Saturday, June 7, 2008

D&D 4 Sales and Supply

Sales were very strong for the D&D 4 release. It wasn't our best sales day ever, but it was up there. In addition to the 40 box set pre-orders, we had a steady stream of customers, who didn't pre-order, buying sets and Player's Handbooks throughout the day. Some of these people we haven't seen before. A couple mentioned they were buying from us because Amazon couldn't ship until July. Many people were interested but cautious, content to buy a Player's Handbook but waiting to see if they wanted the other books. It was a pretty clear division, and we sold zero individual Dungeon Master's Guides and Monster Manual's. A nice surprise were the sales of the new 4E adventure, Keep on the Shadowfell, which we went deep on and still have many on the shelf. Other stores reported strong sales of dice, mats and accessories, but sales weren't appreciably larger than normal.

What has been surprising is the supply problem. Wizards of the Coast ran out of gift sets as they under-predicted demand. Baker & Taylor never did get me the other half of my order, promising the books sometime in June, so they never sent us Player's Handbooks or Monster Manuals. This is a company that shipped early and shorted my order, despite ordering 5 months in advance. I'm told WOTC had some words with them about their shipping times after I reported my early arrivals. Then again, a Forbes article reported that shipped about 100 copies rather than the 8 WOTC told me, so who knows what to believe.

My main Wizards of the Coast supplier ran out of books before the release date. My last minute dozen copies of PHB's, to make up for Baker & Taylor, was shorted to 9, the last of their supply, with no Wizards re-supply to them for at least a week. I think we'll be fine, but this is not how an evergreen product should be treated. I think this says something about these companies larger, overall view of the economy. Wizards under-printed. Distributors under-ordered. Pre-orders from retailers didn't guarantee supply. On the other hand, mainstream game distributors like ACD and Alliance were well prepared with plenty of books available.


  1. Amazon is short too. I know people who pre-ordered a week or two ago now have updated ship dates of July. My ship date was pushed back a couple of days and I pre-ordered back in March.

    Local stores here seem to have plenty of copies of the core books, but I haven't seen any gift sets. I've only been to book stores though, and not the one game store.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The local Barnes & Noble ran out early on Friday. I don't mind the gift sets finally selling out; it's the only way we'll sell the individual DMGs and Monster Manuals.

  4. Well, I am glad that I decided to just walk in and buy the gift box retail instead of going with the lower Amazon prices. Waiting a month isn't worth the discount, in my opinion.

    Keep up the Blog. I enjoy reading it.

  5. I've been to two B&N stores and they both had plenty of individual books. So does the game store, although I think they were running low on Monster Manuals (probably because they didn't order nearly as many as PHBs and DMGs).

    No gift sets anywhere, although I suspect that may be because they didn't order any. It's very rare to find gift sets, deluxe or collector's versions of anything on the shelf in this area. They mostly only order those when they have a pre-order.

  6. It's kind of foolish not to order gift sets. They contain all three books and they're the exact same price as buying the three books separately. If you need to break them out, you just take them out of the sleeves. I would have ordered ALL gift sets, but I didn't want to store empty sleeves.

  7. We are talking about a mind-set that says "the only people who want these pre-order them" without any evidence that this is the case.

    It's self-fulfilling marketing at its worst. "We never order them, so they never sell, so we never order them."

  8. Sales forecasting is difficult, since there's some science and some intuition and casual observation. It's easy to stop listening and do what you've always done. In the case of the local B&N store, one of their employees warned them of the impending deluge of customers, but they were too set in their ordering ways.

    I have a similar problem with my local FoodMax. Every week I walk in and buy 2 six-packs of IBC root beer. They only have 2 six packs whenever I'm there. I've told them, "If you stock more than 2 six-packs, I'll buy them ALL." I've even had them call the manager over. Unfortunately, they're on this crazy ordering program based on the previous years sales. But how will they ever know from their sales history that I want more than 2 six-packs, if they never STOCK more than 2 six-packs? I've stopped shopping there recently.

    I'm always making adjustments in the store when I'm out of something. Would I have sold a third item if it was in stock? I'll boost the re-order to three and watch what happens. I might reduce it back down or raise it up when I realize the item sells in singles or pairs. This is something considered for every single sale.

  9. Yep, I see that kind of thinking all the time. Admittedly, it's a hell of a lot easier to just look at prior sales figures than it is to actually try to understand both your product and your customers.

    What gets me is the situation you describe with FoodMax. That goes beyond the "path of least resistance" and into "stuck in a rut" territory. The system that was supposed to help you order efficiently has now become a drain on potential revenue. I've also seen this happen before both as a customer and as an employee.

    The only up side to the situation is that it's one of the real advantages that a smaller specialized store like yours has over the competition.

  10. When I first got into FoW, a toy car company, "Johnny Lightning" released a series of tanks in 1/100 scale.
    Of course Toys-r-Us was out of stock and wouldn't reorder (and don't tell me "couldn't" since Toys-r-Us and WalMart run the toy market). The (assistant?) Manager told me "We always run out of the die cast tanks sooner than the cars.

    Really? SO you know that you'll sell more tanks. Why not... ORDER MORE?