Monday, October 8, 2012

Our eBay and Etsy Month September 2012

I suppose it's about time I wrote something about this.  I was going to skip it this month, but why mess with success as they say.

September was better than August, at least as far as the bottom line.  But it was extremely ominous, and I did not like it.

We had more sales in August than in September, and our Gross dollar amount was higher in August.  But we had less expenses in September, mostly because of the way Etsy charges its fees.  Because of that our Net dollar amount, the amount we actually take home, what I think of as our profit for the month, was higher in September.   And based on that I say September was better than August.

That doesn't mean September was a good month.  Based on what I consider an average month to be, September, like August, was Terrible.  That's right, with a capital "T".   Sales, especially postcard sales, were down.

I don't know if there has been an eBay change that I haven't responded to, or perhaps everybody in America have collected all the postcards they want.  For the second month in a row our photo sales have exceeded our postcard sales.  That's fine, except we seem to be selling 50 to 60 percent fewer postcards than we used to.

We actually are weighting things toward Photo sales, and I think our sales are reflecting this, but the photos have not got to the point where they can carry the whole business.  At this point we still need those postcards to sell.  So, we'll have to see what happens.  Maybe there are some tweeks that can be made.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

eBay and Etsy month - August 2012

Well, it is summer, and summer's tend to be slow......but so far August has been the worst month of the year.

This was due to lower than average sales and higher than average expenses -  a lethal combination.  Our gross sales weren't great, but also weren't terrible - better than a couple of months this year.  But for various reasons, some one time, some maybe not, our expenses were much higher than normal this month, so that lead to our lowest net in a one month period this year. 

I take a breath, shrug my shoulders, march on.

A bright point, our international sales remain quite strong, unbelievably strong in fact, at least compared to what I considered normal international sales.  I'm not sure why  that is, but that is a very good thing.   I've been selling internationally for years now and it's turned out ok.

Our eBay postcard sales (or lack of) was the culprit this month - not that we didn't sell any, just less than normal.  Our photo sales were pretty strong.

We've been on Etsy for about 5 months now, and it hasn't been great, but, to my surprise, we haven't lost money.   We did lose money this month on Etsy, but over all it has been profitable.  Not much, but as long as we're not losing money, I suppose it is a nice second outlet for some of our stuff.

And that's about it.  We made a profit, but it was not a good month.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Grass

Little bit of a rant.  There is no deeper meaning.

We do not consider what we have to be a lawn - it is more of a field.  2.5 acres give or take, (thank heavens part of our property is wooded) of sometimes very steep sloping grass that really should be mowed.  It will get away from you quick, if you don't. 

Here's the problem.  Almost all of the lower 48 states are experiencing a drought.  North Carolina is one of 2 or 3 states among these 48 that have no counties in a drought situation.  In fact, it pretty much won't stop raining.  It rained for hours early Sunday morning, then rained for hours - hard - late Sunday evening.  As I type this, it is getting dark again, and looks like rain.   I think it has rained everyday expect one for the last week. 

I managed to mow a large section of grass Saturday afternoon.  It was a struggle.  I know you are supposed to mow when the grass is dry - but it never gets dry.  It hasn't been dry since sometime in early July, I think.  It is saturated with dew in the mornings, and in the afternoon, it rains.  So the ol' John Deere kept getting clogged up, I'd shut off the blade, back up, and there would be tons of wet clumpy grass on the ground.  Awhile later I'd have to repeat the process.  I tried to do this in out of the way places - near the "grape vine" or the Mulberry tree, but for the most part I couldn't.   When I was done and surveyed the field, instead of seeing neatly trimmed grass, I saw disgusting rows of wet clumpy grass clippings, the type that will eventually kill everything underneath it. 

We cleaned the mower - me first then my wife took over - and pulled out a ton more grass, as much as we could get.  I'm sure there's a lot left there.

And of course, later that evening, it began to rain.

So this afternoon I did something I vowed I would never do on this property.  We raked.   Or gathered.  We raked the grass into piles, then picked the grass up and put into a trash can (20 gallon I think), then carried it to where where the weeds and briers live and dumped it out.  All told I think we had around 40 piles of grass, maybe more, because I didnt start counting 'till there were less than 20 left, and that didn't even represent half of our little field. 

It wasn't terribly hot, low to mid-80's, (about 28-29 Celsius for the rest of the world) but it was extremely humid, and wet grass is rather heavy, and I had to carry it uphill,  so I was huffing and puffing and sweating like a pig on Thanksgiving day before I was done.  

I don't know that it made any difference.  Next time I mow I'll put the blade at the highest setting, maybe that will help.

In the mean time, if it would just stop raining for a week or two, that would be nice.

End of rant.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Mother's Birthday

Today is my mother's birthday. 

My mother died 3 years ago, on August 24th, in a hospital room at the Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hazard, Kentucky.  Hazard is the big city on those parts.  She had been very sick for awhile, I had gone to see her then came back, and was planning to go again when I got a call from my brother on the evening of the 23rd.   I left the next morning, but did not get there in time.  I got a call on my cell as I was pulling into a gas station at Gate City, Virginia. 

The older I get the more people die, and I think the concept of a "dignified" death is something people made up.  My mother suffered, to the point that my father finally told everybody - meaning the doctors - to stop.   She was old, and was very unlikely to recover no matter what they did, so he told them to stop.  He didn't receive any argument from anybody, neither family nor doctors.  Everybody knew.  They moved her out of intensive care, managed the pain, and she died a day or so later.

I remember when I was little.  We had 33 acres of prime (ahem) hill top property in Hindman, Kentucky.  I'd run around barefoot (we always said barefooted), and I learned that if I just ran thru the yard the bees generally got out of the way.  I was always a little afraid of the snakes, but they seemed to get out of the way too.  I was invincible.   But even at that early age I knew about death, though I didn't really understand it.  I remember telling myself I had nothing to worry about, because only old people died and by the time I was old, someone would have found a cure for death.  I was all of 5 years old.

The first part of my self delusion was shattered when a 1st cousin, and my best friend, drowned in Troublesome Creek when it was swollen with spring rains.  I remember him as smart, inquisitive and curious, and he was younger than me.  He was only 7 years old when he died.  I was 8.

The second part of my self delusion went by the wayside a long time ago.   People die.  They die for all kinds of reasons, but mostly they just get sick and die.  True, as a group, at least in the developed world, we tend to live somewhat longer than we used to, but we don't live forever.  Or even that long, for that matter. 

On my mother's last birthday she was in a hospital bed.  She was conscious and aware, but had tubes helping her breathe and could not communicate. She had endured a couple of operations, she was in pain and she was extremely uncomfortable. When I left her for the last time, she didn't want me to go.  Even though she couldn't speak, everybody knew why.  Well I can't speak for anyone else, but I knew why.

So today is my mom's birthday, and I've been thinking about her off and on all day.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Nope, I'm not a writer

I don't have much in common with writers, which is no big surprise.

Writers write.  They write everyday.  They set goals for themselves and fret about it if they don't quite get there.  If they aren't writing they worry about it. They edit & rewrite.  No matter what else they have going on, they find time.  They keep notebooks close at hand in case they think of something, see something, hear something or someone says something interesting - an idea, word, phrase, insight, anything.  They struggle to find the right word.  Writers also read, a lot.  But mostly, they write, every day.

I haven't written too much in this blog for 3 months, and I haven't worried about it too much.  And though it's irrelevant, nothing of what I have written is really worth much of anything except to me.  Worth is important to a writer.

I haven't written a short story in several years.

My favorite one, way back when, was about a woman and a snake.  The woman, the snake, and a little dog were the only characters in the book.   It took place early in the morning, with the woman sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee trying to wake up. She had to get cleaned up and ready for work, and she also she also had a young child who was asleep, but who she would have to wake up soon, get cleaned up, dressed, fed and ready for day care. She had a very busy morning ahead of her, and that was before she got to work. She was also married, but her husband was out of town on business.  So her child and her husband are also characters, but they are in the background, they exist, but they never make an appearance.

Her being married and having a child was no accident - I remember actually thinking about this.  I could have made her a single parent, or a single woman living on her own, but I decided to giver her a child and a temporarily absent husband.  It seem to make things more interesting, because for a few days she was thrust into a role she wasn't used to, and wasn't really prepared for, essentially she was a  single parent.

The whole story is her thoughts and the comments of an unseen narrator who seems to know everything there is to know about her.   One thing the narrator knows is that the woman considers her husband being away as something of a vacation for her - one less person to worry about, except late at night in a dark, creaking almost-in-the-country house when she feels not quite scared, but uneasy.  The only dialogue in the story is between her and the dog. 

So the conflict in the story (all stories have conflict) comes when the little dog starts going ballistic at the front door, and the woman opens the door to find a big snake on her front porch, right outside the door.  For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.  After the initial shock, she's irritated because dealing with the snake would normally fall under the auspices of the husband's duties, he man that he is, but he's gone, so she has to deal with it.  The rest of the story is how she deals with it.

It involves gasoline.

So I used to write stories, but I don't anymore.   Writers have to pay attention to the human condition, and that takes concentration and a decent amount of insight.  I can concentrate, but I'm not sure I have the insight.  

In the book I'm reading now, the protagonist is surprised find his teenage daughter understands "the value of an endorsement from a fool".  Which, of course, is nothing.  Less than nothing, to be honest.  And that's in the bible too, Proverbs I think, but maybe Psalms.  Or maybe somewhere else.  It goes something like this: "Its better to be thought merely good by the great, than great by the merely good".    It's human condition stuff.

Anyway, writing can be fun, but I'm not a writer. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our eBay (and Etsy) Month - July 2012

Just coasting along......

July was our best month this year, at least as far as net profits went.  As far as I'm concerned, net is what counts, and our net profits for the month were very good.  I know what happened, but I really don't know why it happened. 

Our postcard and photo sales were both close to the most we've sold in a single month period all year, and when that happens we have a good month.  We've had months where we've sold more of one or the other, but not where both were this good - at least not this year. 

Also, for some reason we sold an extraordinary amount internationally - I believe international sales accounted for almost 1/3rd or our sales, and that is a lot for us.  I believe this this is the most we've ever sold internationally in a month, but I've only been tracking that for a couple of years now.  eBay has been tracking it for us since day 1, however, so I can report with a fair amount of accuracy that in the 6 years and 3 days we've had this business going, international sales have accounted for roughly 12.5% of our total sales.  I don't know if that is good, bad, or otherwise, but it is what it is.

I like international sales, I hope it keeps up.

Sometimes you have a good month because you find some special inventory.  We did have some good inventory this month, but nothing spectacularly out of the ordinary.  But we had some items which were unique, and which sold quickly for a decent profit - but even without that it still would have been a very good month.  So I don't really know how to explain it.

Our Etsy sales were decent, but not that much better than in June.

Traditionally the summer months are slower - June, July & August.  Well this year May and June were terrible, so I figured we were in for a slow 5 months.  So I'll very happily take a good July. 

I was worried that sales might be slower, because we're no longer have top rated seller status.  This is because eBay changed their criteria, and we felt the costs outweighed the benefits of trying to meet it.  So we made a business decision to stay the course so to speak. 

Well that's not quite true - we moved part of our business to Etsy, and it seems to be working ok. 

August has started out ok for us, but we're in the hole a bit because of some business expenses we had to make.   Costs money to make money as the say.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Our eBay (and Etsy) month - June 2012

Hmmm.........I need to write more in this blog.  Well, it's been a busy month.....  Anyway.

Basically our totals for June were almost the same as for May, which is to say somewhere between not too good and better than nothing. 

We actually did a little better in June, but the only reason we made more of a profit was because our expenses were less.  While that's nice, it's not really the hallmark of an expanding business. 

Our eBay sales were slightly higher for the month, and distributed a bit differently.   We sold more photos and fewer postcards in June than we did in May.   Our Etsy sales were slightly lower in June than they were in May.   Our overall business expenses were lower, and that is why we made a profit.

Our business expense was lower because we paid less postage, which again, is nice, but also indicates that we didn't ship as much.

But a couple of good things did happen.  We had several "multiple purchase" transactions, and our international sales jumped right back to what I consider normal levels.   We've started off pretty good international sales wise in July, so I hope that continues. 

The end of June was also the end of the 2nd quarter, so I can draw my quarterly conclusions, I suppose.   We did much better in the first quarter 2012 than we did in the 2nd quarter.  However, 1Q 2012 was 2nd best quarter we've had since I've been keeping these types of records (since 2009).  We also did not do as well in as we did in the 2Q of 2011, but guess what, 2Q 2011 was the 3rd best quarter we've ever had, only slightly off 1Q 2012.  Both quarters were dwarfed by 4Q of 2011.   I've kept these records for 14 quarters now, and our last quarter results were slightly below average.  I suppose I was spoiled by 2 straight quarters of much higher than average sales.  

Last year's 3rd quarter was pretty bad, not the lowest we've ever had, but pretty close.  I'm hoping this years 3Q results will be better.  Stay tuned.