Simple Strategy Transforms Your Business

Photo by Mike Kirby.

Photo by Mike Kirby.

The internet tossed a stick of lit dynamite into the old saying, “You can’t sell from an empty cart.”

Today, that small phrase sums up the business model of many small-to-medium businesses online. The internet itself is an empty cart in some respects. There are whole companies that actually sell turnkey “empty carts.”

In the magic business, it’s okay to operate an empty cart—or a somewhat empty cart; the business shouldn’t be completely hollow. If magic stores had to stock everything they sell on their website, magicians would have limited access to supplies and would need to do business with more stores—a shipping nightmare for the magician.

Instead, it’s a shipping nightmare for magic shops!

There is a rule of economy in play here: shipping costs per item increases as volume decreases.

If you’re not doing the business you were a few years ago, then chances are your shipping costs—even if well-managed—are really high right now. Every time you order one item to service one customer, you are paying a percentage of profit to shipping that you would have saved if it were part of a larger parcel meant to service more customers.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to offset these increased costs.

Once a month, call a vendor and inquire about their newest items. Focus on their top three and buy a dozen of one. Push the item through your newsletter and feature it on your website.

When you get down to two remaining units, call and order another dozen. Keep the item featured on your site and promote it to your list again. Continue doing this until it stops selling. By this time, it’s the next month, repeat the process with a new trick.

This simple concept can and will transform your business. Eventually, you will earn thirty-day net with your vendor and you will develop a relationship with them that may include discounts—even more profit.

Do You Have a Personal Relationship with Your Jobber?

Image by Voir les pages liées.

Image by Voir les pages liées.

I overheard two magic shop owners talking about the magic industry. The subject of jobbers came up under a general discussion of supply, and one of the merchants said, “Jobbers. Hmmm. Who knows what those guys are thinking?”

It struck me as odd. Doesn’t this merchant communicate with his jobber? Distributors are an open book for the most part. He can call Magic City—Wholesale Magic—anytime and talk directly to Gerald Kirchner, the CEO.

The other merchant said, “I just call up my vendors and talk to the owner. Check their pulse, even if I don’t have an order right then. I prefer to order online anyway, but I still need to talk to someone with some skin in the game.”

Yeah! That makes sense. But the first merchant responded, “I have never spoken to the owner of my main distributor. They assigned me an order taker that handles my account.”

What? Is he even talking about the magic industry? A real, personal relationship between jobber and magic store is of vital importance in this business.

Magic has never been about buying from a faceless corporation. Whether the company is a distributor, retail store, or a pitch operation, the “man behind the counter” is an accessible member of the family that owns the outfit. That person is a magician themselves with performance experience. Someone who understands magic as an art form and knows the clientele as a passionate demographic.

Magicians like to talk about the back room of magic shops. After the magician had proved themselves, the owner would invite them to where the “real magic” is. Can you imagine if the owner was a mystery or didn’t communicate directly with customers on a regular basis? How would anyone ever progress? How would the “real magic” be revealed… at the discretion of an employee who themselves may not deserve full access?

The same is true at any level in the magic industry: performer and apprentice; shop and performer; jobber and shop; manufacturer and jobber.

If you do not have a personal relationship with your jobber. Get one! You need to know what’s going on in your vendor’s mind. Develop a friendship. When you come to town, you and your jobber should go out to lunch, discuss the biz and plan your future.

The same applies to manufacturers. Whom—not what—but WHOM is distributing your products? When was the last time they invited you out to lunch?

It’s okay to talk with an employee to take your order. There is nothing wrong with that. But at least once a week, call and talk to the owner. To the CEO. Ask them questions about magic in general, the business specifically—the fads, the trends, ways you can better serve your customers as a “passionate demographic.” If they cannot answer these questions for you, find someone who can.

Five Cool Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Magic Jobbers

Magic City just celebrated its 40th year in the business (you can read more about us here). We have manufacturing and/or distribution in nearly every country where magic is made or sold. And that got us thinking, for the most part, magicians don’t know much about jobbers.

If you have never heard the word jobber before, the terms “wholesaler” and “distributor” and “jobber” are used interchangeably in the magic industry. We will get into the nuance in a future article. Suffice it to say, jobbers distribute magic to magic stores, pitchmen, bulk buyers, non-magic retail outlets, etc.

Until recently, there hasn’t been much talk among magicians about jobbers. So we thought we would start the blog off with Five Cool Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Jobbers…

1) Magic Jobbers are Invisible

Or at least they were in the past. For many years, it was a widely held industry standard that magic distributors would stay out of the public eye. Buying from a jobber was a multi-step process. You had to prove you were a store with a business license, perhaps supply a picture ID, credit references, and complete an application. If you weren’t a store, they wouldn’t even talk to you. But the internet changed all that. URL’s meant direct [anonymous] contact and browsing. Stores wanted retail pricing displayed on wholesale websites, they wanted accurate stock quantities on display, and it became the jobbers responsibility to popularize items by advertising those items direct to consumers to buy from magic shops. Before long, the word “jobber” crept into the global conversation, and now many magicians can name three or four jobbers.

2) Magic Jobbers Buy from Each Other

While it’s true that magic jobbers work on a very low percentage—the lowest percentage in the distribution chain—they still buy from each other. And at a loss when necessary. Jobbers are friendly with one another, especially when those jobbers are owned or managed by magicians who love and care about the craft. The chummiest of jobbers get together at conventions and talk like old friends—because they are!

3) Magic Jobbers Aid in Quality Control

Magic jobbers must stock the products they sell and they stock a lot of products. Magic City is aptly named because it is like a small city inside—a neighborhood of packed, overflowing shelves, manufacturing rooms, sales centers, packing and packaging, a full-scale printshop and binding station. In fact, it takes two massive warehouses to hold all of the products Magic City stocks. Quite frankly, jobbers cannot afford to stock bad merchandise so they focus on the good magic. Today, manufacturers can sell direct—even create demand for products that are not as good as they could be—whereas products that go through a jobber may get personal attention from magicians with years of training designing magic tricks and turning them into magic products fit for their intended clientele. Some manufacturers prefer to only sell direct as it means more profit for them, but some must sell direct because there simply isn’t a jobber willing to take the items. Jobbers act as agents, producers, and investors.

4) Magic Jobbers Also Make Their Own Products

Without exception, all of the major jobbers either manufacture their own products in-house, or have items manufactured for them. The bulk of what they sell is direct from magic creators, but each jobber has their own product lines—well-known brands within the industry that concentrate on staple goods and subject-specific how-to books and DVD’s. Employees within the company may be magic inventors too. The CEO of Magic City, Gerald Kirchner, was a performer and is a creator. Colleagues call to bounce ideas off him and to take the industry’s temperature every single day—who better to know what jobbers need than a jobber?

5) Magic Jobbers Stock Millions of Dollars Worth of Magic

The magic industry often operates in trends produced by a handful of manufacturers and/or performers. Walking down the isles of a jobber’s warehouse is like seeing a museum of those trends. There are sometimes whole rooms dedicated to major products that shipped all over the world—the room having emptied and refilled several times. Eventually, those products add up to millions of dollars worth of magic. And that’s not counting the cost of the machinery used to make their own product lines. Every year an item in inventory doesn’t sell, the profit margin decreases.

Talk Back Questions: had you heard the term jobber before visiting this blog? After reading five things about jobbers, what are five things you wish jobbers knew about the retail business, pitching, etc?