Business Resolutions for 2013

As the 2013 New Year emerges, antiques and collectibles sellers everywhere are facing the continuing bleak reality that our market area is one of the most devastated by our country’s persistently weak economy. It’s not that customers don’t want to spend, it’s that they just don’t have the resources they used to be able to spare on non-essentials -- and “antiques and collectibles” embodies the definition of non-essentials!

Accordingly, we have to work harder than ever to make staying in business worthwhile. Make yours a survivor by becoming as “lean and mean” as possible! When your back is at the wall as far as efficiency is concerned, revisiting creative ways to generate savings can be worth a try.

You likely have thought of some of these ideas already, but here are some “New Year’s Resolutions:”

BUYING - invest carefully:

* The idea is always “Buy Low/Sell High,” but for 2013 look at a 15% - 25% profit, rather than the 50% (or more) you may have enjoyed a few years ago. If you do find something on which you can make 50% or more, consider it a gift and great luck.

* Consider buying fewer, more expensive items rather than more, lower cost ones. Cheaper things may take longer to sell, meaning more work and expense on your part and a longer time before you get your investment back/make a profit. The poor economy seems to have hit the cheapest, lower-end items the hardest. Don’t lay out a lot of money for something on which you will have to wait for a long time to make a worthwhile profit, unless it’s a really special item.

* Reevaluate your time investment in items. Sometimes a costlier product or service may mean savings by reducing your time and labor involvement. Conversely, might giving up a little convenience be worth the resulting cost savings? The amount of time you spend selling a $10 coffee cup will likely be about the same as it takes for a $100 coffee table. Are low-end items demanding too much of your time? Are you trying to make a living from your business, or is it more of an extra income, side venture? Will additional time involvement be worthwhile, or would it be smarter to cut back a bit now, knowing you can always expand later?

SELLING - get creative:

* Face the new reality, grit your teeth and try for faster turnover by marking up purchases less than you would have in years past. Improving your inventory with fresh, new, constantly changing merchandise attracts customers and keeps them coming back to your store.

* Take a really hard look at items on which you may be “under water” – paid more for than they are now worth. Are you better off selling at a loss, rather than hanging onto them? It’s early in the year, but check with your CPA as to whether actually taking a loss on some items possibly might be useful tax strategy in the months ahead.

* Create a new outlook for your items: encourage an attitude adjustment among customers that antiques and collectibles really are a good investment. Some examples might be that old, solid wood furniture will last longer and is actually costs less to buy than much of today’s pressboard and cheap construction; glass and cast iron kitchenware is more durable and means less plastic around one’s food; jewelry and other items in as-new condition make unique gifts. Put on your thinking cap!

SHIPPING - investigate products and services:

* Compare products: can you save by paying slightly more for better quality packaging tape and using less of it than the cheap tape you’re buying now? Is it more cost effective to use address labels instead of taping over paper labels? Which “generic” store brands are as good as name brand office supplies? Does refilling printer ink cartridges instead of buying new generate savings?

* If you buy shipping boxes, take a second look at the USPS, which offers free brand new packing supplies. Purchased boxes are not cheap, and since you still have to pay for shipping, do a hard comparison of your total packing and shipping costs among several carriers: USPS versus UPS versus FedEx.

* Bulk buying is always cheaper. If you have storage room and can expect to use items within a reasonable time, buy shipping supplies in the largest quantities you can work with. See if you can locate a business acquaintance willing to split an order with you.

* If you use the Post Office check out the benefits of having an online account. You can enjoy discounts on shipping charges, free or reduced Delivery Confirmation fees and free package pickup. Paying with a credit card or PayPal means easily documented charges rather than a handful of paper receipts. Computer generated labels incorporate the bar code necessary and look so much more professional than hand written addresses, which can be misread, misdirected and look sloppy. Online USPS account holders can also use Regional delivery packaging with rates that can be cheaper even than flat rates, but Regional service is not available over the counter at post offices.

* If you use one of the courier services, ask customers if there is a business to which you can send their packages. Commercial service is always cheaper than residential deliveries, and you’ll be able to please customers with lower shipping charges. You can reduce costs even further if a nearby business will allow you to send packages using their commercial account.

Jane Silvernail
Time’s Treasures Railroad and Americana

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