Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Twelve Reasons Why Things Don't Sell

I was brainstorming on why things don't sell. I'm not stressing about it, it's just one of those undefined, nebulous areas in retail.
  1. They don't want it. An obvious answer. It might not interest them, but it might also lack quality. Many good RPG books have poor artwork that turns off a lot of people.
  2. They already have it. It might be a great product, but they might have bought it online. They might have forsworn print products for PDF. They may have bought it at a convention or received it as a gift.
  3. It's damaged. It might be shelfworn. Parts might look damaged. Some miniatures have flash that the uninitiated consider to be damage. Bent weapons are treated the same way.
  4. It's too expensive. Many games can't be sold at any price, but many games start to zip off the discount shelves when the price is reduced. Good games, priced wrong, eventually move.
  5. They can't afford it. Oh, the many things I wanted for D&D when I was 12.
  6. It's sequentially undesirable. It might be book two, while book one is out of print. Many RPG systems will grind to a halt when the core book is missing.
  7. It's an old version. Old RPG books might still have value, while old codices for miniature games tend to have little to offer.
  8. Market saturation. You've simply sold the item to everyone who could possibly want one in your area. This is why conventions are such great venues for remainder product.
  9. Undesirable color. Yellow and brown dice, orange card sleeves, and certain shades of paint sell poorly. We have some shades of paint that are very close to another shade that have sold maybe one a year, compared to 3-4 of the popular shade.
  10. They can't find it! A great way to boost sales without buying inventory is to re-arrange the shelves. Games that are faced, sell better than games that are spine out. Rotate the faced games and sales might increase. Also, there's always a couple of areas of the store that are ghettoized, sub-optimal places for shopping.
  11. Staff issues. The game is great, the price is right, the staff treated the customer poorly.
  12. Environment. The store is dark, smelly, crowded with people or product. The music is too loud or just the wrong music. The other customers are intimidating or obnoxious.
Can you think of any more?


  1. Great post, love reading your thoughts on this.

    I'm racking my brains trying to think of some more like you've asked:

    It probably comes under Environment, really, but how about this: the store itself can be in the wrong location (e.g. I suspect bookstores near a supermarket take a hit on their sales of titles heavily promoted/discounted in the supermarket).

    And also the packaging might be fine, but ill-fitting - you've already mentioned rubbish artwork on RPG books, but perfectly lovely covers won't shift a book if its wrong for the book - e.g. if a new literary novel, which happens to be written by female author, is marketed as pastel-coloured chick lit.

    As an example of the difference a cover can make, I'd point out the difference in the UK hardback and paperback of Glenny's McMafia. Big difference in visual impact and (as far as I'm aware)sales: http://tinyurl.com/dkllhv

    I'll be back if I think of more!

    Also: kudos on the term 'sequentially undesirable'. Neat way of expressing it.

  2. One factor that keeps me from buying games/rpgs/etc is:

    "Looks great to me, but will anyone else play it?"

    Or put more generally, until a game reaches a critical mass of interest, you might not want to put down the cash for something you'll never play.

  3. That's a good one.

    One factor that blew my mind was the estimated number of RPGs we sell in which the customer never intends to play the game. We think it's about half. When the economy sours, these are the purchases that take the hit.

  4. Last time I bought an RPG (as opposed to a supplement) I figured I was never going to play or run it, just take feel and fluff as inspiration.

  5. One good reason to quantify why things don't sell is to beat the client objections. It's classic sales 101 (or maybe 201, 101 is "Smile."). In other words, client shows resistance in some area. Sales person needs to be able to counter the resistance point with some strategy, and then try to close the sale.

    For instance "sequentially undesirable". Sales staff can say - hey, we always get in OOP RPG in our used section - can I put it aside for you when it comes in?

    Overpricing is easy resistance to beat, if people will want it at a cheaper price - say lame color dice etc.

    Findability, staff and environment are easy too, since that's something you can pro-actively change (as opposed to a client resistance - you are then reacting, which is tougher).

    In other words, while you said you weren't stressing about it, your list is very informative. Since I know you are a great retailer, I'm assuming you are going to look at all your slow selling stuff, and assign it at least one of the 10 categories you have listed there (items 11 and 12 don't apply to an item specifically). Then apply strategies to beat your client resistance (reprice, move, clean, fix, etc).

    Good stuff Gary.

  6. Kudos from me as well on "sequentially undesirable." This has probably caused me to pass up more purchases than any other of your factors, especially on RPG lines and book series.

    I used to think it was lazy or stupid store managers, but now I realize that it's often that the missing book is out of print from the publisher.

    Of course, today it's also often possible to find that out of print book online if you really want it, but if I'm going to go to all the trouble to get book 1 online, then I'm probably going to just go ahead and get book 2 from the same source...

  7. I have to say that RPG publishers have done a much better job over the years in keeping their core book in stock. Of course, there are one or two exceptions.

    I think it might be fun to find 12 examples of these problems in the store. Maybe one a day.

  8. Let me help you out with your list...

    #4 It's too expensive.

    Yeah, I’m talking to you, Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear…

    A game that I really want, but just can't justify paying for - especially since I don't get many two player wargames onto the table these days.