Saturday, October 1, 2011

Other and the Illusion of Choice

Small publishers ask me how they factor into our sales numbers. The truth is no individual small publisher ranks when these pretty charts are put together. Another truth, which on the surface seems contrary to the first, is that as a whole, small publishers of all kinds of games are vitally important to us. The chart above lists our top 12 individual publishers with the highest gross profit. The Other category, for the remaining publishers, is still nearly a third of all our RPG sales. Other is worth quite a bit of money. Other is more than our Dungeons & Dragons sales and ranks number two overall. 

Other is a lot of work, and definitely falls into the category of "ass pain." However, as has been pointed out before, this is the kind of ass pain that we signed up for. It's the service we provide to a number of our customers who call weekly looking to hunt down something they found online. Usually we get it for them. Usually it's Other. Also, nobody can compete in the brick & mortar space with our Other. They would be foolish to try.

Most Other books sell slowly. Most are one-shots, special orders or are unobtainable after initial release. Quite a few honestly never quite sell at all, ending up on our clearance shelves for long stretches of time. Still, they're important to the RPG ecosystem.Our RPG turns overall are at five. This means, every single book in the RPG section sells an average of five times a year. That's extraordinarily good, as healthy is around three. Sure, books like the Pathfinder Core Rulebook sell 90 copies a year and skew the numbers, but by managing the ecosystem, a retail store can accept some one-turn items, and quite a few one-shot risks. A lot of times there's just the illusion of choice which drives sales. What, illusion of choice?

For example of the illusion of choice, I carefully tracked dice sales for a year, pruning the ones that sold poorly. This is good inventory management, right? You keep the wheat and ditch the chaff. So what happened? All dice sales slowed significantly. How can this be? The same good selling dice were still there. Why would sales go down? It's the illusion of choice. You think you're being original when you pick the one in one hundred dice set, even if the reality is that people really only ever choose twenty five of those sets. The same is true with other departments. The illusion of a thriving role-playing section establishes in a customers mind that you have a respectable selection. You are showing them respect by offering choice. Then they walk over and buy the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment