Sales Plan

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This is a draft of a new or in-progress document, and is likely to have a few people specifically working on it. You may wish to check in on the discussion page to see what the purpose of the document is and who's working on it; then feel free to give this article love and attention if have extra of those things.

Thrift Store Plan

State of the program

The thrift store has seen steady, though not explosive, growth in the past two years in revenue. In addition, the number of regular volunteers has grown to 5 (as opposed to two 6 months previously) which has aided in cleanliness dramatically. A wider range of items, including home and office, have been sold than previously. A free table was added which seems to have positely affected foot traffic in the store. Clearing space out when things get clogged (either by giving them away or selling them) has become a priority. Two sales coordinators were replaced with one and an intern. Documentation is slowly improving. Additionally, it is now easier for customers to locate product that they need as well as for volunteers to know where to put things. The store has gotten new merchandising and storage options which have increased the salability of various items and improved the effective space. The store currently makes about $25,000/month.

Current and past issues

There has been a broadening of equal treatment to volunteers in equal cases which has added credibility to the store. This has been problematic in the store, as the perceptions of cronyism and nepotism persists with some volunteers. Theft remains a small but continuous problem on pocketable items (of which all valuable ones are behind the counter). Discount abuse has been treated more aggressively than in the past, with mixed results. The store is routinely messy (improving). Non-regular staff working shifts in the store frequnetly are unclear as to what to do (or for that matter, the pricing on a variety of objects). The store in probably the place where individuals wanting free tech support come most frequently first. The majority of the stores' phone calls are about donations or volunteering. Its small and sometimes pretty crowded. In the past six months there has never been enough labor on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

Trends and predictions

  • The store is due for a remodel that is planned for the next 4-6 weeks. This is primarily aimed at making the store a more desirable place to volunteer, but has the side effect of making it a better place to shop as well. The primary physical changes include: 1) Trippling of available counter space 3) Reorganization to improve openess (theft) and light (pleasantness) 3) Thorough cleaning of carpeting and painting. It is predicted that this will result in more volunteering and purchasing.
  • Volunteers using volunteer discounts for profit has been a continuous problem. Reuse and staff are working on policies that seem likely to greatly curb this abuse.
  • Flow control has improved and will continue to do so, though at a slow rate.
  • Most customers interested in a PC leave without purchasing one. This is due to apprehension of trying linux and questions of reliablity (am I purchasing a lemon)
  • The store will continue to make more money, but will peak at perhaps $2500/day average in 18-24 months. The primary limitation on future growth will be space. It is noteworthy, however, that the present space is used pretty inefficiently.
  • Most of the current annoyances of Linux will be fixed in the next 3 years. Linux will have greater brand recognition.
  • In the next year, the store will be totally overwhelmed in its ability to get rid of even "high-end" systems due to a broad movement towards laptops. The bulk of this solution comes from outside the store.
  • The trend of relying on the stores income as the primary revenue stream (in the current building) cannot continue because 1) The space is limited 2) It makes the organization lazy in terms of looking for grants and other ways to make money (e.g., classes, bulk, refined mining, etc.)
  • (Related to above) Free Geek will start to reach intensity limits (for producitivity) in multiple areas simultaneously. We will either open new Free Geeks, or move. The store will reach near-maximum intensity within 36 months. This will probably necessitate new ways of finding revenue (unless we move and there is more space).
  • As consumer need for tech support increases, the store will drive more customers into classes and paid tech support.

SWOT

Keep the thrift store going.
Good (for Free Geek) Bad (for Free Geek)
Internal
(to Free Geek)

Strengths: Strengths are advantages we have that are internal to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things we do.)

  • Ever rising income, improvements in shopping experience and merchandising, ever-increasing efficieny (more work can be done with the same amount of labor).
  • Slowly improving volunteer base.
  • Our prices remain leading edge because of the large amount of volunteer labor we have.
  • Our intellectual capital widens reuse opportunities dramatically.
  • A supportive group of volunteers and staff.
  • Pricing control given to one person (the Sales Coordinator) allows for rapid response to changes in value (depreciation through obsolecense) and quick reaction to gluts of product.

Weaknesses: Weaknesses are problems we have that are internal to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Things we do poorly or not at all.)

  • Poor flow control makes for a good deal of redundant labor (improving).
  • Free Geek does not have an effective way of reallocating labor when we run out of space to store items intended for reuse (e.g., store, freek, and grant boxes continue to be made in a absence of people to take them). This creates unweildy piles of stuff. Bidirectional communication about "The State of Flow" is varied in quality.
  • Point-of-Sale limitations (e.g., no scanners (therefore slow transaction time), single till, limited ability to handle quick transactions make using the space as intensively as possible difficult.
  • Small footprint limits the overall number of customers that can be handled.
  • FG often attracts personalities that are not ideal for a retail environment.
  • Improvements in appearance are largely capital intensive, and that money is slated for more mission-intensive endeavors.
  • We can not sell enough computers to keep our build volunteers busy.
  • We have a less service-oriented group of volunteers than most 501(c)(3)s (probably because of the tit-for-tat nature of "you do something (volunteer), you get something (a computer)." This makes it especially difficult to get quality volunteers in the store. Most new volunteers have been more interested in obtaining hardware than doing work.
  • Too much time spent hunting for small parts for non/marginal volunteers (see wishlist).
  • We have no effective, consistent, and implementable system for dealing with people who abuse their volunteer discounts for profit.
External
(to Free Geek)

Opportunities: Opportunities are advantages we have that are external to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things that will or could happen to us.)

  • Our good name in the community allows to operate without offering money-back on returns (good faith).
  • We have a small but extremely regular group of customers.
  • Our volunteers like us enough to act as word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Our customers will frequently help answer questions for customers when we are busy.
  • Microsoft and Apple both offer outrageously priced products.
  • Widespread poverty makes our products attractive.

Threats: Threats are problems we have that are external to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Bad things that will or could happen to us.)

  • Most people who know about Free Geek do not know that it has a thrift store (or for that matter, where it is).
  • Our web page is quite inaccurate at this time about which things we have.
  • Our external sign is only readable at short distances in bright light.
  • Linux is not a household name, and there is a good deal of apprehension about "taking the plunge."
  • American consumers are used to warranties and returns.
  • People expect technology to "just work" (yes, still!) and do not want to monkey with things like codecs.
  • Resellers quickly learn our discount is vulnerable to manipulation.
  • Greater competition on the horizon, especially with the coming eWaste legislation.

See also Trends and Attributes | What do we want to do?



Online Sales Plan

State of the program

Online sales is proceeding pretty well at this point. The program currently has five regular volunteers, and income from eBay auctions alone is steady at $1700-2000 per month.

Current and past issues

Some people view online sales as something that robs volunteers of the opportunity to acquire "good stuff" in the store with a discount. For the most part, online sales tries to sell things that Free Geek either has way too much of (e.g. lower-end memory), has no real place for (e.g. random oscilloscope parts), or would otherwise recycle (e.g. broken laptops for parts). Things like DDR memory or high-end video cards will not be sold online until they become commonplace throughout Free Geek.

Trends and predictions

As volunteer involvement increases, so will revenue from online sales. However, online sales will probably need to be restructured in the future to accommodate more than a handful of volunteers in searching, testing, and listing.

Eventually the program will become a revolving door; volunteers will come here, learn what they want to about online sales, work until they are satisfied, and use what they learn to sell things online and run their own auctions, among other things. In addition, other volunteers should be able to teach the process to newbies.

SWOT

Make online sales an ongoing program
Good (for Free Geek) Bad (for Free Geek)
Internal
(to Free Geek)

Strengths: Strengths are advantages we have that are internal to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things we do.)

  • Provides another option for volunteers that are interested in something other than the Adoption/Build programs
  • Allows for the reuse of items that wouldn't normally be reused
  • Pays for itself

Weaknesses: Weaknesses are problems we have that are internal to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Things we do poorly or not at all.)

  • Many potentially-salable items slip through the stream due to lack of knowledge pertaining to their value
  • Currently small-scale; doesn't presently provide us with a significant income stream
  • Some of the more esoteric items of value in the online sales area remain so because of our inability to test them
External
(to Free Geek)

Opportunities: Opportunities are advantages we have that are external to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things that will or could happen to us.)

  • People like spending money on weird computery things we have and don't need. The more weird computery things we can get them, the more money we can bring in.

Threats: Threats are problems we have that are external to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Bad things that will or could happen to us.)

  • Ninjas from outer space potentially murdering us all because they associate penguins with space piracy. Space ninjas really, really hate space pirates.

See also Trends and Attributes | What do we want to do?



Bulk Sales Plan

State of the program

We are chugging along at a steady pace.Most of the items we are selling are unusable in Free Geeks other streams because we have so so many parts.

Current and past issues

Bulk sales has grown slowly. We are not currently structured to handle larger requests for items in bulk.

Trends and predictions

Bulk sales will grow as we find more partners in the Reuse business who are looking for bulk used parts.

SWOT

Please define a goal for this SWOT
Good (for Free Geek) Bad (for Free Geek)
Internal
(to Free Geek)

Strengths: Strengths are advantages we have that are internal to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things we do.)

Weaknesses: Weaknesses are problems we have that are internal to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Things we do poorly or not at all.)

External
(to Free Geek)

Opportunities: Opportunities are advantages we have that are external to Free Geek and helpful to achieving the objective. (Good things that will or could happen to us.)

Threats: Threats are problems we have that are external to Free Geek and harmful to achieving the objective. (Bad things that will or could happen to us.)

See also Trends and Attributes | What do we want to do?



Related planning documents (July 2009)

Store Meta Question

Thrift Store (PPS)

Thoughts on Increasing Sales Income

Sales Plan

General Free Geek planning documents

Vision Statement

Long Term Strategy Process

General Priorities

Overview Time Line