Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I've been experimenting -- tinkering, if you will -- with my shipping schedules for re-orders.

Budgeting has always been a problem for me, as well as cash-flow, because I don't have any real control over when product shows up. In fact, I can count on a large percentage of it being late.

My solution, finally, was to control how much I spend each week, and have enough money left in my account to cover the cash flow.

By re-ordering, rather than pre-ordering, half of my stuff, I've been able to exert some control over the budget; the risks being that pre-orders are pretty much secure and guaranteed, but re-orders are subject the vagaries of popularity. Sometimes, the product just isn't there.

Diamond Comics is pretty much a monopoly in comics. Up until a couple of years ago, my discount from them depended on how much I pre-ordered. Since I was on the bottom side of the discount plateau, I didn't worry about my re-order policy.

A couple of years ago, just as I was reaching close the the next level up, and was going to have to decide on pouring more of my budget to pre-orders, they changed the terms. Or Marvel Comics did. They created a Final Order Date, FOC, which was only two weeks before shipping, and rejiggered the discounts to TOTAL orders, rather than just pre-orders. I'm more of less in favor of this system, except that they round off the entire year, so you can be at a higher level of orders and not benefit for a long time.

About a year ago, DC Comics followed Marvel's example. Diamond just froze our discount level, until DC decided on the new plateau, and there we've sat. It basically no longer matters if I pre-order or re-order, when it comes to discounts.

Diamond, being a monopoly, does charge a 3% reorder fee for any non-Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or Image orders, which is pretty crazy. No other supplier I have PUNISHES me for making reorders.

Diamond allows me to make re-orders on a Tuesday, getting comics on a Thursday, which are not billed until the following Wednesday, and if I meet a 250.00 wholesale level, charge me ground-shipping rates rather than air rates.

I had figured that it costs me an extra 40.00 a week in shipping charges, or around 150.00 a month. That would buy me about 15 to 20 extra graphic novels per month, if I ordered through normal channels. The downside would be, it would be billed on the day they arrived, instead of the extra week, and would arrive at least 5 days later.
And I'd not be able to look my customers in the eye, and say, "I'll have that for you by Thursday."

Still, an extra 15 to 20 graphic novels a month....

So, I've tried that for the last 4 weeks. The results, about half as good in shipping costs as I hoped. I'm still paying ground rates, even if they are consolidated into my regular shipments. I'm maybe saving 75.00 a month. Big whoopee. I'm probably losing that much money by not having the product for an extra 5 days, and losing the billing, and not being as reliable as before.

So back to normal.

My other suppliers, by the way, all REWARD re-orders. Free shipping, or minimal shipping. One of the hazards of a monopoly. Pretty wonky stuff, but that's been my project.

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