Friday, May 16, 2008

Auctions & Conventions

Tomorrow is our third quarterly auction, and possibly our last. We call these "Ding & Dent" auctions because we buy up damaged items from manufacturers and distributors at very low costs and then auction them off at bargain prices. The people who sell us this stuff are happy to get this "worthless" stuff out of their warehouses. We're happy because we make very good money in a short period of time, and customers are happy because they get slightly dinged or dented, new games, at a fraction of the price.

This might be our last auction because we're seriously investigating opening an online store. This store would have our entire inventory of games and toys, but the big feature would be these ding & dent items that draw such big crowds on auction days. It would only make sense that we divert these items to the online store, which also has the added bonus of not dumping cheap product into our own back yard. For example, if I'm selling a case of Duel in the Dark at $12 each, what are the chances I can sell that $60 version sitting on the shelf? It messes with my numbers, despite the nice auction sales day.

This brings us to conventions. Conventions have been a great place in the past to "dump" a lot of this ding & dent stuff. It used to be a place to sell large quantities of role-playing games, most of which we bought in ding & dent fashion, but over the last year, that market has dried up. It might be temporary, it might not be. The rest of our auction "fodder" has been other ding & dent stuff, like board games and clearance items. With the auctions (or possibly an online store), we have another outlet for clearance items. We're left with nothing to bring to conventions!

Worse, with Conquest San Francisco moving to the South Bay and Conquest Sac increasingly expensive due to gas prices and other expenses, we simply can't afford to bring standard margin fare to these conventions and still make money. They both now require hotels, meals, fuel and other expenses, while at the same time, the person at the con is making an hourly wage. It's looking like only Dundracon makes sense for us now, unless we consider these conventions "marketing" expenses. This is small business owner code for "I don't see how we can possibly make money, but we'll at least be in the face of potential customers." I'm not a big believer in "marketing" expenses.

Then again.... As of October our TV ad contracts expire and our Yellow Page ad contracts are up for renewal. These are "real" marketing expenses that I've been questioning. We'll probably drop or scale back our TV ads and instead focus on community related marketing, such as support of local schools and community programs. That might include a game convention, where we would attend for that customer face time and where convention sales just deferred some of the costs.

Here's our Ding & Dent auction list. Not included is my Flames of War army, which I'm selling to pay for my Warhammer 40K army.

All items in quantities of 1 to 4.

1960 The Making of the President
Axis & Allies D-Day
Axis & Allies Europe
Axis & Allies Guadalcanal
Axis & Allies Revised
Baffle Gab
Balloon Cup
Blue Moon City
Bohnanza Fan Edition
Carcassonne: Princess & Dragon
Carcassonne: The Tower
Cash & Guns: Yakuza
Chicken Cha Cha Cha
Duel in the Dark
Dungeon Twister, 3/4 player Exp
El Capitan
Grateful Dead
In the Year of the Dragon
King Arthur Chess Set
Lost Cities
Mall of Horrors
Mission: Red Planet
Munchkin 5
No Thanks!
Notre Dame
Nuclear Proliferation
Primordial Soup
Princes of Florence
Settlers of Catan
Smugglers of the Galaxy
Soccer Tactics
The Hidden Emperor
Thurn & Taxis Exp: All Roads
Ticket to Ride
Twilight Imperium
World of Warcraft
WoW Burning Crusades
Zombie Fluxx

D&D: Book of 9 Swords
D&D: Wizards Presents books
HERO: Battlegrounds
HERO: Villians, Vandals and Vermin
HERO: Viper City
OOTS Start of Darkness
RIFTS: Ultimate Rifts
Tunnels & Trolls Box Set
WW: Dragon Blooded
WW: Lunars

40K: 4E rulebook
40K: Apocalypse Eldar Cloudstrike Squad
40K: Apocalypse Space Marine Land Raider
40K: Battle for Macragge Box Sets
40K: Chaos Space Marine Army Box
40K: Eldar Army Box
AT43: Accessory Box
AT43: Death Dealer Tacarms
AT43: Hero Box: Odino
AT43: Kossak
AT43: Spetsnaz Commandos
AT43: Therian Bane Goliath
AT43: Tiamat
AT43: UB Wing Troopers
AT43: UNL Steel Tacarms
Battlefield Evolution
Flames of War army boxes
Flames of War Mega Paint Set
Miniature Building Authority box sets
Sparta Warband (wargods of aegyptus)
Warmachine Superiority


  1. Take the marketing budget and give out gift certificates to school auctions. it gets parents and kids in the store and gets word of mouth out.

    Also, other than Dundracon, are you really going to pull that many customers from outside your current store radius to make it worthwhile? Are enough new customers really going to drive from SF or SJ to come to your store to make it worthwhile?

  2. The store auction is a major draw for me personally. It's a fun, unique, exciting, and valuable event for a store to have. So few stores offer them that getting rid of it would likely cause me to shop less at the store, not more. Plus the fact customers can bring their own goods in to sell as well is a huge bonus. Dropping the store auction in favor of going to an online sales model would seem to me kinda like dropping a popular game event in the store for a series of online computer games instead.

  3. Having the auctions become more customer centered events would probably work out. You might prime the pump with one or two items, but have the majority be customer items.

    This is a real shift from the first two auctions - where the ding & dent items were the main draw, so would require some planning and work (and also a lot of customer participation). You would probably have to start taking in customer items several days before the auction, rather than relying on them to bring them in the day of the event.

  4. Fewer auctions that are more customer centric is probably the answer. I don't mind saying that right now the auction is a giveaway to customers, a kind of customer appreciation event. It blows my mind that more people don't attend.

    I do think we're likely to have at least one more quarterly ding & dent auction, probably in August, regardless of what we do with an online store or conventions.

  5. I think better promotion and planning is the main key. Don't get me wrong, you guys do and did a fantastic job with this and the other auctions, but you need to better pump it befor it happens. Most people I know that would attend didn't because they had no idea it was taking place. Give us very specific dates and time and how it will work well in advance and I promise you more people will show up. For customer items allow people to drop stuff off ahead of time as needed.

  6. I don't think there's anything wrong with our auctions, although more people would always be a good thing. There are just potentially better ways to sell that merchandise.

    The primary method of promotion is our paladin club mailing list. 500 people received postcards listing the event.