How to outline goals for success in the new year

Happy new year!

I don’t know about you, but as the year draws to an end, I usually take a step back and reflect on how the year went, or rather, what went right and what went wrong and more importantly — how I can do better. Once I’ve evaluated the year and took a hard look at this, I can then take this information and outline my business goals (and personal goals!) for the new year.

Keep in mind that outlining your goals is a little different than actually setting your goals. During the outlining phase, you are determining what you need to work on as a way to improve your business. Once you have this figured out, then you can use the information to actually set your goals.

Below are some questions to ask that can help you outline the areas that you may need to work on.

What areas of my business need organizational attention?

Look for areas of your business that may be lacking in organization. For some, this may be their inventory or shipping stations. For others, it may be their bookkeeping or their actual office space. Once these areas have been identified, you can then formulate goals that will help you take control of these problem areas in your business.

How much do I need to make in the coming year?

This is perhaps the biggest goal you will be outlining for your business and if often one of the hardest. To help with the process, consider the different types of expenses you have both in your business and in your personal life. Look at your previous year’s sales numbers as a base for determining the amount of money you need, then use a percentage of that to determine how much you more you actually want to make. Some sellers try to up their sales by 20 or 30 percent each year, but the ultimate amount you need to make is really up to you and is based on what you are making now and how much you actually want/need to make.

How can I improve my inventory?

If you have been selling for any length of time, you know that the way to have a successful online business is to constantly expand and update your inventory. Take a look at what items in your store have worked and what products didn’t. Are there new niches you can sell that relate to the products you already have on hand? Are there products that you need to move out of your store by either marking them down or donating them so that you can make room for new merchandise?

Once you have completed your outline by answering these questions, you can then move on to setting your new goals for the upcoming year.

What are your goals for 2016? Leave a comment below.

Ready…Set…Sell

SALE

Hard to believe it, but Black Friday is only a week away. If you’re like most sellers, you’re sitting on ready and just waiting for the big day. If you’ve increased your inventory for the holiday season, you want to make sure your investment pays off, but simply having a fully stocked store is no guarantee of having a successful selling season.

Below are some tips to make sure your store is tip-top ready:

Check your content. Whether you’re selling through eBay, Amazon, or on your own site, you want to appear as a professional. Check your listings for misspelled words or missing information on your listings. If you have your own website, check for broken links and make sure your all pictures are appearing correctly.

Read over your return policy. Although both Amazon and eBay have rules sellers must abide by when stating a return policy, you do still have a little leeway in the wording of your policy and how you want to handle your returns. Since longer return times are strongly encouraged, updating your policy to reflect the longer return time, or that you do not accept returns can help to avoid confusion in case there is a problem.

Create cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Look for ways you can cross-promote your items on your website and social media sites, such as Facebook and Pinterest. As an example, if you sell bed comforters, you could suggest pillow cases or bed runners.

Know your delivery dates. Buyers are not typically the forgiving type. Make a note of cutoff dates and post them in a prominent place for when you need them. As it gets closer and closer to Christmas, alert potential buyers of when they should expect their items. Let them know as far in advance as you can if an item cannot be delivered by Christmas. Some sellers find it helpful to offer overnight shipping as an option to help packages arrive quicker if needed.

Consider selling global. Since Christmas is a global holiday selling worldwide (internationally) or to at least certain countries can help to increase your bottom line. Keep buyers aware of shipping times and offer multiple ways of shipping so they can decide which shipment method works best for them. Some buyers may not mind spending more on shipping if it means they can get their items before the big day.

Are you ready for the holidays? Leave a comment below.

Ugly Christmas Sweaters Can Mean Big Bucks for Sellers

ugly Christmas sweaters
If you were around back in the 1980s, you probably remember either being on the receiving end of an ugly Christmas sweater or recall someone like your aunt or grandmother in your family wearing one. Back then, the ugly Christmas sweater was just as much a part of the holiday season as watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, or swearing under your breath while trying to untangle a messy ball of Christmas lights.

While the ugly Christmas sweater fad had somewhat (thankfully) run its course by the beginning of the 90s, in recent years, there has been renewed interest in the wearing of the ugly Christmas sweater, and for eBay and Amazon sellers, this can mean big bucks around the holidays.

You see, back in the early 2000s, there was renewed interest in this holiday tradition and ugly Christmas sweater parties began popping up around the country. Interestingly, the sweaters worn today are not only highly sought after, the uglier they are – the higher the demand. Even more surprisingly, there’s even a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day dedicated to this sweater phenomenon. This year the special day happens to fall on Friday, December 18.

Although sellers may have a little trouble locating the infamous ugly Christmas sweaters so close to the holidays, it is still worth taking a look when you’re out visiting thrift stores or (if you’re in the south) going to some yard or garage sales. Many people don’t realize the value of the ugly Christmas sweater and will happily donate them to charity or sell for only a couple of dollars.

Plus, some people also host these parties in July (hopefully, inside with the air conditioning on full blast!), so even if you find one after the holidays have passed for this year, the sweaters can still be worth listing year round!

While most of these types of sweaters go for around $20-$25, others can fetch a more pricey amount, such as a Michael Simon Cardigan Small Ugly Christmas Dancing Girls Glitter Beaded Sequins that recently sold on eBay for $250.

Do you sell or wear ugly Christmas sweaters? Leave a comment below.

What to do when there is nothing left to do

Beach Baby
The days are getting shorter, the nights (and some days!) are getting cooler and Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re like most sellers, you’re ready for the holiday season and the buyers it will bring…but…at the moment…you’re pretty much not doing anything except just twiddling your thumbs.

What to do? What to do?

Earlier in the week, we touched on some things that you could do to get ready for the shopping season, but what if you’ve already done all that? What’s left? Well, have you thought about taking a break?

That’s right. A break. Some downtime. A fall furlough, if you will. Although it may seem like the time you have left this month should be used for getting it into high gear, the two weeks before Halloween are also an excellent time to step away from your online business.

While it may not seem reasonable or even be feasible to just shut it down for two weeks, you can limit the amount of time that you spend on your business. Modify your schedule where you check in on your business either first thing in the morning or later in the day, then use the time in between to relax and unwind.

Some things you could do with your new found time could include:

Doing absolutely nothing! Sleep late. Catch up on your favorite shows on Netflix. Except for your scheduled times, stay away from the computer, turn off your cellphone and just simply sit and BE.

Plan for next year. It may seem counter-productive to be thinking about work when you’re taking time away from it, but after a day or two of not doing all that listing and other store related stuff, you may find that you’re able to more clearly focus on what you want to do with your online business in the coming year.

Interestingly, a lot of business coaches prefer the month of October as the month to create and nail down a business plan. This way, you’ve got plenty of time to determine how you will execute your plan and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the new year rolls around.

Schedule some family time. If you’re like most people, your family is the reason you do all that hard work in the first place. Spend some family time together or catch up with some old friends who you haven’t had a chance to visit with in a while. It will not only rejuvenate your spirit, but will also most likely give you some new perspective on why it really is that you’ve been working so hard these past 10 months.

Will you be taking some time off before the holiday season starts? Leave a comment below.

4 Things That Can Help Your Amazon Sales This Holiday Season

Christmas Continued
If you’ve been selling on Amazon for any length of time, you know that the holiday shopping season is the busiest time of the year. While you no doubt are already considering how much inventory you should carry throughout the holiday season, you may be overlooking some of the other fundamentals that could affect your sales. Here’s some thing to consider trying to ensure your holiday season stays merry and bright.

Check those listings

Take advantage of the slower sales in October and early November to check that the information on your listings are all in good shape. Are the descriptions right? Are you using all the available spaces for your keywords? Watch for product language that might confuse buyers or could even affect the item’s search performance.

Send that inventory in

If you use Amazon’s FBA services, you may be leery of the extra storage cost you may incur if you send your inventory in too early. With all those Black Friday sales starting up earlier and earlier each year, however, many buyers aren’t waiting until Black Friday anymore to do their Christmas shopping. This means that you generally have a much bigger chance of losing money by being out of stock on an item than you will spend by sending in your holiday inventory a few weeks earlier at the beginning of November instead of just a week or so before the big day.

Move out that old inventory

Although you are probably concentrating on getting new inventory into your store for the holidays, don’t forget about the inventory you already have. Mid-December is the perfect time to cut the prices on the old inventory and work to move it right out the door. This not only can help increase your sales, it also helps overturn that stale inventory that has been hanging around just a little too long.

Adjust that pricing

As Christmas approaches and the days of December are running out, a pattern will usually emerge as to which items in your inventory are popular and which are not. Consider reducing the price on the more unpopular items to make them more appealing for last minute shoppers. Since these shoppers are typically buying the items as gifts to give rather than for themselves, the lower prices can help make your items stand out.

Are you ready for the holiday season? Leave a comment below.

Toys “R” Us Reveals Hot Holiday Toy List

toy

If you were a child of the 60s or 70s you may remember the excitement of receiving Christmas toys designed with the latest in technology, such as a doll that could talk or “eat”, or a robot that would roll forwards or backwards. Flash forward to this year’s selection of holiday toys and those simple battery-operated toys from the past not only seem a bit dated, but almost downright antiquated. You see, this years hottest toys aren’t just the latest in technology, they are actually what you might call high tech.

Yep, that’s right. This year’s hot toys are not only electronic, they have all the bells and whistles. Many are interactive, can connect to the cloud and even have Smart Touch Technology. As an example, for the young kids, there’s Fisher-Price’s Smart Bear. This toy not only can learn your child’s name, but also recognizes books and cards. For older kids, there’s the Spin Mast Meccanoid G15 robot pal. It has some 550 parts, two motors and four servos. Interestingly, this one is designed for children to actually construct themselves, but once it is finished it will mirror their movement in real time, say thousands of different phrases and even can tell jokes.

There’s also some returning toys this year, but all (of course) are new and improved. There’s Guitar Hero, that features an upgrade called “Guitar Hero Live from Activision.” This allows it to sync with PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, as well as Nintendo Wii U, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Once synced, kids (or adults!) can play along with music videos available through a music video network. There’s also Legos Dimensions Fun for Xbox One and even Barbie returns bringing her very own battery-operated Saddle N Ride horse. Once Barbie is aboard her trusted steed, the horse actually trots in place!

My favorite toys for this season, however, really bring me back to my own childhood. As a huge fan of the first Star Wars movie, I had my very own R2D2. While mine merely moved around, the new and improved version quite literally has the bells and whistles (well, beeps and whistles), plus it’s head spins and it’s interactive. There’s also a Jedi Master Lightsaber by Hasbro that comes complete with lights and sounds.

Are you on the hunt for any of these or other hot toys this year? Leave a comment below. If you would like to see the complete Toys “R” US list – you can view it here.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…Say What?

Christmas-Stockings-Peace.jpg
If you’re like most people, June 25th probably came and went last week without you thinking even one single time about Christmas. No surprise there. With the sun shining and much of the country seeing temperatures in the 90s and even the 100s, how can one possibly think about a holiday in December when it’s not even the 4th of July yet?

But…wait.

Did you realize that June 25th was exactly six months to the day before Santa comes down the chimney? Yep, that’s right. Before you know it, the halls will be decked and buyers will be making those lists and checking them twice.

While you might think that you have plenty of time, keep in mind that the holiday season is considered the busiest time of the year for store owners, both those in brick and mortar stores as well as those who sell online. In fact, the National Retail Federation reports that the holidays, or rather, that period in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, actually accounts for around 20 to 40 percent of a seller’s total annual sales. This means that period of time is more lucrative than all the other gift giving holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day combined.

While you’ve still got a “little” time to get ready, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and do a little pre-holiday planning, even if you’d rather be sitting in the shade drinking an ice cold lemonade.

First, think about the type of items that you want to sell. During the holidays people will be buying gifts for family members, co-workers, friends and neighbors. If you sell clothes, it’s not too early to start scouting for Christmas sweaters and as an added bonus, you’ll probably get them for rock bottom prices. Also, start watching for Christmas decorations. Not only are they likely to be overlooked in thrift stores and yard sales right now, but by the end of July you might actually start seeing a few of them sneaking into department stores. Last year, I actually took a picture of a Christmas tree that had been set up for display at the end of August! No joke!

Second, you may not be able to tell what the super-hot items for Christmas are right now, but take a look at Amazon’s Best Seller list and you can see what people are snatching up right now. As an example, those “Go Pro” cameras are doing well and since the company already has commercials running, you can bet that there are going to be quite a few people who decide that they would like to give one for a gift or ask for one to show up under the Christmas tree.

Finally, if you have a lot of listings, now is the time to clean them up a bit, maybe update the photos and rework the titles. If they are Christmas items, you may even want to start playing up those key words, so buyers will head straight for your store when those Black Friday sales kick off.

Ho ho ho. Are you already preparing for the holiday season? Leave a comment below.

Amazon Shipping Kerfuffle Upsets Sellers

164-365 (Year 8) Fancy socks

If you are on any of the numerous forums or Facebook pages for eBay sellers, you are probably use to hearing the grumblings of sellers complaining about eBay and its irritating habit of being a little (lot!) overly optimistic about the delivery dates for sellers when it comes to the shipping of their packages.

Well, last week there was a kerfuffle over at Amazon when the company began posting shipping dates on some listings that had seller’s packages arriving at their destination after Christmas.

The problem is that the items being sold most likely would have arrived before Christmas, even though Amazon was stating otherwise on the seller’s listings. Interestingly, this notice was for the most part only appearing on listings where the items were merchant full-filled rather than through FBA.

Perhaps this might help to explain why Galen Moore of Bostinno noticed and reported that while he was seeing a lot of items, such as books, video game consoles and smartphones listed with promises that you could have the item delivered by December 24, items such as women’s socks mostly did not.

Whatever the case, feelings about the expanded delivery dates were mixed. While some sellers were relieved to know that the Christmas shipping pressure was off, others felt like this was yet another attempt by Amazon to force sellers into becoming pro-merchants.

In Amazon’s defense, the decision to create a feature for some of the listings that shows a longer Estimated Delivery Date was probably, in part, a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to ensure that they didn’t have another Christmas debacle like they did last year. As you may recall, a lot of buyers became upset with Amazon after items that were promised to be delivered by Christmas actually involved days and in some cases, a week after they had been ordered.

While that was actually more the fault of the shipping companies than the sellers, it appears that this time around Amazon just doesn’t want to take any chances.

Do you have items showing a longer delivery date? Leave a comment below.

Tips for making it through that last-minute holiday push on eBay

Presents

The holiday rush is on and if you’re like many eBay sellers, you probably have a lot of items that you specifically listed to get those holiday sales, and yet they have gone unsold over the last few weeks. Since Christmas is now only 10 days away, you might be wondering if it’s too late to try to relist them now.

Well, yes and no.

Depending on what news station you listen to, last Friday or yesterday was pretty much considered the last day for normal shipping. This means, if people buy an item and choose a normal shipping option, there is a pretty good chance that the item won’t make it to their door by Christmas.

Still, there are a lot of last-minute sellers out there and your items may be just exactly what they are looking for.

So, in the spirit of that holiday rush – here’s a few things you can do that might help increase the odds of you getting those down-to-the-wire sales.

Offer overnight shipping. It will cost the buyer more to use that option, but if they really want the item, they usually will pay the extra cost. If they aren’t interested in paying overnight shipping, do at least avoid using some of the slower shipping methods such as Media Mail. It might cost you a little more to go the First Class Mail route, but if the buyer gets their item right after Christmas (or even worse some time in January!), your TSRs could suffer, you might not get that glowing feedback you want, and…even worse, the person may ask for a refund since Christmas is over and they no longer need the item.

Choose short auction times. You might not get as much for an item if you use a 1-day or a 3-day auction instead of a five or seven, but the sooner your auction ends, the sooner you can get paid and get that item in the mail.

Consider using Fixed Price or Buy-It-Now. Using Fixed Price might take a little bite out of your profit if you don’t have a store, but it might be worth it if it leads to a sale. Buyers won’t have the patience to wait out a five or seven day auction when the clock is running down to Christmas, so make sure to offer a Buy-It-Now option when you are listing an item for auction.

Finally, if there is just no way for Santa to get the package to the door in time make a point to remind the buyer that the item won’t make it to them until after Christmas. Although the shipping information will tell the buyer that it takes 3 to 6 (or whatever) for their item to ship, they may still think that it will. It’s always a good idea to send a message to thank them for their purchase and note that you will mail it immediately, but it may still not arrive in time for Christmas. This can soften the blow for them if they were expecting it by then and can go a long way toward keeping the buyer’s expectation on track and making them happy.

5 Hot Toys for Christmas 2014

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If your inbox is like mine, you’re probably already getting all those “Black Friday” emails or in some cases, “Pre-Black Friday” emails offering all those holidays deals about to come. Yep, it’s that time of year again, which means Santa is going to be looking at his list and checking it twice.

If you think Santa may need a little help and you’re wondering what’s going to be on kid’s Wish Lists this year, well — here’s some ideas to help get you started.

Almost Anything with Frozen in the Title
From the Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa to the Ice Skating Anna and Elsa dolls. If it’s part of the Frozen franchise, then you can bet that there’s some child somewhere that wants it. You might be thinking that the Frozen phenomenon should be over by now, but with Frozen now ranking as Disney’s highest grossing animated film (of all time!), it’s a safe bet you haven’t heard the last of “Let It Go” for a while.

Let’s Imagine Elmo
This ones been getting some airtime in commercials lately, so it’s no surprise this one is expected to be popular. Let’s Imagine Elmo has three hats for three different play modes. Put a crown on Elmo’s head to play “Prince Elmo Says,” a sea captain hat for “Sounds of the Sea,” or a cowboy hat for “Countin’ Cowboy” and Elmo will invite your child to sing, count, and play.

Boomer – The Zoomer Dino
Boomer is a battery operated toy that makes real dinosaur-like movements and sounds. The sensors on Boomer let him know when you’re nearby and when he senses you, he will interact. Boomer spins, chomps, roars, and can even get angry (don’t pull his tail!). Since he’s on two wheels, he can move around and explore. He comes in green or purple and has a control pad so you can control him…should he decides to go on a dinosaur rampage.

Xeno
If you haven’t figured it out already, interactive toys are the big drawing card this year. This one is Xeno, a so-ugly he’s cute interactive baby monster that has more than 40 expressions, animated LCD eyes, and “snot” that drips from his nose. Oh, and he can fart. Actually, Boomer (see above) can supposedly fart too, so expect some silly fun with that! Xeno comes in three colors. There’s blue, violet, and orange.

DohVinci Vanity Box
Designed for kids between 6 and 12 years of age, DohVinci uses a paint compound in what looks like a glue gun. There are four tubes of paint along with a vanity base, mirror, drawer, add-on pieces, and two piece flower attachment. There’s also other DohVinci products you can buy, such as a design kit, storage kit, and a bigger assortment of paint colors. The Vanity Box, however, appears to be the one that is particularly “hot” right now though.