dcmachinc.com, amazon, and other online venues since 1999. Not selling all that time, but almost. The learning curve has drifted from benignly brutal at the beginning to outright torturous in these later years. I began to see selling patterns that seem to follow certain months of the year. The easiest pattern to see comes during Nov and Dec. The holiday season is our largest selling opportunity for the year. However, Jan thru Mar has proven itself to be a good strong selling session too. The rest of the year is what I consider the plodding months. Business is good and we sell constantly now but it's just plodding along to our very busy end of year.
I'm beginning to see another pattern which happens along with the start of school. That is a remarkable sales drop-off. Ive taken to calling it the Dead Months. This is when I have to buy tons of merchandise for the Christmas buying season even though sales are down across the board.
It makes it very hard. How can I be so sure of the sales outcome in Dec when the economy is so bad all over the country and maybe even the world too?
How can I deplete my cash reserves and invest it in merchandise that just sits here in the warehouse and gathers dust? How can I weaken my company overall by spending money in this wanton and careless manner?
While I'm in this two month time period paranoia creeps up and makes me second guess every move. I cut expenses and corners on every conceivable outlay. I double check my employees and their effectiveness. I go over my notes every day to make sure I'm not forgetting something. I still try and find deals but I'm generally too scared to buy them for fear of running out of cash.
This is the time of year when I ought to take a vacation. Sales are lower so we need fewer people here. But being the business owner, and sales being slower, it makes it even more difficult to leave.
Then as the days move slowly by something begins to happen. Sometime in Nov. our daily sales figures go up a notch. (oh so slightly) The packing guys don't finish up by 12 noon but by 1:30. Our rolling shelves start filling up and take two guys to move them to the loading area. Then Thanksgiving, and it's too late to change what I started in Sept. Whatever stock I bought then, whatever plans I made, supplies I stored up------are all plunged into shipping chaos. Everyone is working at max speed and max concentration. We all run face-into-door of our own limits. I'm cursing myself for not ordering more merchandise! What was I thinking? The whirlwind is upon us and we are on the edge of failure for 5 to 6 weeks.
I find at the end of this miraculous rush that the Dead Months are indeed real and terrifying. At least for an online business owner like me.
Looking into the face of terrible short term sales and forecasting a boomtime is just one of the things I've learned over the years. The boom is coming, no matter how bad it looks now. We all have to work through our Dead Months and have faith that the good days are right around the corner.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
After a wonderful and touching trip up north to see my nephew and his family, Sandi and I arrived on a delayed flight in Houston. We were exhausted from the trip. Delays of all kinds tortured us on our return home. It was like God was reminding us that no matter our humanitarian and Christian intent, we still had business to attend to at home. We loved on our little dogs Mixie and Max as hard as we could and collapsed in bed thinking that we both had to go to work the next morning and somehow be coherent. It was about 1:00am I think. During the night Mixie hopped up on the bed to snuggle between me and Sandi. She was trembling and looking up to the ceiling. I could see her worried little face and her laid back ears as she listened to the storm that was blowing through. I calmed her as best I could and threw a sheet over her.
Sure enough, the next morning we awoke late feeling sore and out of sorts. Still we got ready. I kissed my bride goodbye wishing her a good day. She gave me a wry smile as I headed out.
My guys were waiting for me at the overhead door of my shop. Vince wanted to know how my weekend was and did I have a great time. I was immediately wary. Stoney pipes up "Cause if you did, Vince is about to ruin it". Vince waved for me to follow and we walked out back. The shop dogs were delighted to see me and were jumping everywhere leaving muddy paw prints all over me on the way to the back storage building. Walking in I see that Vince has already started rearranging and moving pallets and boxes to get the dry. Our skylights had blown out of the roof and let a considerable amount of rain in. Lots of wet boxes and merchandise surrounded us. Vince was in his element taking care of moving and organizing. He is a natural born organizer. I highly recommend a guy like him if you don't have one.
As far as calamities are concerned I suppose this was a minor one. I can get the roof repaired for about a $1500. However the issue was a lack of security on my part. I had the building built but couldn't decide on the type of door so I just ignored it and basically allowed this to happen. The door is fairly large at about 10' square so a lot of storm wind could enter to do damage. The merchandise that got wet is hardy and will dry without loss. The boxes are another story. I will probably have to buy several hundred dollars of cardboard boxes to replace them.
Another lesson. Personal and business security needs to be addressed every day. I'm lucky I didn't suffer the loss of the entire roof instead of just a few skylights.
I look at the sky.
"Ok, I get it. It's a warning. Thanx!"
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
About the only advice I would take from anybody concerned sales tactics. For instance, while lame, sometimes gimmicks worked. I mean, giving a pack of matches away in a bar probably didn't make any bar a penny. While giving a coupon for a half price meal brings customers in. Some things work and some don't. I tried buying lunches, bringing lunches, delivering free beer, free Six Flags tickets, free hats, free Tshirts, pens, lighters, notepads, license plate frames, bumper stickers...........
Nothing worked. So while visiting with an old salesman one day he mentioned that he would stick a piece of gum in each box he delivered. That way whenever someone opened it they would get the delightful surprise of a nice piece of chewing gum. Sounded really great to me so I tried it. After a couple of weeks and about $10 worth of chewing gum, sales hadn't increased at all. $10 back then was probably comparable to $50 now. So I decided that since my commission made it worthwhile I would tape a crisp $1 bill to the inside lid in each box. I bet that would knock my competition totally out of the ring!
I made my delivery of the specially prepared boxes in my corner of the warehouse. I could barely wait to see the sales figures the following week.
As I drove into the yard the following week to count the inventory I was surprised to see a mound of boxes and other trash that nearly blocked the overhead door. Two or three men were rummaging around in the hill of trash looking for something. My contact was standing there looking POd too so I began to kiss butt the moment I walked in. I was in shock to see the entire warehouse had been ransacked from one end to the other. Every box opened up and dumped on the floor, piles of boxes and litter everywhere, emptied shelving, and smashed Styrofoam like snow all over the floor.
" Hey Shorty!" (for real) What's going on, spring cleaning?" He gave me a grimace and waved his arm at the mess.
"I don't know exactly, but one of the hands must of broke in here and tore up everything. Kind a weird that nothing seems to be missing though. Maybe you can help me separate your stuff so we can get it back on the shelf."
Sure I said and started picking up boxes. It was then that I began to look for the dollar bills I had taped inside the lid. None in that box, or that one, or this one. It dawned on me. Oh my God, punks came in here and practically destroyed the warehouse looking for those dollar bills!
I helped straighten up the warehouse most of the rest of the day. I never mentioned that my dollar bill trick was probably what pushed the "worms" over the edge. I learned a lesson like the sorcerer's apprentice. I used just enough of the gimmick to get myself in potential trouble with my customer. Giving stuff away for free generally attracts freeloaders.
And that just wasn't my customer.
Nothing is more memorable to the fisherman than a big fish to hang on the wall. Problem is that it winds up being one less trophy in the water. After you've owned a wall mount for a while you begin to feel that, yeah, it's nice, but it would be better if the fish was still alive to be caught another day. That's where our blue marlin wall mounts fit in so well. Hand painted resin sculptures that look gorgeous on the wall and serve the exact same purpose of reminding the fisherman or fisherwoman of a great day on the water. Plus they are remarkably less expensive than taxidermy mounts. For the purist, taxidermy is probably the only way to go but in the end, the memory is the thing we treasure the most.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
I buy stuff from garage sales all the time. For one reason it stokes my primal desire to get stuff cheap! I also resell some of it on line. A little extra cash can't hurt anybody.
That's why it annoys me so much to see them done wrong. If you really want to have a terrible garage sale please follow these steps.
1. Use only one sign. Be sure and place it on a pole that no one will see. The lower to the ground the better. Make sure that it can't be seen until the driver is past the turn.
2. Also please don't use a large marker to write with. Use pencil or a light colored crayon. That way your buyers will have to slow down and obstruct traffic (possibly risking life and limb) to read the sign.
3. Never use a sign larger than a child's paper plate or a single sheet of of school paper. Write all over them in small print. Also use a small stick to tape them to. That way whenever the wind blows the sign will fold up and no one can read it.
4. Never use an "arrow" on your sign. If you must, make it so small that the buyer can't see which way it is pointing till they are past the turning point.
5. If you insist on using colored cardboard for your sign then please use black ink on blue, red ink on orange, gray ink on green , etc.
Now that we have the rules for signage figured out here are the rules for setting up your driveway for the sale.
6. Never put a large sign at your driveway. No balloons on the mailbox either. Don't do anything to draw attention to your sale on your own street.
7. When laying out clothing to be sold be sure and throw them down in piles all over the driveway. Never hang them up or arrange them by adult, teen, children, etc.
8. Be sure and have lots of mixed up mismatched clothing, broken toys, inexplicable pieces of cracked glasses, plates, plastic, bent forks and spoons, all in a jumble in a box. Turn the box over so they get stepped on a lot is even better.
9. Let buyers kids play with whatever they can get their hands on. The toys are pretty much used and worthless and the electronic items probably wouldn't have sold anyway.
10. If you have books be sure and leave them in piles on the driveway. If you treat them like trash then the buyers will too.
11. If you are selling tvs, computers, toasters, telephones, lamps, tables, etc. never clean them prior to the sale. Greasy fingerprints and cigarette tar/nicotine generally do wonders for sale items.
12. If you are selling rugs and have dogs and cats in the house please remember to not vacuum them. The new buyer loves to see thick animal hair all over their new purchase. Makes them smell nice too.
13. Hopefully there will be no parking on your street and you will have to stop every buyer from parking in your driveway just because you have that power.
14 If you can't speak English that will instantly cut down on a lot of your buyers. Definite plus!
15. Make it impossible to test electric items. No extension cords, no outlets, no nothing. Even better cut the plugs off all the appliances you are selling. Just tell your customer to replace the plug and it will work fine.
16. Never, absolutely never have any change. Make it impossible to be paid with a ten dollar bill and expect change back.
17. Always ask way too much (suggested retail is best) for your wore out crap.
18. Never offer help loading, or bags, or extra boxes. They should have brought their own.
19. Never smile or say hello, and especially don't welcome anybody into your driveway. Buyers are such an interruption anyway.
20. Be sure and stop selling whenever you are tired of it. (no matter what the fine print on your sign says). Remember to leave all your signs up too. It's pretty funny to see your garage sale sign up for a month at a time. Maybe you can mess up other garage sales just a little bit and they can have the same success that you had.