Friday, November 21, 2008

Retail Holiday

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.


  1. That's a great list!

    Having said that, I have to admit to being a bit surprised that there aren't more new games on there. Leaving out Battlestar Galactica, the only ones there that we weren't playing regularly back in 2007 are Thebes and Alhambra, and they were both around, we just hadn't played them yet.

    I'm not sure if that says more about the staying power of a good boardgame, or the weakness of the past year's releases.

  2. I think the list tends towards entry level games, and most of the hot games this year have been for hobbyists. Some of the best sellers that are highly regarded:

    Pandemic (played often)
    Agricola (played)
    Race for the Galaxy (not played)
    Galaxy Trucker (not played)
    Dominion (not played)
    Mr. Jack (not played)
    Senji (not played)

  3. Agricola, Felix, and Pandemic are some of the games that would be on the list if they were in print and available.

  4. Also, the list focus was on value for money as well as entry level.
    The first page only has games under $40...

    But quality and availability were the primary considerations.

  5. I played Mr. Jack with Joe and was not impressed with the game.

  6. I also wasn't that impressed with Galactica. For a cooperative game, I like Pandemic or Shadows Over Camelot.

  7. If you are pushing to get the muggles into the store for your toy sale, you may want to put more intro games on display when they come in - Ticket to Ride, Guillotine, Settlers, Zooloretto, etc. rather than the new releases you usually put on the center display. I can just see some of them walking in now and scratching their heads at some of the new releases.

  8. "Agricola, Felix, and Pandemic are some of the games that would be on the list if they were in print and available."

    All three should be back within the next few weeks.

    I preferred the game play of Pandemic over BSG by quite a bit, but I think the BSG is a great fan game. You might get people into the BSG board game solely on their appreciation of the series, regardless of their board gaming interests.

    As for the muggles, they need a lot of hand selling during the holidays. All the Euro games are confusing to them without a personal introduction. My plans for holiday help wasn't about extra customers, it was about giving me the time to hand-sell. Now that the holiday season is looking dismal, I'll be going solo.

    Joe's list and any other shelf talkers or customer assistance tools should help the undecided figure out what they want. It doesn't convince them that a board game is what they need though, that's a sales persons job.

  9. ""Agricola, Felix, and Pandemic are some of the games that would be on the list if they were in print and available."

    All three should be back within the next few weeks."

    If someone could give me a shout when they come in I'd appreciate it. I already have Felix, but the other two pretty much are my 'to buy' list for board games right now.

  10. You can sate your Agricola need for now by playing the JAVA version posted on BGG. It is pretty good. I played it a bunch and Robert really liked it for working out various strategies in the game.

  11. When we were playing a lot of Pandemic, and had several players in each game that were able to use optimal setup and tactics, it had become a bit less interesting, and I had joined in discussions on BGG about how to introduce some form of human competition into the game. I think that BSG does that very well (even if the human competition is actually a "frakkin toaster").
    The second loyalty card at mid-game does a great deal to help overcome the problem of keeping yourself hidden as a traitor - and fits very well with some of the events/themes of the series, where there are sleeper agents who are unaware that they are Cylons until the are activated. In a multi-Cylon game, it also leaves some doubt in everyone's mind about loyalties - and allows a Cylon player to wonder whether or not they are alone.

    Some things that I think are important to the game:
    * Distractions - it doesn't help game play if you are in a loud room where it will be hard to hear the other players.
    * Tempo - if you want to get the feel of the series - the paranoia and creeping stress - then the game needs to be played at a snappy tempo. This may be difficult with new players.