Friday, November 4, 2011

Blowing Bubbles

There are two types of periods when I delve heavily into our numbers, when things are down and when things are up, really up. We're thankfully in that "really up" period where our annual sales have skyrocketed. This is always worrying, because when sales are down, it's natural to tighten your belt, cut costs and act smarter. That is almost always the right thing to do anyway.

However, strong sales, really strong sales, are dangerous as it leads to stupid behavior. Really strong sales encourage structural changes, like expansion, new hiring, taking on debt, and the kind of stuff you regret later when you realize you were experiencing a bubble. We are in a bubble now.

CCGs this year have propelled our sales up 30%. A new store, lesser experienced store owner or prospective store owner might find this very exciting and could be tempted to make bad decisions. You might be inclined to start a new store to capitalize on this huge trend, which is obvious for everyone to see. Heck, we're looking to use the extra money to make some structural changes ourselves, but the thought is this is temporary, providing an opportunity to better position ourselves in the future, rather than the expectation that sales will continue to rise like this. Like the stock market, by the time you usually spot a trend, the opportunity to capitalize on it has probably passed.

What we see instead is slow and steady growth of around 6%, when you flatten CCGs and their supplies. D&D is on the ropes, 40K hasn't seen a new release in 6-months and it's a down year for board games. My holiday forecast is flat unless CCGs come to the rescue again. That 6% is still respectable retail growth but certainly doesn't call for big changes. Certainly stock better for the CCG crowd, buy some new tables and chairs, pay down debt and maybe even pick up some new fixtures or other needed things for the store, but my advice, if you're seeing what I'm seeing, is consider it temporary.

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