Doyle's Fish & Hicky Bar

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dead Months (tween summer and Christmas)

Ive been online with ebay, 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.
A quandry.
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.
Prepare now!
dc