Our end of year review - for 2021
2021 An interesting start
We started the year with a new website, and as expected it was immediately attacked on certain Facebook groups with people trying to point out anything negative that they could find, and doing their best to discredit us, even to the point of telling complete lies regards being past customers who have had problems with orders. It was notable that these 'attacks' were perpetrated on groups administered by other sellers, and many of the comments were from people with little or no profile, suggesting fake accounts. It was also notable that after attacking our website design, not long after some of these sellers then proceeded to update their own websites, taking characteristics which we had incorporated – very flattering and an example for our slogan ‘we innovate others imitate’.
Sales expectations for 2021
This year with the effects of Covid we did not know what to expect regards sales. Would people having to home isolate be ordering more, as they had more time to spend on their hobbies? Or would orders diminish due to people receiving a lower income while restricted to their home, or suffering from loss of employment?
How it was, everything turned out very well. Sales started off very good, and the strong demand continued throughout the year.
Something we have never had to do before
Twice during the year, we had to stop taking any new orders, and refuse all orders placed. The reason for doing this was that orders were coming in quicker than we could post them out, and a substantial backlog was quickly building up. We were in effect just receiving too many orders!
To help reduce the volume of orders and help reduce processing delays we are now being a lot more selective regards whom we accept orders from, and have also introduced a minimum order amount.
There were problems earlier in the year with deliveries to several countries. This was due to the effects of Covid causing a large reduction in international flights that previously carried the parcels. There was also slow delivery after the parcels arrived in the destination country caused by postal service companies absentees and shortage of drivers, but our colony preparation and packing method still ensured many of the colonies made it in good condition.
The postal delivery service has been steadily improving, and as the year comes to a close delivery time to many countries has improved significantly.
Ant wise we are still learning about exotics, and one of our achievements this year was raising colonies of Carebara castanea from new queens, something we had been trying to accomplish but failing to do for the past six years.
We also had success selectively breeding Carebara diversa, by placing the larger more robust males with the strongest queens. No one else has done this before and the queens are showing all the signs of being very prolific.
This year we have also stocked some other more unusual species which we have not offered before, yet seemed suitable for hobbyists to try - such as Acanthomyrmex thailandensis, Myrmoteras binghamii, Philidris laevigata, Polyrhachis abdominalis, and Polyrhachis mitrata.
Having so many orders placed has enabled us to be a lot more selective regards accepting orders, and we have frequently rejected potential customers who show signs of being possible scammers. Although we understand not all are!
This year we have rejected approximately 8 percent of orders placed. We prefer to do this than have to spend several weeks trying to claim payments back from fraudulent claims. The result was - this is the first year in 11 years of operating that we have not lost a single order/payment to scammers.
The scammers however have still been trying their best. It was amusing to see that several scammers whom we have on our 'blacklist' from previous years, assumed because of our new website that we were a new trader, and attempted to place orders and tried to scam us again with the same method they had used before. Obviously, they are still active and plying their trade. I feel sorry for some of the new shops opening up and being subject to these undesirable pathetic people. It was however very pleasing to tell them in the ‘politest way possible' that their business was not wanted.
It was also amusing to see they nearly all had an identical rejection response - starting with a barrage of threatening and abusive emails, then placing high-value ghost orders in false names, followed by sending loads of junk emails, and finally telling us how they are going to destroy our business! - 'Hell, hath no fury like a scammer rejected!'
We have many returning regular customers built up over the past eleven years, which give us a good yearly order amount, and we are continually picking up new trustworthy customers from their recommendations.
Our customers vary from well-known international entomological research establishments, several of which frequently place large orders in excess of 500 pounds, to young hobbyists who are buying their first exotics. This year we have exported to customers from 26 different countries.
This all shows the confidence in our service and the demand for our products.
It has to put it mildly been an absolutely fantastic year for sales. We were very happy with last year’s sales (2020) and set an ambitious target for 2021 (considering the Covid problems) - hoping to obtain a 20% increase in sales. How it was as the year comes to an end, we have increased our sales by a staggering 87%. Something we never imagined possible.
This has been very demanding and taken up a lot of our available time and we are looking forward to our winter break and a few months' rest and recuperation. Although some of this time will be taken upgrading our web site, modernizing our ant farm, and taking a few more ant related photographs/videos.
And forward to 2022
We are going to continue concentrating our efforts on cultivating and offering ants. We do not want to start stocking the assorted paraphernalia/gimmicks that go along with the hobby. Many of the artificial nests, foods, etc. can easily be found cheaper than other sellers offer them, by searching online and using commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, etc.
We are also limiting our social media posts to Facebook (Meta). So, no Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, as we just don’t need any more additional publicity/sales.
We will also be increasing the range of species we stock. We already offer quality colonies of the popular Asian species, and next year will be adding some more interesting less often available species for the more specialist hobbyists.
The financial reward this year has been very good, however, our business aim next year, which may seem unusual, is to not look for any increase in sales, but to just maintain them at the present level, or even reduce the volume of orders slightly, to give us a bit more time to continue with our other work. This will mostly be done by being more selective regards whom we accept orders from, with existing trustworthy customers taking priority.
We help run/maintain a vegetable farm in Thailand, grow and sell orchid plants, and also conduct specialized botanical tours. So with the large increase in ant sales we have had to cope with this year, our time has been a bit stretched, to put it mildly!
A big thank you to all our customers - who have helped make 2021 our most successful year ever.