My thoughts lately are that if there is no holiday season, there should be no "dead" first quarter for small retailers like me. If customers don't tap themselves out in December, then January should look fairly normal, minus a lot of new releases. This sales smoothing is just a theory. We're building our calendar with this in mind. If we're wrong, we'll just have a lot of sparsely attended evens. The "normal" January theory is the upside to predictions of a very dismal December. I can handle a dead holiday season if I the first quarter doesn't come along with it.
I'm not really expecting anything that bad. I'm expecting a reduction in sales of around 10% from the year before. It would be disappointing, of course, but not the end of the world. We're just working hard to capture more of the existing sales out there. The easiest thing to do is to attempt to get holiday list items bought from us moved higher up the list. Most parents, for example, don't walk into a store and ask for everything on a shopping list. They ask for a few items, usually based on price and list priority. Our shopping list program is an attempt to get more items on a list highlighted or even be the only shopping list (parents rarely go for that). A store holiday list with a bonus attached also emphasizes that a game should be purchased at our store, not just any store. I've had kids who think buying a game at a competing store is still a win for me, as if "games" is just one big company.
The other, much harder task is to bring in new customers. We're focusing on a toy sale, clearing out our toy section. Most game stores shouldn't do this, as it won't make them any money and they simply don't need to have a sale unless they want to dump product. For a normal marketing campaign, what has gelled in my mind is to emphasize to regular people, the great value in our games. A family board game, for example, is a traditional, social activity with far great value than other family activities, such as going to the movies, or even a video game. That's it in a nutshell, and it worked for Monopoly during the depression. If you're worried about price points of the typical $50 Euro game, remember that Monopoly was no bargain in the thirties. Remember that the big value competition with board games comes from television and games like the Wii. Stress the traditional and social elements to playing a board game.
Here's a list of those kinds of board games we've been playing in the store this Winter, created by Joe Baptist.