Saturday, October 1, 2011

A big month.

We were up 27.5% in sales in September from last year. We even beat August, which I don't believe has ever happened before.

This was due almost entirely to internal factors, and had nothing to do with external factors.

The Great Recession has been the first time I've felt that the outside economy was affecting my sales. No doubt, the recession in the '80's had a huge effect too, but since I bought the store at the bottom of that decline, all I noticed was the struggle throughout the rest of the decade to make my store functional.

Anyway, usually I'd have some hot product or another that would trump whatever was happening outside my store. Or I would have a lot of weak product that again would have more effect on my sales than anything outside my store.

What I think has happened is that the economy has been bumping along the bottom long enough that internal factors can again outweigh even another market crash.

COMICS: Comic sales were up 26%. Obviously, this is due to the DC New 52, which has been a huge success. I agreed with most of what the article in the Bulletin said this morning about the whole thing -- except for the fact that I don't sell multiple copies of #1's to people if I can help it.

Why wouldn't I? Because I have learned to my sorrow that building your castle on the shifting sands of speculation is a very short-sighted and dangerous thing to do.

I'm most pleased about increasing my subs list by 25%. This shows a certain commitment by my customers to the new titles that is encouraging. People who read, usually keep reading. People who speculate, always quit.

I probably won't make quite as much actual profit on these big sales, because the very success of the venture has caused me to probably over-order second prints and the next issues. I don't want to let this new interest die away through lack of product. But that's the way it goes.

I'm happy that the new comics are very readable, that they have a price point below what has been the industry standard, and that we are seeing new and returning customers.

So Three Cheers for Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and Flash and Green Lantern and Mr. Terrific and Dark Justice League!!!

CARD GAMES: Strangely, my increase in sales for Magic was even bigger, both in raw profits and %. More than 250% better than last year. Not sure what's going on here; between the three stores selling Magic here in Bend, we seemed to have finally created a thriving culture.

Once I saw that there was a glimmer of an increase, I dramatically increased my inventory position.

See -- all I need is that little glimmer of improvement, and I'll pursue it with all I got.

For about 4 years of the great recession, I didn't feel gambling more money was going to pay off. I spent my money on increasing new product lines, like books and games, and just holding the fort on the others. But when I see something happening, I try to react.

The other thing that happens when you have a couple of product lines that are selling is that it seems to affect the rest of the store. I've noticed that if you can just get someone to open their wallet on one thing, then other things come into play. Other people in the store are affected by the activity.

It's what you hope for -- the active synergy that comes from people WANTING to buy stuff.

NEW BOOKS. Sales were up by 29%. Also very encouraging. In fact, I've spent this week trying to create more room for books. This is probably the most encouraging increase of all, because it has nothing to do with "Hot" product. It's a solid number I can build on. (Unlike the increases in comic and card game sales, which will probably come and go based on popularity.)

GAMES: Sales were up moderately. 7.5%. I don't think of September as being a game month, so I'm O.K. with that number. (Listen to me -- now 7.5% isn't enough....)

TOYS: Sales were slightly better than last year. But a lower number than I like. I've probably let this category decline while I pursued other things. I've already started a conscious process of increasing my stake in toys. It's difficult to get mainstream toys at a price point that makes sense -- and it's difficult to sell the Urban Vinyl and other unusual toys, as much as I love them.

They also take up more room than any other product --

SPORTS CARDS: Sales were up 34%. Almost entirely due to one or two customers buying boxes -- but hey, that's why I carry them.

GRAPHIC NOVELS: Sales were up 15%. I think this category is a stable one -- unless I get some hot title in.

What was most encouraging about all this, is that I have a completely stocked store going into October. I turned around and spent the increase on more product. If I'd pulled out the profits, I'd have a completely depleted store. The last thing I want to do in the face of increased demand is come up short. So I have to try to guess just how much of this surge will continue and in what areas, and that's almost impossible to get right.

It's counter-intuitive and a great irony, but it's always harder to earn a profit in a surge than it is when sales are slow, or even declining. But at the same time, the higher you can push sales the more money you can make when things stabilize. So you end up spending your profits -- sometimes you even lose a little money.

In the end, I always choose this option. Keep the store up, buy more of the product that's selling, keep my cash flow going, and worry about extra profits later. I think this is why I'm still in business-- but also why I don't make the big profits. I like my store, and I like liking my store and feeling proud of it, and it's more important to me to make moderate profits over a long period of time, than outsized profits in a short period of time.

I've beaten last year for three months in a row. My goal now is to beat last year for the last three months of the year, and on into next year. I've got a really good chance of doing that because the store is so solid right now.

My employees are doing a great job right now. They are all fully familiar with the store now, and they are enthused about comics, and I think that all helps. And I come to the store much more fresh and upbeat now.

Business just ebbs and flows over the years, and I'm always glad to see a rising tide.

1 comment:

H. Bruce Miller said...

"This was due almost entirely to internal factors, and had nothing to do with external factors."

I think it was thanks to all those special events downtown. ;^)