Friday, March 15, 2013

Running the Shop

Late last year, I started selling fully fit ships to my alliance mates. It was not very organized, with only three or four ships being offered, which was perfectly fine back then when pretty much everyone flew thrashers and ruptures.

Then I took a three week break over Christmas, and Retribution happened. The shop pretty much dissolved as many of the fits weren’t relevant or even valid anymore, and the demand was completely different.
(In 2012, I probably sold over 500 fully fit thrashers alone, in the few months I ran the shop.)

In the middle of January, I completely reorganized everything and started from scratch with a completely new ship and fitting list, as well as a whole new way of organizing inventory. No more manually counting how much I had left, or crossing my fingers and hoping I wasn't losing ISK because those modules went way up in price.

What to Sell?

The first challenge was deciding what to sell. With the frigate and destroyer changes, there were so many more options to choose from –and so many more ships in high demand. As a PVPer myself, I had an idea of some of the popular choices in our alliance. And, a glance through the killboard gave me a pretty good idea of other ships that were particularly popular.

What to Fit on Them?

Some fits were pretty easy –I already had an idea of what was ‘standard.’ But other things, especially ship types I don’t ever fly, were a little tricky. I asked some alliance mates for some favorite fits, but had to be very careful. I wasn’t interested in fits used for a ‘specific’ purpose, or Joe Shmoe’s super weird fit that he uses while out soloing. I wanted solid, general fits that worked in lots of situations and would provide a good starting point for people to customize as they want.

What to do with the utility highslot? What about that new, extra mid slot? It’s amazing how a simple question posed on Teamspeak on a slow evening can spawn a huge, two hour discussion about what is ‘best’ in such and such situation.

So extra highslots are left empty for people to fit with whatever they want. And in the event of an ‘extra’ midslot, I usually just fit a web. They can always switch it out later depending on the situation –a TD, a sensor booster, some ECM, a Damp, a target painter, etc., etc., etc.

How Much to Charge?

Then, I had to decide how much to charge them for everything. I made a couple decisions right off the get-go:

  • I would have to make enough ISK for the entire project to be ‘worth it’ to me. Otherwise, I’d just get burned out and the whole thing would probably dissolve after a month.
  • I would focus more on making ISK by selling volume, vs. marking things up exorbitantly. In other words, I would make ISK more from selling a lot of something, vs. charging super high margins on everything and only selling a few.

This plan is working extremely well for everyone involved. My alliance mates are happy, because the small ‘extra’ they are getting charged isn't that big of a deal on a ship by ship basis, and is completely worth the convenience of being able to jump into something ready to go with drones, scripts, ammo, and etc.

And I’m happy because I’m selling so many of these ships, I’m making a decent little income.

How to Keep it All Straight?!

My goal, in pulling all of this together, was to create an organized system that once set up, would be little work to maintain. And, I’m happy to say it’s finally reached that point.

With just two data entry points on a simply spreadsheet, I can keep track of tons of stuff regarding my store. I keep track of each ship I sell by going through completed contracts and updating a single column. And then less frequently, I enter incoming ships –when I replenish a stock of something, usually in bulk quantities of 15-50.

Ships coming in, and ships going out.

If there are huge changes to ship or module prices, I update these values but this is very, very rare. I don’t keep track of nickels and dimes, and market fluctuations are more or less accounted for.

From there, I can see many wonderful things:

  • How much ISK I’ve made this month, as well as total profits since I started in January
  • How many ships I have left of each type and fitting. (I offer multiple fitting options in some ships.)
  • How much ISK has exchanged hands, ie: volume.
  • What ships I’m selling the most of, and which ones I’m making the most money on
  • What ships aren’t selling very well
  • How much ISK I have tied up in inventory

The Details

Obviously, I’m not going to give you all the details. Some things I choose to keep my secret. But I will tell you a few things because I know you’re curious.

In the two months I've run the new shop, I've sold nearly 700 ships, most frigates, destroyers, and cruisers.

I currently sell 20 different ships-fitting combinations, and keep 5-8 billion ISK worth of ships in inventory at all times. (It takes ISK to make ISK.)

I'm currently working on expanding to public contracts on a limited basis. Currently, I'm 'testing the waters' as it were.

I spend 10 minutes now and again updating records. How long it takes me to fit, and purchase ships is hard to quantify since I rarely take time specifically to do this exclusively. (If you see me shooting an I-HUB, chances are I’m dual boxing and have an alt dealing with shop stuff in Jita. ;) I always buy in bulk, and I always fit in bulk.

I build a lot of stuff on site, which cuts back significantly on logistic overhead. I also make use of courier contracts to get stuff from other parts of the Universe where they might be less expensive.

This of course, is all done on top of my normal trading that I do. I've found that running a shop and being a trader complements each other, as understanding some of the trends I've observed has helped with decisions I've made regarding where to buy some of the fittings, among other things.

Apparently, this all also makes me a bit of a closet carebear. =D

1 comment:

  1. Yup. I just entered into this like a shaky wet newborn foal. I'm debating how much moar isk to dump into start up. I'm expecting about another 2-3b so I can get some ships in too.