Saturday, January 5, 2019

A New Year brings change and Auld Lang Syne...

It has been a little while since I spent some time writing in this space, about two and-a-half months in fact.  There are many reasons for that, and let me go through them now before I get to today's topic, which is a culmination of these and a lot of other things.

As many of you know I presently work at Canada Post, a job I have happily held since the fall of 2015.  Although I still go out on mail routes occasionally when needed I spend most of my early mornings now inside at the depot getting mail and parcels ready for those who do go out on routes on a daily basis.  It was a good move for me as I feel it will save my body for my retirement years and frees up a good part of the day for other pursuits.

But we've had what amounts to a personnel upheaval in recent months that will necessitate some of us, myself included, moving to new positions for one reason or another.  The stress that led up to this decision caused both me and my esteemed colleagues on the floor a considerable amount of anxiety in recent months and will continue to do so for many months to come.

As that was unfolding in October, of course, we engaged in rotating strikes to hopefully further contract talks with the Corporation.  I will steer clear of the complexities of the negotiations here, simply stating the length and uncertainty of the strike action - plus the inability of both sides to reach an equitable agreement after almost of year of talks - has taken its toll on many of us, both emotionally and in some cases, physically.  For me personally, this was an extremely stressful time as we approached what many consider the busiest time of year for many businesses, ours undoubtedly included.

By the time the government ordered workers back to their jobs in late November, the busy Christmas season was well underway and all of us worked hard to make this season - in spite of all the problems as of late - a very happy and special time of year for all involved, including our customers.

Yet I found when the crush happened and I normally would be ready for the onslaught as in past years, this year I was not.  My emotional reserves had been spent, frankly, and had not been replenished sufficiently before the enormous crush of Christmas shipping hit us all like a proverbial tidal wave.  I found myself tremendously stressed out and frankly, unable to enjoy the season before, during or even after it had arrived.

The start of 2019 brought relief more than anything else, as now we could settle down and concentrate on the business of delivering mail and parcels as we do 52 weeks of the year, efficiently and without much rancor as was the case a couple of months ago.

But for me it brought a need to look at my life and see where I could streamline things in my life and eliminate needless aggravations.  This is an ongoing process and will take some time, but earlier this week, as the New Year dawned, I took the first steps to basically simplify my life just a little bit.

I made the difficult decision to close my online music service, A Web of Fine Music, at the close of 2018.  It was something I had been thinking about for some time, but held off as I genuinely thought I was providing a valuable service to people here in Niagara.  Indeed I was, still, but to an ever-shrinking clientele.

Looking at the end of year numbers for orders processed I found, much to my dismay, sales were down about 40% year over year between 2017 and 2018.  And that followed steady declines each year for several over the past decade.

I always maintained I would keep the business going as long as it was financially viable to do so, but after this disappointing year it became increasingly clear the financial viability was no longer there.  I had cut expenses to the bone and basically run the business on the proverbial shoestring for so many years it became increasingly evident there was nothing else left to cut.

The total sales for the entire year amounted to what would have been considered a fairly good month not that many years ago.  So I had to ask myself if it was really worth it to continue and the only true answer for myself was no.

There are several reasons for this, primarily centred on the seismic shifts in the music industry since I started A Web of Fine Music almost 16 years ago in 2003.  Back then many people were still buying CDs primarily, and digital downloading was still in its infancy.  But as that trend continued to develop, coupled with the fact Apple's iTunes was available on all computers, not just Macs as of about 2006, the death knell for the music business as we knew it was beginning to be felt.

In my little corner of the music world, for example, sales started a steep decline at that time, and I was not alone.  Record companies slowly started to amalgamate, stores closed and online sales and downloading picked up steam.

The result?  If you didn't adapt to change you were doomed to failure, if not right away than eventually.  As I always ran the business as a sideline to my regular job, I chose not to make the expensive changes needed to remain competitive and rather ride out the wave until the wave was no more.

That day, for me at least, appears to be here.  The painful realization came in December when, while most retailers are at their busiest, as I was for many years, this year the order desk remained silent.  There simply were no orders.  It was as if the party had ended and it was time to turn out the light on your way out the door.

Now, I am of two minds regarding this situation.  I always knew it was coming and eventually I would not be able to ignore the numbers any longer.  So I was prepared for this day.  But I still approached the decision with great remorse for what was and perhaps could have been.  But with events being the way they have been the past several months, I had no energy left to ride the wave, albeit a very small one, any longer.

Once I made the decision earlier this week, the remorse and sadness gave way to relief that I had done a noble job for many years and perhaps it was time to sit on the sidelines and take a rest.  So that's what I've decided to do.

But not completely.

Going forward, the familiar website at will be no more very soon.  I have maintained ownership of the domain name for now just in case, and this space where I write my thoughts and offer insights on a myriad of topics will continue, hopefully with greater frequency, in the months and years ahead.

I may expand the mandate of my blog as we move through the year, but that remains to be seen at this point.  Right now I want to focus on getting this blog up off the mat of dormancy and revitalize it slowly but surely as we move through the year.

So what's this ultimately mean to you, dear reader?  Not a lot really.  I will still be writing, I will still offer opinions and insights on the arts and many other topics that strike my fancy.  My business email address will continue as before, as it has been my personal address as well since the beginning.  And my Facebook page for A Web of Fine Music, at least for the time being, will continue as well, although no longer offering CDs for sale but rather, interesting arts related news stories I want to share with you.  Oh, and lots of the customary humour as well.  That will never change!

So although A Web of Fine Music will be no more as of now, I am not going anywhere.  Some things are just not meant to change I guess...

Thanks for making my almost 16 years in business memorable ones.  And don't be a stranger...keep in touch and let me know what interests you.  I am keenly aware the fact you read my posts means we both get something out of this venture, and I want that to continue unabated for years to come.

Thanks for being on this ride with me, and let's keep the momentum going in the New Year.

Happy New Year 2019, and thanks!

January 5th, 2019.

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