Monday, January 12, 2009


I hadn't appreciated the fact until today. Because I've made no reorders over the last month, I've also been relieved of making any decisions.

Now the store is back in play, and decisions need to be made.

Projections have to be arrived at, and allocations of resources.

Do I hold back cash, or reinvest in product? Do I shore up best-sellers at full price, or continue to buy merely good product at discounted prices? Is it better to spend most of the money up front, and get the full month's benefit in sales, or hold back and give myself breathing room?

As usual, I'm splitting the difference. Basically, half the money I'm saving by working the store myself is going into savings, and half into product. Holding back half of the projected surplus, and only spending half of the money I am going to spend in the first two weeks.

Holding back cash would seem like an obvious answer, but any real downturn can wipe out cash pretty fast, whereas a solidly performing store with good inventory could stave off a downturn longer.

Simple, but complicated.

I've been reading a Pulitzer Prize winning history book, An Army of Dawn, (The war in North Africa, 1942-1943), by Rick Atkinson.

It's a bit of cliche to compare business to war, but the parallels are unavoidable. Commanders were constantly being cautious when they should be bold, bold when they should be cautious. Misreading signals. Not firming up their supply lines. They based their decisions on inadequate information.

But the biggest lesson is that war is chaos, and no one really knows what's going on.

There is an Admiral Hewitt early in the book, who harbors the notion of "velvet" which is that little bit of wiggle room that every plan ought to have. I'd never heard it before.

From now on, it'll be part of my business vocabulary.

I've struggled for years to turn the store around from ordering stuff and paying for it with sales, to having cash to buy stuff, and then selling it. To do that while not hurting the momentum of the store has been a long process.

I don't want to give up that Velvet, when I need it the most.

1 comment:

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

"Velvet" to be a new feature of your vocabulary? Fie! And ye a bookish man? Sounds like the stage name for an unsuccessful cross-dressing stripper: Introducing Velvet Booker, Queen of the Wiggle Room.