As a farmer, August in South Carolina is very similar to the bitter cold Winter months of my childhood in the Northeast. August is our lull here. The heat and sun force the end of all Spring crops and grasses, they drive the animals into the shade and wallows, and push farmers to stretch their days from the cooler morning to the less sunny evening... wishing for a break mid-day. This is when we re-set. This particular August has been a unique challenge as I stretch myself, prepare for a busy Fall, and make some frighteningly large investments ahead of a potentially slow Winter.
Sales dropped 33% in the first half of August!
The clue for me to turn this rock over has been a SHARP decrease in sales this month. Through July the farm had outsold any prior year quite substantially. I attribute this to our participation in two Saturday markets each week and the addition of Basic Kitchen, driving wholesale egg sales. However, August 1st to date is down 33% over the same time period last year. This is not small. This is the margin by which I afford to pay myself instead of being a volunteer. I now know this dramatic change was not caused by a missed market, end of summer vacations, back to school frenzies, weather, market attendance, the economy, grocery store competition, food trends, or the like. The answer turned out to be much more simple.
After analyzing every conceivable difference with this year over last, the numbers pointed me to online orders for pick up which are down 65% this August over last year. This was shocking to me and my initial reaction was to blame this very email platform that I am typing on now. I have long thought that more and more of my emails are heading to spam and are never even seen by our customer list. (Hopefully at least one person is reading this, feel free to reply if you are still with me). A little further into the data and email "traction" proved to be inconclusive. Online orders from January through July were up 10% over 2017. What could possibly cause a dropping off the cliff 65% decline?
It was me. I am at cause. On July 23, 2017 I pushed out a a message identifying an "alarming trend" which can still be found at wishbone.mybigcommerce.com/blog/an-alarming-trend/. I was transparent. I was vulnerable. I told you all what I thought you could do to help resolve a trend that was seemingly out of my or any local business' control. With that initial message, I kicked off a nine week campaign of informative, insightful, and transparent emails which showed you more of the farm and of myself than ever before. I had no idea just how big of an impact they had until now. It turns out I cannot compete with myself and one of the most brilliant things I did last year had been completely forgotten. Mea culpa.
I have decided to resurrect the Wishbone Blog. You can find last year's posts at www.wishbone.mybigcommerce.com/blog/ now. This message will be added shortly and barring any life or death emergencies at the farm, I intend to put myself and my farm out there each week. I am very excited to see what comes out next. You are all welcome to come along for the ride. Please join me.
Thank you all for your love and support!