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Business Idea: Postcard Store

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Having lived in a highly touristy area, I had a lot of ideas back then about tourism-related businesses. With a population of 160,000 in the area, and a million visitors a year (concentrated in the summer months), much of the economy was related to tourism. And it wasn’t exclusive to that area. There are a lot of towns with similar stories and economies.

Oone of the ideas was postcard store. I’m not talking about a little gift store with postcards I mean a huge selection of postcards (the goal was to have every postcard available in the area). Basically a Wal-Mart Supercenter of postcards (well, not the same square footage but you get the point).

I know what you’re thinking… Postcards are only 50 cents, how can you make money? Well, to quote one of my friends, “volume, volume, voume!” Well, there’s more to it than that.

First, most people don’t buy just one. They will buy a bunch for all of their friends/family and in many cases, they buy a bunch with nice pictures as souvenirs for themselves. If someone buy 5 postcards at $.50, it’s a $2.50 sale. Coffee shops thrive on individual sales of this size.

Two, this would need to be in an area with very¬† high traffic. Yes, the rent will be higher, but trust me on this (learned it the hard way)… a gift shop in a low traffic area can be a very tough business.

Three, it’s very marketeable. If you take the time to promote it to travel writers and shows, and get it known in the area as a resource and a special place to go, it could be interesting.

Markups are good in tourist businesses. In general, you have a 100% markup (your cost is 50% off of what you sell it for) so in theory, a postcard that the customer buys for 50 cents will cost you 25 cents.

The Environment:

My idea doesn’t involve only postcards… There would be desks to sit at to write your postcards right from the store. Next to the desks would be a mailbox where they could “mail” them. At the end of the day (or throughout), the cards could be taken to the post office or a regular mailbox for them.

No stamps? No problem. Have stamps available for clients to purchase. In Canada, Canada Post (at least in the recent past) offered a 5% discount on stamps for resale. USPS has information¬†here about their Stamps on Consignment (SOC) program. I don’t think there is a discount but it does offer the convenience to your customers and when I ran a gift shop, customers LOVED when it was offered to them at the checkout. Make sure you get international stamps as well since a surprisingly high percentage of customers will be sending internationally.

Does your customer need a zip code? No problem… have zip code books (do they still make those?) or a computer that would be set up to search the USPS database.

You could even offer to find the zip code for them if they fill out the address, etc. they leave it with you and in the downtime when there are no customers at the cash, the clerk can be finding the zip codes.

Revenue:

Most of your revenue will come, obviously, from the sale of the postcards. But there is some extra revenue to be had.

Once you have a predictable amount of sales, there are also ways to have your own exclusive postcards made to add to the inventory where you might even be able to get a better markup if you can have them made at a good enough price.

You could have a few t-shirts and photos available. Don’t put too many of them since it would take away from the specialty and could make it look like every other gift shop. Though souvenirs related to postcards/mailing could be interesting… Letter openers, pens, etc.

There is room for a few impulse items at the counter. In my gift shop, we sold TONS of $1 bracelets for teen or tween girls at the counter. I never thought anything about them when we bought them from a distributor for 50 cents each but they were great sellers.

A surprise envelope of postcards could be offered. Put 10 postcards in an envelope, perfect for selling unsold/overstock postcards. Offer them at a discount. Don’t put more than one of each, though, to keep it interesting when they open it up.

Postcard of the Month

“Postcard of the month” club which could be offered in-store and online. Actually, the online part would be an interesting business on its own. People would pre-purchase a service that would consist of 12 postcards and 12 stamps. So, for example:

Postcard: .50 x 12 = $6 (your cost .25 x 12)
Stamps: 44 cents x 12 = $5.28

Your profit is $3 but you could add a couple of bucks to the price to cover the trouble. Though it seems like a great deal if you tell someone that it costs the same thing as buying them individually. And you’re selling quite a few at once. Keep in mind that you will have credit card transaction fees but even if your merchant account fees are 4% you’ll still be ahead.

You could print out a label to stick on the postcard every month though it wouldn’t be personalized. Another way would be for them to fill them all out and you hold on to them and mail them out once a month.

Keep Postal Increases in Mind:

If you do this, make sure you take into account the annual increase in postal rates to make sure you’re covered for sending their cards out for the entire year. Though USPS “Forever” stamps and Canada Post “P” are stamps that can be used even if rates increase in the future.

Marketing:

Get on the news! This business could be marketeable and there are a lot of ways to get publicity.

Could have an online mailing list for people who plan to visit someday. Once in a while, you could send them a “wish you were here” postcard to remind them you’re around.

Interesting business:

I like this business because staff is easy to train (it’s not like food service with all kinds of requirements and extra training involved). The biggest challenge will be figuring out if you can get enough sales volume to cover rent and expenses.

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