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Behind the Scenes at a Small Biz: March Means 'Mega' Money

Editor's Note: This article is the third installment in our "Winning the Card Game" series. Dana Norman and Michele Rothberg acquired discount greeting card store Card$mart in June 2011. They agreed to let TheStreet follow them for one year as they experience the ups and downs of running a business. Based on advice from their accountant, the owners have declined to share revenue and profit numbers.

PLAINVIEW, N.Y. ( MainStreet) -- Maybe it was the luck of the Irish last month, but Card$mart co-owner Dana Norman couldn't believe her lotto sales from customers literally in a frenzy over trying to win their share of the record Mega Millions jackpot.

Following a strong February, Norman and her partner, Michele Rothberg, spent much of the month cleaning up from Valentine's Day, laying out Easter and Passover cards, ordering for Mother's Day and finally sending the discounted Christmas cards to storage.

Yet ticket sales for the Mega Millions lottery were a welcome surprise in the long, typically dead month of March. According to the Mega Millions website, sales were unprecedented for the March 30 drawing. With no winner since Jan. 24, the jackpot rose as high as $656 million -- the largest jackpot ever, according to the website. And by now we all know the outcome of that drawing. Three winning tickets were sold for the March 30 drawing.
Mega Millions lifted sales in March for Card$mart.

Card$mart of Plainview, N.Y., certainly played its part in Mega Millions sales. Norman says customers were coming out in droves to purchase tickets - and that was good for business, particularly in a month with no strong anchor holiday. (Unfortunately St. Patrick's Day isn't a big card-buying holiday, Norman says. And while Easter and Passover cards do somewhat better, the partners have learned that customers are very last-minute buyers.)

>>>Winning the Card Game: Month 1
>>>Winning the Card Game: Month 2

"Our lottery rep was shocked at the amount of lotto we sold with one terminal," Norman says.

As Norman mentioned in Month 2, lotto in general is a big customer draw. Although Card$mart only earns 6 cents on the dollar for every ticket sold, when you have lines of eager players outside your door waiting to buy tickets, that eventually adds up.

"That Friday night of the drawing my son and I were in the store. We usually close at 7 p.m. [I told him] 'As long as people kept coming in to play I'm not closing," she recalls. "At 7 there was a line out the door."

"People that don't play [or] have never played -- everybody was playing. They don't know what they are doing and they don't know how to fill out the cards. I was giving tutorials," she says. "When we finally did close it took an awfully long time to count that lotto money. We wished that nobody would have won. We wish it went on for a longer."
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