Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Store You Want vs. The Store You Have

The big tension lately has been accepting the kind of store I have, versus the kind of store I want. There are certain product lines that I lust after that I wish I could sell, because I personally like them. A wider selection of role-playing games and miniatures comes to mind. Problems of personal lust I can deal with. The real trouble begins when your vision of your store doesn't match up with your clientele. You think your store should be one way, but it is ultimately another. For me this is exemplified in two extremes: the young and the old.

I would like to have a store that has an excellent selection of children's games, including games from fun, independent game manufacturers; stuff by Gamewright and solid educational products. Unfortunately, that doesn't match my customer base. You can stock these things, maybe advertise a little, entice the mom crowd, but if you aren't in the right location or perhaps have too many contrasting products (count the number of signs that have the word "war" in our store), that dog will not hunt. Trying to build the store I want, means I buy these things anyway, end up with lackluster sales, and outages of what does work because I'm always cutting back on what doesn't from certain manufacturers. What I want also becomes a resource hog, taking away from what I have. Every kids game that sits on the shelf for a year without selling is worth four sales of a popular Warhammer model or D&D book.

The same is true with war games. I recently dumped the majority of our GMT games. They're in the clearance section. They haven't sold at all at the new location, for the most part. I can pretend I sell war games, wish I had enough war game customers to sell them sucessfully and chase the new, popular titles, but eventually I have to accept the store I have. It doesn't mean you close that door forever, but being stubborn and accepting under performing inventory aimed at non-existent customers is folly. I'm also trying hard to carry a reasonable selection of classic games, including bridge, but there doesn't seem to be a critical mass for a lot of these.

The poor economy is actually a training tool of sorts. If you pay attention, there are plenty of lessons about how large stores are better managing their inventory. There's a sense that only the clever, those who develop good processes, will survive the recession, which I expect will continue through 2010. Those who may have started their store as a light, easy, hobby of a job, a lifestyle choice, are frantically trying to ramp up their learning curve for survival. No day job or unemployment benefits await a failed store owner.