Yesterday marked our best sales day ever, with a record crowd for the Ding & Dent auction. Most just grabbed giant stacks of bargains from the "buy it now" tables and left, but the live auction went well too. What I found interesting was that the auction was only half the story. It would have been a great sales day regardless, as customers not knowing about the auction came in and spent money. Monsterpocalypse was the big surprise. We sold out most of our stock and had a couple tables going in the back. We've got more arriving on Monday. I worked the counter, sometimes with long lines, and some can attest I looked like a deer in the headlights through some of this. Sorry about the lines; that's my biggest concern about improving the efficiency of this process, especially for the customers who popped in to buy one thing.
The in-store trend over the last few weeks is that customers are more cautious with their money. They're carefully assessing the value of game purchases, some, I think, for the first time. They aren't necessarily spending less money, just spending it differently, trying to get the most value from it. That add-on purchase of a pack or two of Magic cards has dried up, while at the same time some accessories are "trade downs" from more expensive, marginal products that they might have been bought out of hand in the past.
It's like how gourmet foods at supermarkets are doing well right now, because customers have traded down from restaurants. Gamers do their own trading down and the big winners are dice and paint. Role players don't pick up the latest book just because it's interesting, it has to be useful. As they're more selective and have a shrinking budget, they trade down to stuff like dice and maybe a handful of pre-painted miniatures. Miniature players don't add to their shelf of unpainted lead, just because of a new release, they buy paint and supplies to paint those models they bought for a rainy day. It's pouring out there. There's no surer things in game stores right now than dice and paint.
The quote I posted earlier in the week mentions "cocooning," when people stay home and entrench. This is what I started doing when the gas prices soared. I went to work, spent time with the family, tried to drive one less day a week, and rather than going out a lot, we cooked at home and worked on our hobbies (building railroads, painting models, etc). I think game room attendance is up a bit related to this concept, and the increased sales seem to show there is more active gaming going on outside the store. This has the added effect of increasing the value of a game. The more people that play it, the more valuable (useful) it becomes. It's kind of like the Network Effect. Get enough of the network effect going on, and you'll see the Bandwagon Effect, which every gamer can identify.