Monthly Archives: February 2009

Best Seller Gone Bad

Electronic keyboards were expensive in the 80’s and early 90’s, especially good ones.  Then came Casio, and the whole business changed.  At HSN, we loved the electronic keyboard business.

The category was made for TV shopping – the demonstrations were killer, and with all the new-fangled automation on board, “anybody can play the keyboard”.  In HSN language, “keyboards screamed” and you always got a call center “whoosh” – the sound you hear when inbound calls ramp from 100 to 1000 in 30 seconds.

So I’m talking with the keys merchant, and he says they’re having a supply disruption, and there will be challenges keeping the keys in stock because they sell so well.  This is a problem for me, because I’m publishing the monthly customer (offline) magazine and we’ve got some layouts and articles on the product.

I ask for a simple merchandising run on the SKUs to get a feeling for product in pipeline, to see if maybe I have to kill the spread.  We’ve sold 45,000 of the little beggars, which is pretty good for (what was then) a $500+ item.  It averages about $1,000 a minute in Margin, which is great versus network overhead cost of $300 per minute.

Problem is, we’ve only ever purchased 17,000 of them.

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