One year at a time

Happy birthday to us.

We bought the store a year ago on 1 August. It seems like both a long time ago and no time at all.

So how are we going on saving the bookstore, you might ask.

Well, we track our commercial progress week to week. Our goal is to cover costs with seven days of staffing. This requires revenue of $2,020 a week, or just under $300 a day. Our intermediate target is $1,610, or $230 a day.

Here is a view of revenue by week for all the weeks up to the last one. The orange lines are weeks where we hit the intermediate target of $1,610. You can see that we haven't done this very often (a total of 12 weeks), but we have done so more often recently. Things are looking up! We have crossed the $2,020 mark in just five weeks - two last year and three in the past few weeks.

Break it down

Weekly revenues are made up of a number of sales and an average value per sale (we call this basket value). When both of these numbers are high, then we have a good week. When we have high sales but a low basket value (or vice versa) then the week is middling. And when both of them are bad, things don't look so good.

Ignoring some outliers that make the numbers harder to interpret:

  • Value per sale has varied between $13 and $29, and averages $20.

  • Sales per week have varied from 34 to 94, and average 61.

The chart below shows basket value from left to right, and the number of sales from bottom to top for each week. So the top right of the chart are weeks with lots of sales and a high basket value. And the bottom left is the weeks with poor sales numbers.

The dots are the size of total revenue for the week, with the orange ones the weeks where we have gone over $1,610 in revenue.

You can imagine a hypothetical line that runs across the top right corner of the chart and separates the weeks we break even from those that we don't.

Some lessons on this line:

  • We have never broken even with a basket value under $18.

  • We have nearly always broken even with a basket value above $23.

  • We have almost never broken even with fewer than 75 sales in a week.

The average sales value hides quite a lot of variation. For example, we have a very different day if fifteen customers each buy one $10 novel compared with if one of those fifteen customers spends $100. In a future post I will talk about some of this variation in sales values and what we can do about it.