Saturday, July 25, 2009


Any monkey with a computer could do turn rate analysis for their store. You figure out how many times an item or category has sold in a year, you cut what doesn't perform to your liking. It's a no brainer (although few do it). What's really hard, and what I've just now, after five years, started managing, is what I call everbrown product.

Evergreen product is the stuff that will absolutely, no matter what, always sell. Black spray primer, the D&D Player's Handbook, Warhammer 40K starter set, Settlers of Catan. If you need a few bucks to push an order into free freight territory (minimum order for free shipping), these are your palls. Having an extra one on the shelf is not a hardship. Besides evergreen product, there's regular stuff that's either new, or has a proven track record. This makes up the vast majority of an order. Everbrown, as I call it, does not perform to expectations, but will always sell, eventually. Many, many classic hobby games fit into this category, and when someone complains about a good game store gone bad, it's usually when they lack the customers favorite everbrown.

I numbers guy like myself might dump everbrown. It doesn't perform, right? It hasn't hit its numbers. Yet, it's kind of like an older employee who might have slowed down a bit, but is a font of knowledge. He's a resource, a touchstone for older clients. He knows things. He adds gravitas to the organization. Games that are everbrown are classic hobby games that deserve to stick around a bit longer because they offer this kind of completeness to the picture. My everbrowns include a lot of Avalon Hill titles, games like Poison by Knizia, and an awful lot of Fantasy Flight Games. In the role-playing world it might include core books for marginal games.

The key to these games, I've been told, is to rotate them. Rotation is a horrible, wretched concept for a numbers guy. Rotation is somewhat subjective. Rotation means I let something sit out for six months or so, and then I bring it back in. I prefer to lock in a product; it's either good or bad. A really clever point of sale machine would have rotation as an option, but it doesn't. Instead, the purchaser needs to decide when to throw some money at the grey haired product, perhaps forming a pool of money for old codgers that deserve another chance. It's like social security for hobby games. Rotation is hard. Rotation also means when someone calls to ask if we carry a game, we have to check. Rotation is uncertainty, which can drive someone like me a bit mad.

I don't want to call it art, versus the science of product analysis. It's more what they call tradecraft, the information and processes you learn in your trade. Now if I could just find a system to transform that craft into science.