Iconic Masters released a little over a month ago, much to the consternation of retailers. Now that I've paid that invoice (the check is in the mail), I'm more comfortable talking about it. The problem was mostly about timing, since most of our fiscal years are calendar years and our inventories need to be back to baseline by December 31st. Taking on $20,000 of product that needs to be sold through in six weeks is pretty damn tough. Seeing it sold online at cost by panicked retailers and introduced to mass market also didn't help. But you know what? It's all my fault.
I was reading the book Comic Shop last night. There's a section on alternate covers and the various incentives needed to acquire these alternates, like buying 500 books to get one alternate. There was a lot of hemming and hawing about this, but what struck me was a quote by Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics: "Here's a very simple thing: if you don't like variants, don't buy them." Chuck then goes on to use even more colorful language to describe complainers: "If you don't like them, just shut up. It's not your business. I make money off of them, so shut the fuck up. It's that simple. If you don't like them, don't sell them. This is America, Goaddam it."
Every new product in the market is an opportunity and what you do with that opportunity is up to you. Don't want near monthly Magic: The Gathering sets, as we're expecting in 2018? Don't buy them. But how did this happen?
As a retailer, Magic became boring. It became a turn key product in which I could order more or less exactly what I needed of a new product based on past performance. Although my employees are well versed on each set, as an owner and buyer, it required no work or product knowledge to get the latest widget in stock at the right quantity. As Wizards of the Coast switches things up, Magic is suddenly a lot less boring. I've got to do my due diligence, understand demand and timing and the important question of supply. Problems like the November Surprise of Iconic Masters is all on me. It was a surprise because I was lulled into complacency. I wasn't paying attention.
So my inventory is finally balanced, two weeks before the end of the year. I still have far more Iconic Masters than I would like, a 55 day supply by my estimates. And it definitely meant I went lean on important inventory this holiday season. But it's hard to blame someone else for a botched opportunity. I need to shut the fuck up and either get my ordering right or bow out. I think this will leave a mark on a lot of retailers, a painful bruise, a helpful reminder. There are also those bowing out after the holidays, and I think that's also a valid choice.