Thursday, January 1, 2009

Well, I'll be Gosh, Darned.

We met our goal.

My original Holiday goal was to leave my cash reserves untouched, pay off my two credit cards in full, pay every little bill that came in the door.

Oh, and not dump debt into January. It's very easy to order stuff for December that doesn't come due until January, and I avoided that completely.

I even hoped to pay Pat's last paycheck, which is technically a January bill.

Yesterday, I wrote out all my bills, and I had.left...



I'm rich! No....wait. I have to get my gas tank filled.


My original goal was pretty modest, to be honest.

But I saw that I had a really good Christmas last year, and that I was coming out of the worst Fall I've seen in years, and I just figured I'd see about the same drop I saw in Sept. and Nov.

And that's exactly what happened.

About mid-December, it looked as though I'd come up about 2000.00 short or so, and I was resigned. But that was still better than the 18k balances I carried into 2008. That bad weather hit, and as of December 22, I thought there was no way.

But...three days before Christmas, the Sheriff of Nottingham finally relented. 3 really big days, and I was almost there.

Needed one big day in the week following, and finally got it yesterday. (Why, yesterday, I wonder?)

I'm happy that I met my goal, but to put it in perspective, when the year started, I thought I might be able to really save up some money. September crashed, I could see that wasn't going to happen.

Mining the numbers.

I'm going to do some numbers mining soon, but preliminarily, we had a 14% drop last year. Which doesn't sound so bad, but most of it fell in the second half, and the bulk of that in the last quarter, so it was worse than it looks.

Books are doing surprisingly well.

Meanwhile, my wife's store beat last year every month except January. Pretty darn cool.

The only category that was up this year was books. And I'm going to concentrate on those. I'm going to go back to mostly fiction, again. And mostly classics and cult books. Those just really seem to sell well for me.

For example, in the last day or two I've had requests for:

Brave New World, Huxley; Seven Storey Mountain, Merton; Travels with Charley, Steinbeck; and Wuthering Heights, Bronte. All books I've either carried, or mean to carry. I figure there are a couple of thousand such books I could bring in.

Comics haven't held up well at all. Partly because the mass of tie-ins, events, variant covers, one-shots, and mini-series are suffering a backlash. I had several good long-term customers leave town, and several good long-term customers who simply stopped coming in.

Set for next year.

Much as I hated to let go of my full-time employee, there were just too many days when we were both standing around with not enough to do. I tried light a fire under Pat to get him active online, but he kind of let that go. So...there were way too many times when I went home, since he resisted going home early.

I'm kind of excited to be back fully in charge. I'm sure after six months of so, I'll be tired of it. But I can hire a part-timer in the second half of the year.

The drop in sales last year was almost exactly the same total as I paid Pat. In real retail terms, I save a minimum of twice that much by not having an employee. Gives me some options, and loosens up the margins in the break-even point.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Duncan McGeary said...

In other words, without Patrick's payroll, I could suffer twice the drop in 2009 that I saw in 2008 and still be in the same place.

Even more, really, because I started getting way more efficient in my ordering, saving shipping and handling costs and so on.

So I could conceivably see a 50% drop from the 2007 heights and still take home the same amount of money (which is the whole point, after all.)

I don't really expect that to happen. If that were to happen, the plywood in the windows downtown is very possible.

The trick is to take decisive action. I used to dither so much more. I'd be in denial way too long, and I'd be in shock way too long, and I'd make too little moves too late.

Now I go to the bottomline immediately. Make my worst case scenario my best case scenario.

Because what I've learned is that is extremely hard to ramp down in costs, but extremely easy to ramp back up.

I can get on the phone and order stuff in five minutes that will take months to pay off.

I can run into debt, but I crawl back out of it.

So....if I keep the powder dry, I can really make effective use of it.

Last week, my distributer had one of the best liquidation lists I've ever seen.

Stuff I've sold out of and stuff I've wanted for half the price. And I have enough margin in my budget to actually buy it, saving me loads of money down the road.

Money talks.

Unknown said...

Nice work, Dunc. I wish you much success in 2009 - you deserve it!