All our Christmases

December is the best month of the year for revenue at the Open Book. December 2017 was our best month ever and we made $11,000 (!), about 60 per cent more than October or November. Breakeven at the moment (with me donating two days a week to the store) is around $7,500.

The simple explanation for why December is so good is that there are more customers.

This is how December compares with the three previous months.

Month September October November December
Total customers 274 329 268 405
Total revenue 5,100 7,400 6,200 11,000
Revenue per day 172 239 208 380
Revenue per customer 19 22 23 22
  • You can see the big spike in total customers and revenue per day, and the leap in total revenue.
  • You can also see that revenue per customer is about the same as October and November.
  • I can tell you that customers in December buy the same number of books on average as other months (two). So it isn't explained by the choice of books. It is just that there are more people.

There are a different number of trading days in each month just to complicate things. December has one fewer day than September or November and two fewer than October. October also gets a boost because we have one of our quarterly clearance sales that month. But the trend is still very clear. Lots more customers for Christmas.

Over time

This was our second Christmas, and I also have data from the previous proprietors for two other Christmases. So we can do some interesting comparisons.

This chart shows average revenue per day on a rolling seven day basis for December. The blue line is 2017. The orange is 2016. The grey lines are two previous years. The rolling seven day average helps to make the trend clearer and also compensates for the fact that the weekends move around, e.g., December 7 was a Thursday in 2017 but a Wednesday in 2016.

You can see that 2017 started well ahead of other years and basically stayed that way, only giving up its lead very late in the month compared with one of the previous years.

The two weeks before Christmas get very busy. You can see how every line starts to tilt up about the 14th of the month. Happy times for secondhand booksellers!

Compared with 2016, 2017 had higher revenue every day, but a smaller spike in revenues as Christmas itself approached. Maybe customers this year started shopping for gifts earlier, or the efforts we have been making in store made it a more appealing place in general.

Breakeven revenue at the moment is about $250 a day. In December 2017 we averaged well above that every day.

This table shows the distribution of revenue per day for each year (the previous proprietors' years are labelled A and B). It reinforces the picture above.

Metric 2017 2016 A B
Days under 100 - 6 4 -
Days under 200 3 11 2 9
Days under 300 8 19 14 16
Days over 300 21 10 15 13
Days over 500 7 2 3 6

There are a lot fewer days of low revenue. In 2017 we had only three days of revenue below $200, compared with 11 in 2016.

There are a lot more days with high revenue. In 2017, 21 of the 29 December trading days were over $300, compared with only 10 last December. The best days were 22 and 23 December, each with revenue of nearly $700.

However you look at it, December 2017 was good times for revenue in our micro enterprise. The question is just how to generate foot traffic like December in every other month.