Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Long Game

It's hard to talk about how well the store is doing without throwing in a bunch of caveats. It's still Summer. New releases are particularly hot right now (unless you like RPGs). We're coming off a dry spell. News reports of the economy have put people in a buying mood (at least for us). Even convention sales seemed back in the normal range. In general, we're seeing the kind of sales I was predicting before we moved. In other words, really good sales. All I have are predictions, because the history of the new store is a history of running a business in a recession. Then again, all of my predictions are based on a booming economy. Someday we'll find a new normal.

The recession appears to be over in the minds of many of our customers. For the first time in many months were getting new players starting armies for Warhammer. Card gamers are buying multiple boxes of cards rather than a few packs here and there. In general, the purse strings are a little looser. Things appear to be returning to normal. Normal will no longer be rampant credit card debt and home equity lines of credit, but it's unclear how much of our growth and prosperity was based on those macro factors. It seems like not that much.

One of my business partners thinks about 12% of US consumption was based on overspending. The last issue of The Economist thinks it's much higher, and that we still risk a Japanese style malaise. It's easy to read the news and extrapolate that what happens to JC Penny and Macy's will happen to us. However, in the specialty retail world, it just doesn't track. It's a little bit like the job market. The unemployment rate may be high, but you only need one job (hopefully).

I won't be buying any new cars or throwing big parties (although you should come to our 5th year anniversary part on October 25th). For the most part, this spurt in prosperity is about getting back on a sound financial footing. One bad month in retail can take many good months to fix. It's probably another reason why you'll see a slower recovery overall. There are a lot of creaky businesses out there, and as I've said before, as the job market heats up later on, a lot of small business owners will flee to the relative safety of a regular paycheck and employer subsidized health care.

We've also invested a bit back in the store lately, with new terrain cabinets and a singles table for collectible cards. We're looking at what we're trying to accomplish and trying to build off that. I would rather do something better than do something new. Ikea is likely to be the big beneficiary rather than some game company. The end goal for a small store like ours is to stay out of debt during the year and try to book a modest profit during the holidays. With the help of our loyal customer base, we seem to be on track.