Another show season is once again is the rear view mirror, and
to be blunt it was a pretty poor showing as sales were extremely
erratic coming in -8.57% from a year ago. One of our best shows
shut down at the beginning of the second day due to thunderstorms
which cut sales from 2010 by 70%. We did managed to reduce overall
expenses by 6.38% but internet sales were also lower by 8.36%
despite a 20% increase in advertising cost while internet ad revenue,
although small, was still 56% lower.
We were recently notified that the Hollis Festival will be cancelled
for 2012 with possible re-schedule for 2013. The show was hammered
by high winds (40-50 mph ) which knocked out many booths. The
show has followed the Columbus holiday weekend in October and
has seen varied weather conditions over the years. The show's
coordinator tried to get the show moved to the end of June 2012
but couldn't get enough artisan commitment to validate a responsible
effort to the community and fellow artisans.
As was reported in the 2011 Business Update we re-launched the
website at the beginning of 2011. We got rid of the framed based
website, as well as anything that was not sports related. The
re-launch is completely focused on sports; which was both a painful
transition and a relief to re-establish focus on a product base.
The base pages are still transitional but the authorized, site
navigation function is purely CSS. Also, the new site currently
does not have any in-stock silkscreen sports products listed;
we are shutting down the silkscreen portion of the business.
As noted, we are shutting down and dissolving the silkscreen
portion of the business. Main reason being no one wants to spend
the money buying a silkscreen when they can get 2 of the machine
prints for the same price. Spite the uniqueness of the silkscreen
most of the potential customers cannot tell the difference between
the two forms; which really is a surprise given the differences.
So, closure of the silkscreen print room this past year also contributed
to an overhead savings of 11.73%.
Further savings for the studio was gleened when we converted
the 10 recessed 75w flood lamps with 8w LED floods at the begining
of 2012. The light is a little dimmer overall within the studio
but it's also more focused on the work product, walls and work
We thought the re-launch of the website would help with its search
position on-line, since a frame based site has no chance of positioning
itself. Well that never happened after about six months, but what
did happen was that the individual print images listed for all
sports product lines are now located in top page ranking on Google
Images. Note: we also relist out site at the beginning of every
month with Google, Bing and Ask, as well as upload the entire
product file to Google Base every 30 days. We also maintain midland
ranking (3-4) with Google AdWords at a yearly cost expense comparable
to one of our road shows.
We also began listing the entire product line (Google Base) with
Amazon Marketplace since they gave us $75 in advertising fees
until the end of June 2012. Amazon gets Google page rank for our
product search and our product image appears to get page rank
on Amazon as well as our Google ad appearing on the same Amazon
search page (Home & Kitchen > Wall Decor > Prints &
Posters). We currently use external site preferences and may have
to submit to utilize Amazon check-out for customer convenience
and pay the cost per product sold; as an avid Amazon user the
convenience and reputation would possibly help customer sales
The IRS enacted section 6050W in accordance with the Government
mandated Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008 which required our
Merchant Services to report all credit card processing transactions
on a monthly / yearly basis and report the transaction on an end-of-year
1099-K. This in turn costs another monthly $4.00 fee.
We were also introduced to the dreaded charge back 12b letter
process; someone disputed a charge on their account. The both
sad and funny thing about the sale was that it was a point-of-sale
at a festival and we remember the nice old couple who made the
purchase. All documentation had to be emailed in a secure zip
file with the password to open the file phoned into an aswering
machine. Just having the charge disputed initiates a 12b letter
and automatically charges the business account a non-refundable
$15; the dispute was resolved about one month later and luckily
we were still in the black on the framed artwork sold.
Our first international shipment went to Canada. Lots of duplicate
paperwork and extra fees, but FedEx made it a fairly simple process.
Plus, just got another request for a print ship cost to the UK;
we approach these requests with caution.
Had a request from a hockey sports agent for a very large canvas
print of our hockey design be sent to Canada. The only economical
way to get it done would to contract with a Canadian firm. We
found one with the right Epson printer, but they didn't want to
deal with our postscript file and requested a tiff file instead.
Our prints do not reproduce properly with a tiff file whereas
a postscript plot file handles the vectored lines in perfect resolution
as compared to the slight jags of a tiff. In the end a 40x60 canvas
would cost about $800 after our bump, with another $250 to frame;
never heard back from the sports agent.
We are currently researching canvas prints off our Epson as well
as framing costs...etc. Given the cost of the archival canvas,
the stretcher frame, as well as the canvas framing it's about
in the ballpark cost of our large glass framed 20x27 prints. But
the handling and durability of the canvas with acrylic protection
instead of glass is enticing...
For the past few years we have been having an issue with charcoal
Bainbridge (041) mat board that we have drop shipped. We had to
take a $175 write down on a couple cases of it that sat for six
months prior to opening. The issue is that the charcoal mat (32x40)
appears to have a waterfall type washed effect throughout the
mat; it looks like a process error. The other problem we've had
is that these cases also do not have a manufacturing barcode listed
on the case to trace the product back to its production. These
cases have been bought from a nationally reputable company, who
has also in the past compensated for two other bad cases. To add
insult to injury the last good case of charcoal mat board was
one-quarter inch out of square along the short side; no barcode
either. So, from now on upon drop ship, if the case does not have
the manufacturing product barcode we're not accepting shipment.
Also started using (2011) a new UltraSharp U2410 screen from
Dell versus our previous 2408WFP UltraSharp. The difference between
the panel manufacturing process is an IPS type for the 2410 versus
TFT for the 2408. We use a Spyder3 Pro for calibration and active
sensor. The difference is that my eyes are no longer getting tired
staring at the monitor for long periods of time, with no discernible
difference in utilization.
The saga also continued last year with our Merchant Services
upgrading the PCI DSS SAQ-D compliance to the latest Security
Council's version 2.0. The previous year they updated their own
version of 1.2 to the actual Security Council version 1.2. Last
year the update was incorporated without any notification, nor
information regarding the differences between the releases, just
that compliance is mandatory. For this we pay a fee of $129 a
year over four months. Our Merchant Services then tried to apply
a non-compliance fee of $30 per month until we were compliant
with SAQ-D. Once contacted the fee was dismissed for one quarter
while we attempted to complete the compliance paperwork with our
ISP service. It took about 2 months to hash out the meaning of
the compliance parameters and whether or not we were in compliance
on our server. What we found was that compliance went from 1.2
to 1.2a to 2.0, and that apparently other companies got a clarification
written into the compliance parameters such that one question
on 1.2 was now one question with five subsections for 2.0. Because
of the clarification we also had to modify some of our process
with alphanumeric bumpy case passwords, secure FTP protocol with
FileZilla and secure mail server access. In the end we figured
out the compliance parmeters and are currently compliant with
quarterly server scans via ComplyGuard.
It's been real
We'll have to do it again real soon.
Talk at ya.