Monday, November 10, 2014

Shop Early (Shop Often)

It's early November and I'm sitting on $20,000 more inventory than I normally would at this time of the year. My store is relatively full, and other than releases between now and the holidays, and some specialty orders, I'm pretty much done stocking up. If you're a consumer, or a store owner for that matter, you should shop early too, and I'll tell you why.

Port Delays. There's a three week delay at West Coast ports that will throw the game trade out of whack for the holidays. Since a lot of what we sell comes from Asia, port delays will be a holiday wild card for product availability. New products may not make it in time. Older product is likely to be in short supply.

Poor Forecasting. Game publishers have been just, absolutely, terrible this year in forecasting demand. I don't know what black magic they use for forecasting, but their mojo has eluded them in 2014. A third of our best sellers are just gone right now. Upcoming games for Tabletop Season 3 are spotty at best. Whenever I see board game holiday articles in the making, I try to insert the availability of the games being suggested. That availability is poor. The worst offenders are game companies with exclusives, but that's for another article and consumers hardly know who they are (nor should they care).

Increased Demand. The game trade is not going mainstream, despite the fears that specialty retail will soon be invaded by mass market Mongols. However, there is certainly increased demand in board games that is driving sales quite nicely. This increased demand will exacerbate our other problems. A lot of board games are made in Asia, and board games, at least for my store, are where we see really strong holidays sales. Our board game sales in December are often double a normal month, while other departments only go up 10% or so.

Online Won't Help. Internet retailers like Amazon, as well as smaller online venues get their product from the same well. Although there is talk about distributors having private reserves for some of these big online discounters, don't expect online sellers to be holding product come December. They will run out too. Our brick and mortar store has been the "last man standing" on many products this year, according to people who only buy online who don't mind mentioning we were their last resort.

So there you have it. No bitching and complaining come mid December for things you could buy now. Also, if something is coming out between now and Christmas, pre-order with a local retailer. Yes, I'm biased, but a local retailer will get at least some product, and if you pre-order, which is still pretty rare for brick and mortar, you're practically guaranteed a copy. The "Amazon screwed me on my pre-order" complaint is common during these periods with both customers as well as publishers.


  1. I was in shopping yesterday, and I can tell you the price of games has gotten so high it is prohibitive to getting a game. Most board games seem to be between $40-$90. This is no longer an impulse buy, it is now a savings effort to buy into a board game.

    The miniatures are even worse. The pricing has gotten out of hand and sadly, local shops suffer the most from this.

  2. Board games have gone with inflation. If I take a $35 Settlers of Catan in 2004, voila, we get $44 in 2014 (it sells for $42). What's happened is paychecks have not risen to match the higher prices.

    Price points vary quite a bit too. I don't believe there's a price that's too high. $500 board game? Bring it. It just needs to have $500 in value. Whether every customer can afford it is another issue, and not necessarily a major concern.

    Kickstarter has also effected prices. There are some KS projects for board games that have great values, but high price points. When they hit retail, we often balk. Sometimes we don't.

    And yes, when prices go up past impulse purchases, which for us is probably around $40-50, that price pressure tends to push people online. So although I said I would carry a $500 board game, I'm going to need to know Amazon isn't going to sell it for $300. The pressure there is enormous.

  3. I think price points are what is driving FFG so hard down the LCG/minis/expansion path. $15 for a card expansion or X wing expansion is impulse territory and low enough not to drive a lot of people online.

  4. Agree completely. If you can get in early enough, you can keep up with the latest for a decent price. But if you miss the entry, you are looking at $100's to catch back up in many cases. Even with X wing, you are paying $10 for one ship. It just seems steep for painted plastic they produce for a few pennies over in China.

  5. Here's how I would break down a $10 plastic model. It probably costs $1.50 to make. FFG grosses about $4, of which 50 cents is their net profit. Distributors get a buck, and profit a nickel. Retailers gross $4.80 and make a little less than 50 cents in net profit.

  6. As an american consumer I reserve the right to bitch and complain, regardless of how irrational those complaints may be. TYVM.