best May ever (ending with the best YTD week). It even managed to close half of the astonishing $1,800 gap between first and second places. Might have had a shot at the record, too, if I'd been more actively engaged in daily operations, and if Jackite hadn't run out of Dove kites during the runup to Pentecost. Let's put it this way: This month actually beat last December. That not only tells you what a great month May was, but how awful last Christmas was.

All I've been doing is filling orders and restocking kites; the store's on autopilot while I peck away at a large Blue Hills project and plant my vegetable garden. Kites are going gangbusters, and I even sold off some of the old dead stock that I'd really love to move. If it weren't for this year's 50% pay cut, it would have covered my beer-and-tobacco budget with money left over. June might pull off the same trick if Jackite doesn't run out of bald eagles and I don't tweak anything, since autopilot is working just fine. If June holds up, I'll have to rethink my store closing strategy. Paying off my debt a month or two earlier than I had foreseen would enable me to flog another Christmas, if that seems worth doing. 

The following QuickBooks numbers are getting flaky as they start to capture Blue Hills activity. From here on out, they'll represent "Kraken Enterprises" as a whole rather than "Curio City" itself. Curio still made up the lion's share in May so these numbers are pretty close to Excel's opinion that Curio was up by $1,200 this month and is up a healthy $1,400 YTD. The huge Blue Hills check that we earned in February and March was delayed again, so it will almost surely blow June's numbers out of the water. If that actually happens, I'll think about revising my traditional monthly report.


Total income: +40.7%
Total COGS: +32.4%
Payroll: -17.7%
Marketing: -25.8%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +341.3% (+$1,943)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$1,055

2017 YTD

Total income: +12.2%
Total COGS: +10.9%
Payroll: -42%
Marketing: -41.5%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +158% (+$3,742)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$1,374

I gotta say that Aaron was right about those fidget spinners; media coverage is still growing, and I've even seen them as the butt of some jokes. You know a product has made it big when it's recognizable enough to become a punchline. If I weren't so far in debt, and if I were actively trying to grow my store instead of ruthlessly reducing inventory, I'd plunge into them right now. There is surely a few hundred bucks to be made before they peak this Christmas, and possibly a few thousand. I might reconsider and go there after my debt is gone. 

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