Apr (04-06) - Molasses in April

April 2006 Editorial

From time to time I ponder that the fates are looking out for me. When the market gets very quiet, as it has been over the past few months (!), I figure that it is to give me time to complete other projects. One of these long term projects (yes, there are more than one) is the completion and deployment of our new web site https://www.argecy.com. It includes all of the information and resources of our current site https://www.argecy.com as well as E-Commerce, a more intuitive user interface, and an easy way to order and track your orders. Of course this is in addition to our current setup, so use what you feel comfortable with. I'll be trumpeting it louder as we get it more completed.

It has been, and continues to be, a lot of keyboard dancing. Hours and hours before, during, and after work, trying to get as much done (accurately) as possible. We'll continue to pound away on adding new products and parts. It's a lot of front end labor, but will be well worth it in the long run.

So, now on to the unexplainable: Our marketplace. I have been here, come June '06, 21 years and have NEVER seen it like this. So damned quiet that I can't even hear the phones ringing. Also seems that when it gets quiet, the problems creep out of the corners. I suppose it's a good time to clean house, straighten out the warehouse, catch up on finished goods, work on the database, etc., but it's hard to work like a dog for years and have the bad months still eat at me. But they do. Worried? Of course! What business professional doesn't?

The news on the economy belies what we, and others in our marketplace, are experiecing in reality. Yes, we are here in the Motor City, and true, GM, Delphi, and others are in really deep sneakers right now, but our marketplace is national (International). I have always maintained that our product line is a fairly good proxy for the economy; If people aren't upgrading or hiring, they don't need what we sell. Even the parts and maintenance companies have really slowed. Has all the accumulated debt and the war finally caught up with us?

Last summer I hired a saleswoman who had all the right attributes: She was chatty, mature, smart. 6 months later - NOT ONE SALE! I have to admit that I have given up on trying to judge who will be successfull. Over the years we've had many come and go, but it's been impossible to find talent and hard working salespeople.

Receivables? That's another issue. Credit cards take 2+% of sales revenue, but users are really stretching their payables to the point of frustration. That's another indication of how tough the business climate is. Its a very odd situation. If business is so slow, then why isn't everything available and cheap? Well, the users don't have a strong incentive to upgrade in a slow period, so the supplies are crippled too. So, there are still hot and cold spots.

Here is a timely sidebar:

A recent experience bears out the economic reality of this marketplace. People become accustomed to falling prices. As equilibrium is reached, supplies are reabsorbed and prices stop falling. As demand continues, prices "should" go up to reflect the demand, but that is not the case in my business. First, all of the product inventory gets bought, THEN prices shoot up to reflect the new market equilibrium. To wit: 6262 printbands. Don't say you weren't warned!

There are certain machine types which continue to be very tight in the market, while others are very liquid and can't find a bottom. They come in by the hundreds, but dribble out by the ones and twos. Who knows anymore?

Sweet spots:

IBM 4000-id3/id4 with CCD MICR-- EXCELLENT! (It has the Customer Changeable DeveloperMICR features, so you can go back and forth between MICR and non-MICR jobs.)
IBM InfoPrint 1352n and 1352 (4528-n01, 4528-001) over 80 pieces sitting NEW IN BOX.
IBM 4230-102's, and 4230-4i3's. This is an excellent opportunity while they are available at these low prices. These can accommodate IPDS ETHERNET!!!
Lexmark Optra E 4026-070 cute 8ppm desktop laser, by the piece or pallet
Lexmark Optra S1250, S1255, S1625, S1855?s ? sitting (most with ethernet)
Lexmark Optra S2450, and S2455 -- 24ppm laser
Lexmark Optra Se3455 - 34 pages per minute and cheap-to-keep
Lexmark Optra T610 and T612
Lexmark T614's
Lexmark T522's - .
Lexmark T620n's - 20+ in stock now.
Lexmark T630's --
Lexmark Optra W810
Lexmark 4227plus- fast ASCII impact printer
IBM 4400-004 - Like new condition with ethernet and wireless ethernet
Multifunction upgrades 4036-301, 4036-305 for IBM and Lexmark machines
More trays and drawers for above lasers than I care to admit....

Tighter:

IBM 2074's- only one left!
IBM 1100 (45xx series) series (1116, 1120!!, 1125, 1130, 1140, 1145) (we have a few)
Lexmark T610
Lexmark Optra T622
Lexmark Optra T520
Lexmark Optra T616
Lexmark T632, T634 family
IBM 1312, 1332
IBM 4247-V03
IBM 4232-302
IBM 4224-1e3 twinax