Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Sale

Here is my take on having sales in the store:

  1. Universal sales are bad things unless you're going out of business or have some grander scheme in mind. We'll occasionally have a universal sale for a special event, perhaps 20% off a product line or even the entire store, but I never advertise this, as I want to reward those who came to the event and prevent customers from planning to shop the sale. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it's true that with enough sales, you can train customers to only shop sales. Brick and mortar game stores must have close to full margin to survive.
  2. Liquidate. When I put something on sale, it's for one purpose only: to get rid of it. I don't believe in sales to "move" merchandise or create some sort of incentive. I may bundle product, but again, only to get rid of it as opposed to some scheme to get people into a game. My sole goal is liquidation. I call this my "big hammer," because it's the only tool in my sales toolbox.
  3. Strike hard and fast. I discount the liquidated item deeply, but never below cost. Yes, I might be able to sell an item for a lesser discount over time, perhaps in multiple venues (in-store, auction, convention, online), but the goal is to move out that product now. At a deep discount, you also prevent people for waiting for an item to go on sale deeper. If you're quick, you can also avoid items languishing on-sale, which encourages customers to wait for regular items to go on sale. Getting back your cost is a second chance. Selling below cost is like ketosis when dieting, when you're body starts eating itself.
  4. The vulture. There will always be people who shop only the sale. They are not bad people and they are not to be avoided. Like the vulture or other scavenger in nature, they play an important role in your retail ecosystem. Encourage them. Learn more about them. Maybe even get their contact information so you can tell them when a sale is happening. Some will drive long distances for a sale or to see a used section. Reward them with regular offerings. Their money is your fertilizer to grow more sales.
  5. The Wheel Keeps Turning. Absolutely everything will eventually be discontinued and may end up in the clearance section. Nothing is sacred. If you're lucky, you'll sell the last one at full price and not re-order it. If a customer wants to wait for an item to make it to clearance, great, but they better be quick because it won't be there long.
  6. Online and eBay. For me these are last resorts because they are immensely time consuming and almost always pay me below cost. However, I'm much more willing to sell things below cost online than in the store. Go figure. Perhaps I want to keep my mistakes private.
The bottom line for me: Keep the inventory fresh. Always have money to buy new things. Always at least get your money back on product you buy. Money is made in the buying, not the selling. A monkey can sell, but it takes experience and insight to buy. It's far, far better to be understocked than overstocked.


  1. You also need to implement the other common rule about items sold at a discount (i.e. "sale" items) - and that is that they can't be returned (unless they are defective).

  2. It's not a bad rule, but it hasn't been a problem. The only time returns bug me in January, since most gamers rarely return things.

  3. Even if we can't use them as-is, we can break them down for parts, or just file the serial numbers off.