I placed our first Mattel order today. Before you blast me for more toys, note that Mattel has been gobbling up hot hobby store hits over the last couple of years. Games like Blokus and Apples to Apples are now Mattel products, along with classics like Balderdash and Uno. About half of the order is toys, however, especially the cars from the movie Cars, which have already proven to sell well (plus there's another movie on the horizon). We also picked up Cars jigsaw puzzles, and a bunch of Hot Wheels stuff.
I've noticed that ordering in game stores tends to evolve over time. Most stores start out with one supplier, a main game distributor. Many will also open a Games Workshop account or perhaps a Wizards of the Coast account if they're event driven. I don't open either until a couple of years in, but most stores will try to get them early on. Many stores stop there, while a good percentage will open a secondary account with a distributor, just in case. Over the years, successful stores will source product from a variety of suppliers.
The key is to listen to customers and not accept a product is unavailable when a distributor says no. For example, after lots of searching, I found bingo sets from Schylling, mostly known for their toys for young children. ACD and Alliance have both given up on bingo and the classic game distributors are always out. I'm finding there's a certain base inventory that always seems to be game distributor centric. Sales in that base rise as we build the business, but where I see most of my growth is with "everything else," the other stuff. Most stuff classified as "other" rarely makes a top ten list, but it quietly accounts for a growing percentage of our sales.
What is other? It might be stuff you already see, but sourced from a better source at an improved margin. It might be just one game that's hot but independent. It includes novelty items like our pirate band aids, indie miniatures from small suppliers, jigsaw puzzles from Germany and Spain, classic games from specialty suppliers, one off orphan games that distributors have dropped, hobby supplies, toys, and educational products.