We're a miniatures game store. It happened overnight. Well, actually over a 30-day period. I was doing the numbers for our first month and miniature sales are up 531% from last October. Most surprising, they're 41% of our sales, 47% if you count the paint used on them (up 237%). Before the move they were 15%. That's staggering and a little frightening for someone who likes balance and diversification.
I used to believe that you build your store and the local customer base determines the mix based on sales. It's a mix that's localized and organic. Now I've learned that there are more factors. Granted, having the local Games Workshop store close has been a great boon, but other miniature games are doing amazingly well too. It's the game space. Selling role-playing books is fine, and anyone can play Magic with their friends, but miniature games seem uniquely suited for game store play. The special tables, terrain, opponents, and a ready supply of troops in the store make for a combination that I dismissed before the new store. I was the cranky guy asking, "Don't you people own dining room tables???!!"
Before I start talking about revolution and paradigm shifts, it was just one month. I've learned that retail is unpredictable and full of surprises. There are some obvious losers from last year too, although the winners offset them immensely.
Collectible miniature games are a pale shadow of what they once were. Stars Wars miniatures was our core game since we opened. It's been abandoned by our child customers almost entirely. D&D miniatures suffer from the role-playing game slump. Whiz-Kids pirates is down to a crawl and is probably nearing it's inevitable end. PocketModel never caught on. Sales of these game are down 73%. Their numbers are now competing with snacks, where once collectible miniatures was our top department. They've become an add-on sale, like cheap mints. This is a regional phenomena and when we start lamenting the appearance of a new collectible miniature game, know that the segment is a non-starter for our customers. They've got collectible malaise.
Role-playing, as everyone tells me, is in a slump. That explains our 30% drop in sales. As I look around the department, nothing jumps out at me as worthy, except for a few hot small press titles, like Spirit of the Century. Battlestar Gallactica RPG has been overlooked, I think, but that's about it. There is a fatigue here, brought on by the D&D 4E announcement, plus it's just not the season for them.
Collectible card games just don't seem worth the effort. After all the work to promote Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, and World of Warcraft, all of which now have organized play in the store, sales are flat. The premise goes like this: Miniature gamers play their game in the store, don't do as well as they like, check a book and realize they need new guys for their army, and buy them off the shelf. Card guys know of a new release months in advance, pre-order online to get their $145 box of cards for $80 and occasionally buy a booster pack or two at a local store when forced to (like tonight). Who would you rather have in your store, twelve guys who spend $4/each on a booster pack, or $30/each on a medium size miniature box? It's not that there isn't money in cards, it's just not being spent with me.
Toys got off to a respectable start. They're a quarter of the store and accounted for 6% of our sales. That's not great, but it's a bit like starting another business. People need to know we have them. I'm having supply problems already, unfortunately.
Comics remain an anomaly. We haven't gotten rid of them. In fact, the trade paperbacks are steady sellers. This is a bit odd. Here's what's been happening: I complain about the amount of time needed to research comics, then I don't spend the time doing it, but comics continue to sell respectably anyway. Perhaps they don't take as much time as I thought. Our strategy of stocking evergreen, classic trade-paperbacks is working. The problem is there's nowhere to go beyond that.