Adding Extra Rows for Promoted Links/Featured Items on Shopify Responsive Theme

Accommodating a growing business always requires a little code juggling and planning. Currently, we really like our Responsive Shopify Theme, however having only 8 featured categories presents a challenge for NiciArt as we move into 2017. To expand our line-up, we are planning on offering photography, jewelry tools and equipment, paintings, and overhauling our golf ball marker category in the coming year. The photography category will include a mix of royalty free downloadable backgrounds and images along with framed artistic landscape photos from our adventures in the Desert Southwest.

Starting with our basic layout we have 8 categories and are using the featured promotions to set up our menu:

  • Bracelets and Bangles
  • Necklace and Pendants
  • Guitar Picks and Stands
  • Men’s Accessories
  • Rings
  • Key Rings and Pet Tags
  • Toe Rings
  • Earrings

basic-categories

Initially the new categories will be invisible, but for now, I’ll show them as “Test” to ensure the coding is working correctly.

categories-new

Step 1

Find the featured-promotions in the index.liquid files and change the number of items to display from 8 to 12. For us, that means editing line 217 for i in (1…12)

index

Step 2

Find the code in the settings.scheme.json that refers to the featured-promotions

featuredpromoted

After featured item 8, simply copy, edit, and re-paste the code:

},

{

“type”: “header”,

“content”: “Promotion 9”

},

{

“type”: “checkbox”,

“id”: “feature9_enabled”,

“label”: “Enable promotion”

},

{

“type”: “image”,

“id”: “feature9.jpg”,

“label”: “Image”,

“info”: “840 x 840px recommended”,

“max-width”: 840,

“max-height”: 760

},

{

“type”: “text”,

“id”: “feature9_link”,

“label”: “Link URL (optional)”

},

{

“type”: “text”,

“id”: “feature9_title”,

“label”: “Title text (optional)”

},

{

“type”: “text”,

“id”: “feature9_description”,

“label”: “Description (optional)”

 

Step 3

Repeat the last code paste for 10…12 and don’t forget to open and close each set with:

},

{

Step 4

After adding the code for 8 to 12, then close the set with

}
]

Step 5

Now you can simply carry on with adding the next 4 promoted items to the expanded menu.

newpromotions

 

So far, we have been using Out of the Sandbox’s Responsive Theme for about 3 weeks and besides providing us with a clean modern layout featuring sections divided neatly by banners along with logical navigation options, this Responsive Theme is incredibly flexible to edit and customize. My complaint with the Shopify stock themes is they are so basic that customizing usually means starting from scratch to add functionality, whereas a quality template such as Responsive allows the user to simply add onto or modify the existing code. As much as I object to paying Shopify more than the monthly subscription fee, a custom template can definitely save hours of needless and frustrating coding.

NiciArt Reports Mixed Bag of Sales for the Holidays

Are Shoppers holding back in 2016?

With the holiday shopping nearing a close, NiciArt was left with mixed messages and piles of data requiring some considerable extrapolation in order to find meaningful conclusions for the 4Q Holiday Sales.

christmasearnings

The clearest change in holiday patterns was on our Etsy Site, where revenue was down 20% and sales down 50% based on sample sizes of over 1000 orders. Though we actually had record sales on many days, the bulk of the shopping took place between the Dec 2 – Dec 11 with very poor performances on Cyber Monday and Black Friday giving us a delayed start into the season.

Similar patterns plagued our new NiciArt website where sales were also down 20% over 2015 and on par with 2013, however the sample size for NiciArt tends to be a bit smaller, so some caution should be taken in direct comparisons between our website vs Etsy. Amazon Handmade sales grew 500% but again the sample size is too small to reach any concrete conclusions. Our top selling Amazon Products were:

niciart_sterling_silver_mountains_and_amber_bracelet_2Mountains and Amber Moon Cuff Bracelet

niciart_latitude_longitude_sterling_silver_money_clip_3

Latitude longitude sterling silver money clips.

On Etsy we observed strong sales of money clips as well with some greater tendencies for customers to opt for the lower priced metals such as Copper, Bronze, and Aluminum. One of the most important observations is how many customers check out with Express Mail and Overnight Services.  By far 2016 had the lowest number of Express Checkouts to date and many customers indicated their preference for Priority Mail over Fedex 3 Day due to the $6.00 price difference. Sifting further through the numbers, our average price point was up 30% for individual items over last year, but multiple item orders and items in excess of $100.00 were actually quite rare. My conclusion is shoppers waited until later and then did indeed hold back on their budgets.

One of most popular items across all shops this year was our Sterling Silver Guitar Pick necklace with music note charm

1

Like the money clips, that $50 – $60 range provides a quality gift without breaking the bank or running up the credit card bill.

Finally our dark horse of the shopping season was our Nici’s Picks website which absolutely exceeded all expectations and picked up some lost Etsy business. After Etsy’s de-clumping algorithm of late 2014, we witnessed a considerable shuffling of the cards where our dominate position as the largest guitar pick seller on Etsy was threatened by an invasion of new sellers in the music category, while we were finally able to gain some serious ground in the bracelet category. Nici’s Picks really managed to capture the originality of unique and custom order guitar picks with almost every pick leaving our shop being personalized with a saying, name, or some entirely custom phrase.

Still we are of the opinion shoppers are holding back and the consumer segment is far more sensitive to the recent elections than business to business. While a company such as General Dynamics wrestles with what projectiles or aircraft will appeal to new administration’s air superiority strategies for example, the consumer segment grapples with questions such as the future of healthcare, mortgages, and college loans which has an instant effect on the holiday shopping.

What are Nici and RJ predicting for 2017?

Our outlook tends to be cautiously optimistic regarding the health of the economy in the long run, but we are extremely bearish on the boutique markets where Etsy has dominated as the undisputed champion. Perhaps the greatest concern is over-saturation and unreal expectations. The discussion turns more in the direction of economics 101 than a deeper analysis of macroeconomic trends. In other words, there are too many sellers with far too few truly unique items on Etsy all vying for the same piece of a limited pie. Seeing the limited resources as a source of income, Etsy’s turned the competition between sellers into a strategy of profiting from “seller services.” In this sense, Etsy has been far more about Walden Pond economics in their small utopia rather than bringing those items to market as a distributor of handmade goods across the internet. Of course, the sellers too are responsible for not heeding basic supply and demand theories and thinking they could just enter the marketplace and sell almost anything.

An enormous opportunity missed, I was shocked how Kohls for example managed to saturated Google Shopping this year with stamped jewelry styles made so famous by Etsy. My hope was Etsy might have stepped out of their little world to actually expand their marketplace to accommodate the huge influx of new sellers, otherwise in the current Etsy marketplace sellers are bound to experience diminishing marginal returns from promoted listings and in response will start cutting their budgets to only cover listings, renewals, and commissions, there by leaving Etsy without one of their cash cows. Of course restructuring to remove the de-clumping and promoted listings could prove to be a huge step forward towards at least sustainability.

After Valentine’s Day, NiciArt will look to slash expenses and find ways to operate with 20-30% less revenue for the same profit. I will be studying our Google Adwords, Facebook, subscribed services, costs of tools and supplies, and be looking for ways to streamline the business in order compete in a much tighter market. We will also start looking for unicorn products, meaning those one of a kind rare products with high demand and low supply. For example, our Silver Mountain and Moon Bracelet was such a success in Amazon, because the style and product simply has no equivalent. Etsy is still a fantastic marketplace for us, but we may consider cutting back on the promoted listings and increasing or presence on Amazon Handmade. With on-line selling becoming ever more expensive and competitive, shows, live markets, street fairs, and boutiques will most definitely be on our radar for next year.

 

 

 

The Metal Ethos

The Metal Ethos blog truly marks the end of an era at NiciArt. Selling on-line offers comfort to those who seek anonymity in cyberspace, but for a company like NiciArt that thrives on telephone support, interacting with customers and working in all three dimensions, cyberspace is a cold vast frontier. The first step in conquering that cold dark space is both members stepping out of cyberspace with separate blogs and social media presence to focus on a bit more on our individual thoughts and efforts. As such, we decided to go with the Metal Ethos as a logical addition to Nici’s Blog, The Metal Spot.

metalethos1

metalethos2

While the Metalspot is hosted on WordPress and offers full functionality for most bloggers, one of my goals was to test a custom template and eventually begin to offer our own WordPress and Active Blogger Templates as digital downloads in Etsy, so moving to a self hosted platform was necessary to use custom templates. The template chosen for the initial design is Morning Time by WP Look Studios which features a very clean and simple design. As a header banner, I chose a photo of Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale, AZ for intrigue, fascination, and being inspired by the endless wonders of nature instead of strictly limiting the Metalethos to business, products, or just product promotion. After receiving our 100th Etsy order, we hiked to Tom’s Thumb and even discussed the possibilities of taking on NiciArt as a full-time business back in 2011. Never would I have even dreamed those first 100 orders were just a tiny step, therefore beginning the blog with Tom’s Thumb is actually far more appropriate than a flaming torch, polishing wheel, or some sort of trite marketing slogan.

NiciArt was never planned or discussed over coffee, rather NiciArt just happened and we knew exactly what we had to do without the need for a script. In so many ways, I am incredibly grateful for Etsy and that first Christmas in 2011, where our little shop was launched from page 254 in search right up to page 1 overnight. Today, Etsy continues to deliver steady traffic and orders even as election shock hangs on the horizon for many like an ominous rain cloud. For us, we only really worry when things start making sense and chaos becomes an orderly plan.

Once “the” meeting place after work, the Etsy forums have strayed a bit from good wholesome discussions and debates to repetitive post regarding SEO, low views and sales, or celebration milestones for that first sale. Don’t misunderstand, the Etsy forums are still a wonderful resource with many dedicated shop owners sparing their precious time to help others succeed. Unfortunately, many successful shops are experiencing a slowdown coming off the golden age of Etsy where sales were fast and easy and now time is such a limited resources, many faces are missing in action from the forums. Embracing the end of era with excitement about the future rather than lamenting the passage of time is a far more productive mindset. Starting the Metal Ethos in parallel to Nici’s efforts on the Metal Spot is just one more step forward for 2017.

 

 

Black Friday

Black Friday 2016 is in full swing with sales trickling in through out the hour, however volume is definitely lower than expected heading into the midday hours. Much like being glue to the electoral maps on November 8th, we are filling orders while keeping another eye focused on the stats.

black-1271449_960_720

We attribute election shock as the sole reason behind the sluggish start to the holiday season which was most likely at the forefront of Thanksgiving dinner discussions leading more shoppers to head on out and grab a 4k TV to keep up with the media circus in 3840 x 2160 rather than swing by Nici’s Picks and pick up an engraved metal guitar to help strum away the election blues with the gift of music. What is interesting to note is last weekend ushered in record sales, which strengthens my argument that people came together over the past few days and revived their political furies, thereby shifting the mood temporarily away from holiday shopping. In my mind, I’m imagining the pumpkin pies fly as Clinton and Trump supporters clash over healthcare, immigration, and the economy.

Looking back at history, I’m sure Truman’s win over Dewy or McKinley vs. Bryan caused quite a stir at the time, but what might be truly unique in this election is the role of social media as well as conventional media in creating such an amplified aftermath and fallout with some of the most divisive politics since the civil war. The biggest curse of all is “uncertainty.” Whether the next president be Clinton or Trump, we would take simple corruption for the next 4 years over the madness about “what’s in the box.” Unbeknowst to many, Pandora doesn’t take vacations” and by not even being able to agree on basic set of fundamentals principles governing how we should coexist with our neighbours, protect our natural resources, guarantee access to healthcare, and promote education as the path to upward mobility and a better future, we may very well be gift wrapping Pandora’s Box for the next generation.

 

 

 

 

Back in the Game with Etsy

Seeing Etsy’s stock dip back to $12.86, we re-entered and will continue our long position.

roulette-1278066_960_720

I could have also elected to hold through the little dip and add to the position, but I really don’t want to play big on Etsy. Not only do I see investing as a necessary evil to turn a little measly Etsy Shop salary into a sustainable living wage, I enjoy breaking up the work day with a little background research and reading the charts.

As we discussed last night over dinner, there are so few good opportunities for the middle class to find solid upward mobility. Those fortunate enough to sock away a little extra every year will most likely drift through the doors of Chubb, Schwalb, Merrill or other well known wealth management investment corp, while the 1% venture over to their buddy running a Hedge Fund. The big players are likely to offer a mix of mutual funds, ETFs, and on rare instances they will sweeten the deal with a few dividend aristocrats such as PG or WBC. Total returns on such vanilla investment portfolios are often times between 4% – 8% on up years. Many Hedge Funds flirt with 12%-15% albeit the risk may be significantly greater. In the end, the question I was left to ponder is whether wealthier folks are willing to take on greater risks because they simply have more financial security or whether wealthy investors tend to simply take higher calculated risks from the start, therefore they have become wealthy through a sum of well played and well calculated risks. The answer is obviously a mix of both ideas, while the sad reality is even the most industrious and hard working blue collar worker will most likely only find wealth through pure luck as long as they continue to believe hard work is the one and only path to successful upward mobility.

Too often I write about the challenges of running a business without pointing out the positives. Initially, the home office worker is usually bedazzled by the freedom of “self-scheduling” which soon is nothing more than a passing dream when the 7 day work week schedule takes hold and you wish for even more hours in a day, but the real freedom is in leaving behind office politics and taking control of your own fate. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of self-determination over your own future as perhaps the biggest drive towards leaving behind that fantastically comfortable cubicle where the weather is 67F and fluorescent all year round. Once you take that first step away from being safe beyond the felt padded aluminum walls and well protected under the fortress of ceiling tile overhead, seeing the bright sun overhead can be enough to send just about anyone running for cover. As the days pass though, sunrise becomes a welcome sight and signals the beginning of the next fight instead of drudgeries of rolling out of bed in order to start the mindless motions of a routine. It would seem after 4 years of NiciArt, the creative processes should be well entrenched in our daily lives, however we are just beginning to mature enough to recognize creative processes reach well beyond our business and influence all aspects of our choices. This year, creative process brought me to manage my own trading, retirement, and investment portfolios. Like closing your eyes and diving straight into the deep dark water below, the leap of faith has returned 17% this year. Of course, that’s not exactly an amazing accomplishment when the markets are up, but again it’s not always about the immediate results rather the actual creative process and inspiration to look to self-determination. Perhaps I’ve just been listing to a bit too much Rush lately and have “Freewill” stuck in my head….

 

 

Etsy Stock Sale

After Monday’s resistance at $13.00, I decided to close out my long position on Etsy and take home 3.2%. My gut feeling is Etsy will retest, retake, but settle in somewhere in the low $13s. The reason to invest in Etsy is Etsy has a unique and almost unchallenged position in a niche market, however that niche is also has limited growth. As Etsy continues to pursue a path of spreading traffic and sales across all shops, I am convinced we will see defectors jumping overboard or perhaps just a quiet resistance migrate their efforts to other platforms. Much like the airlines attempt to pack extra seats in a 737 for those thinly covered routes where raising fares is not an option, there is only so much profit to be squeezed out of the handmade art market and as elbow room begins to demand premiums through the Promoted Listings an equilibrium between new sign-ups and those exiting the emergency doors is on the horizon.

The only possibility I foresee for a sizeable long-term return on investment would be through an acquisition from Amazon, Shopify, or similar platform looking for a side show and not relying as much on seller services to turn a profit. Even more remote would be someone like Warren Buffet rolling out of bed and just deciding he loves Etsy, thereby adding Etsy to the Berkshire Hathaway collection. All joking aside, Etsy remains an unlikely acquisition target marching to the beat of their own drummer. Although Etsy’s 3Q earnings came out ahead of expectations, CFO Kristina Salen’s departure next year, leaves a significant leadership void with one of their top voices of reason no longer sitting at the helm and leaving the controls in the hands of dreamers.

For the time being, Etsy drifts in and out of love it or leave it status in the Etsy Forums with very few sellers straddling the fence of neutrality as just observers. Besides a brief stint of entanglement in the Storm and Drang politics surrounding the Etsy Seller Advisory Board, our sales remain steady year over year.

wildebeests-805391_960_720

No business blog post is ever complete without a trite photo, of course.

With the arrival of the holiday orders, our Etsy Shop is smack in the middle of the herds heading to the watering hole and the competition this year has even more sellers vying harder than ever for a position.

 

The Holiday Rush has Started

Usually the holiday rush starts the Friday after Thanksgiving around midday and wave upon wave of orders leave us buried for those 4 weeks heading into Christmas and New Years. Much like trying to shovel snow in blizzard with a soup spoon, trying to get ahead is impossible, however we manage to keep up with short nights and long day. This year, the holiday rush started on Saturday the 19th, before I even had a spare moment to list our Christmas items.

This year we are adding a few handmade Christmas Tree ornaments in limited quantities:

niciart_christmas_ornament_bronze_snowflake_3

a merry Christmas Bronze Snowflake Christmas Tree Ornament for Custom Engraving available on Etsy and NiciArt

niciart_snowflake_dad_christmas_ornament_3

and our classic Dad with Baby Feet now on a bronze Christmas Tree Ornament for new and expecting dads also available on Etsy and Niciart

Both snowflake designs were drawn on a sheet of bronze and sawed entirely by hand using a jewelry saw. Those readers familiar with Etsy would probably suggest we release more than just two designs in order to have any chance of competing in the Christmas Decor category, but time is such a precious resource at the moment with the holiday orders, so we’ll have to wait until summer 2017 to release a full line up of designs.