This year has marked an exceptional number of changes, both for Cecile Raley Designs and for me personally. As many of you know, I moved in late December 2016 - I moved only four blocks but what a difference: this little corner row house has a finished basement with an extra bathroom which marks the new "headquarters" of Cecile Raley Designs. My living room is now a separate entity, to be enjoyed all day long without requiring conversion from office to personal space at the end of a workday. My commute is still short, except for Tuesdays and Fridays when I head into the city to get supplies and pick up/drop off orders with our casting service, setter, jeweler and polisher.
We've also had our 10,000th sale on Etsy. Our shop opened in August 2009 and I had one sale that year - quite a difference to an average of 1,500 annual sales nearly 10 years later. While sales overall this year have been flat after an enormous 9 year growth spurt, views and visits are up about 30% over last year. We've begun working a lot on our advertising so hopefully this will translate into a good 2018. Of the nearly one million views we had this year, 50% are from direct traffic, which means most customers are either repeat or are seeking us out explicitly for some other reason. I'm not convinced that Etsy searches themselves bring in an awful lot of business, except insofar as we carry a lot of rare goods!
For instance, our most searched gemstone is - I'm sure you guessed it - Paraiba tourmaline. In fact it is searched 5 times as much as the next two: benitoite (that was a surprise), and Mahenge spinel. The top five listings with the most favorites in our store are also paraibas. So it pays for us to keep continuing to source and advertise these precious beauties. My main supplier is constantly negotiating to get more material but it is getting harder and harder.
Paraiba has also been our best seller this year but we've sold a lot of sapphires, a ton of kornerupines, Burma spinels, and we've done well with our new demantoids which we will try to stock up on in Tucson. Kornerupines are out for now, I've bought up everything I could and there's no supply, but I'm already hashing out other ideas for Tucson. More about that in our January blog.
Approximately 65% of our customers are US based. The rest are international: Hong Kong, Canada, UK, Australia, Israel, but also Japan, Norway, Singapore, and even Romania.
In terms of designs, our Lily pieces have been our best sellers this year, many combos with red and grey: burma spinel, kornerupine, montana sapphire, grey spinel. It's been a lovely combo indeed and I have to figure out a way to top that next year!
Speaking of next year, after Tucson and Vegas, I hope to be able to go to Madagascar again to see and support my friends. The vague plan is to go in late summer, but I will keep you posted!
Also, next year will mark my 10th year on Etsy, as well as my 50th birthday (where did time go?). So stay tuned until we can figure out how to mark the occasion(s).
On a more personal front, there has been some sadness. My mother, who was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia in the fall of 2015 at the age of 65, had to give up her apartment and move into a home. She was having too much difficulty managing a household on her own, and she was falling a lot which put her in danger on her second floor apartment. Luckily we found her a sunny terrace room in a very nearby and brand new care facility. My aunt and I spent two weeks in August taking care of the move with her and clearing out the condo that had been her home for the past 30 years. It is bittersweet for me that I cannot spend another Christmas there.
Also, on December 11th of this year, my 92 year old grandmother died from complications of an infection. She had been diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2010 and had been in a home ever since. In the past year, she didn't recognize anyone and she stopped speaking as well. But she still enjoyed humming to herself during some brief moments of lucidity until this fall. My grandmother, who raised me from the age of 5 to 17, was as close as my mother was to me and at times, even closer. I feel that in many ways, she made me into the person I am today. Being like her - kind, giving, a good listener and a master at seeing a problem from the perspective of others - is what I strive for every day. She shall be remembered for what she had to give to others. In what will hopefully be the next two years, my book on her young life and experiences during world war II will be completed and find its way to a publisher. In this way, I hope that others besides me can benefit from her story.
I will be traveling to Germany to attend my grandmother's funeral and to spend Christmas with my dad and mom. The shop will stay open of course with Debbie and Karen managing the year end clearance sale.
Happy holidays everyone!
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