I have been spending a huge amount of time planning and preparing for growth of The Christmas Light Emporium and working on new projects for Extreme Lightscapes. Our online store, The Christmas Light Emporium (TCLE), is where I want the future of the business to be. But retail is hard. And different. Different than the service-based business that I am used to with Extreme Lightscapes (XLS). With XLS, each project is high dollar and high margin. The infrastructure requirements are minimal. The human resource requirements are minimal. The logistics are rather simplified. Profitability with XLS is heavily dependant on knowledge, technology and our ability to effectively manage large projects. With TCLE, we are managing thousands of times the number of transactions, with FAR lower average order values. There are sooooo many factors and requirements to getting orders out the door – receiving, picking, packing, inventory, purchasing, customer service, marketing, facilities, security, branding, packaging, product design, promotions, SEO, returns, importing, manufacturing… and the list goes on. At the end of the day, gross margins are about the same as XLS, but *net* margin is about half of what I see from XLS because operating expenses are far higher.
So, why pursue the retail vision? There are several factors that make it a more viable long term model: 1) I’m getting older and the physical work of XLS is getting harder 2) It’s easier to design teachable and repeatable processes in a ecommerce/retail environment that in a service business where every project is unique 3) I truly want to be able to continue spreading the joy of Christmas long after I can no longer actively participate in the business (God willing that is still decades in the future!) and TCLE gives us the venue to do this for the rest of my life and beyond. It gives us the ability to continue helping customers create memories, traditions and smiles for as long as there is someone willing to keep the business growing. Hence, I am working my rear end off to continue our trend of triple digit growth. Wish me luck!
With all the business activity going on, I still have a few excursions in the works for this year. It looks like I’ll be joining Steve, Cody, Brent and Scott this year for a couple of river trips. One in Colorado and another in Arkansas. Then I’ll be heading to Alaska with my son and father-in-law for a wilderness fishing trip and a little jaunt up to the Ruth Glacier. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska so I am very much looking forward to that trip.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Dream big.