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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sales Explode This Week, Not Selling Yourself Short Part 2 And The 1985-88 Twilight Zone Series

This past week has seen some truly amazing momentum with the business. Sales have been very brisk this past week, with close to $2,340 of sales at the mid-month mark. With one exception back in November 2015 when a single customer bought two stamps for $3,000 USD, this has been our best mid-month total yet. Best of all we have three quotes to repeat customers for items they have requested, and if they wind up buying, then our sales will be even higher. This month I have also started to track the number of repeat customers and the amount of repeat business. The results this month so far are:

Total number of stamps sold: 111
Total number of repeat customers: 19
Total number of stamps sold to new customers: 50
Total number of stamps sold to repeat customers: 61
Total sales dollars to repeat customers: $1,220
Total sales to new customers: $1,120
Average sales to repeat customers: $20
Average sales to new customers: $22.40

So just over 54% of the number of stamps we have sold so far this month are to customers who have returned to us. Some of these have come back multiple times during the month and some as often as 2-3 times a week. A good, healthy amount of new business is coming in as well and it is our hope that we can retain the regular repeat customers, while turning some of the new customers into repeat customers as well. That is the basic mechanics of how a business grows sustainably. It is somewhat interesting to see that the total sales dollar split is almost the same for both groups of customers and the average sales for each item sold to each customer group. However, the results for the repeat customers are skewed by the presence of a large number of stamps under $5 each. This group in reality has bought two stamps for over $300 each, which means that in general, it is only the repeat buyers who will spend the larger amounts on the scarcer stamps. The new customers are willing to try us out for $10 or $20, but generally not much more than that.

This brings me to repeat my next point, which was the subject of my last post about not selling yourself short and making sure that you have the higher priced inventory to service you best customers. Only now, I have an actual example of this to relate as it just happened yesterday.

About a year ago, a reader of my blog on Nigerian stamps contacted me to let me know that he was putting together an exhibit of Nigerian stamps and told me about some of the stamps he needed - all better high values from the pre-1914 period - stuff that is actually quite rare. I told him I could definitely help him and then I never heard from him again - until last week. He got back in touch and told me that he had to delay his exhibit and was getting ready to go at it again. I told him that I could definitely help him and could he please send me his want list. Yesterday morning I woke up to an e-mail from him with a list of about 15 stamps from the pre-1914 period that he wanted in very fine never hinged condition and the set shown below:

He told me that although the Scott price of the above set was low, he found them hard to find. He also said that he would accept hinged stamps if they were lightly hinged.

Immediately I felt excited at the prospect of a new customer - my first for Nigeria, but then my heart sank a bit. The reason is that he referenced Scott prices. Scott is the standard catalogue used by American collectors. While it is a very good catalogue for a generalist collector, it really is not very good at valuing specialized material and the above definitive set from Nigeria, which consisted of 17 stamps from the 1 kobo - 2 Naira, is practically impossible to find in mint condition, even though used copies abound. This set was issued in several formats between 1973 and the 1990's, and some of the stamps are actual rarities in mint condition - every bit as rare as stamps that trade for $1,000 each. But Scott only prices this set at something like $40 in mint condition - a ridiculous amount. To illustrate how absurd this is, I built my Nigeria stock buy buying from E-bay on an almost daily basis for over 5 years. I think I can confidently say that I have one of the largest stocks of this country in the world. In that time, I think I have only managed to find about 20 sets of the original 1973 issue and maybe 5 complete sets of the 1975-81 series with the watermark. 5! How can that set possibly be worth only $40?

So I was wary because I expected this man to expect to pay a percentage of Scott for these stamps that he wanted and I just wasn't willing to sell them cheap. So I sent an e-mail explaining the scarcity of this material and let him know that a complete set would cost $150 USD which I felt was perfectly fair. I then quoted him for the other pre-1914 stamps he wanted and let him know that if he wanted never hinged from that period it would be at least 200%-300% more than normal.

To my pleasant surprise, he replied that he understood where I was coming from as he had been collecting Nigeria since 1960. So he knew how scarce this set is. He gladly accepted my price and ordered a full set plus an additional hinged copy of the key stamp in the set, the 15K. He said that while he couldn't afford the others right now, he would get back to me with a schedule to purchase them. I invoiced him. He paid right away and I spent the $36 it cost to send them expresspost to him. I wanted to give him the best possible service, and with my price, I could now afford to do that and still make a healthy profit.

But what if I'd had that set listed for $40 USD?.I would have sold out long ago, made very little money and not have that set now when this gentleman wanted it. He told me by e-mail last night that he had been looking for this set for YEARS and had never been able to find it. He was visibly excited to finally have a chance to own it. So there you have it - an actual example of this principle in action.

After I was done work and was relaxing last week, I decided to do some poking around on Youtube for some TV shows that I had watched as a teen that had had quite an impression on me. I looked up the Twilight Zone series from 1985. It was not a particularly popular series, I think because it was watched mostly by people that had seen the original. However, I think that the many of the stories had fabulous plot lines, such as:

"The Misfortune Cookie", in which a restaurant critic who gives unfair review gets what's coming to him. Click the link below to watch:

There are many other really good ones. My picks, if you want to check them out are:

Push the Button
To See the Invisible Man
A Little Peace and Quiet
Welcome to Winfield
Examination Day

They are all very original story lines and you will recognize a lot of the actors that are in them. Enjoy!

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