I'm back from a whirlwind trip to Wisconsin for ACD Games Day, having left California on Wednesday and returned Friday. I got off the plane in Madison thinking this is just too much effort for such a short show, but then I was overwhelmed with the greenery and the clear skies. It reminded me it has been too long since I've spent time outdoors, having fallen victim to the trap of working too much on my Jeep without taking time to actually use it.
I've only ever visited Madison in spring and summer, the last time being on my cross country road trip in July. It's an allergy free paradise of beautiful scenery, Bavarian levels of great food, and because it's a college town, a lot of youthful energy. I need to visit when it's ten degrees with a foot of snow on the ground. At one point I was planning to sell my house and move to Madison to start my store, but that's a long story. Suffice it to say, it's a fantasy I don't think would have been a mistake.
Having just gone to the GAMA Trade Show a couple months ago, I think I can say the consensus on 2018 is it's a bit cool. There are no must have hits, no great new games everyone is excited about, and the winners tend to be 2017 hold overs or stuff that quickly went out of stock. Magic: Dominaria is a clear hit, but lack of stock has limited success. 2018 appears to be a year when everyone is catching their breath, so I wouldn't describe it as a down year or a bad year, just a more of the same year, but an alarming year if your business is front list driven. Of course, I have this strong confirmation bias as my sales are flat from a spectacular 2017. This has retailers scrambling to look harder at diversification.
ACD Distribution, who is hosting this show, and has diversified heavily into toys, including Hasbro. This is a smart and natural move since Asmodee and others have sought predictability with exclusive distribution outside of ACD. You gotta sell something, as one of the seminars teaches, so toys is one of those areas.
I spoke with the Hasbro rep this week, and with the death of Toys R Us, there's a scramble to fill the hole in the marketplace. He confirmed that Target and Wal Mart are certainly stepping up, but there's plenty of room for independent retailers to fill that gap. It doesn't need to be straight toys though, there's likely room to turn some of those merchandised mass market games, used for decoration. For example, with the discontinuation of the Winning Moves classic Monopoly, I haven't carried the most popular board game in the world for a year or so now. Hasbro can help me there via ACD, and I don't need to buy cases of it.
My own presentations went fine. My Open to Buy and Inventory Management presentation is a nuts and bolts presentation that I know connects with many new store owners trying to get a grip on inventory. My new Finding Your Unique Value Proposition will get some work done on it, as it essentially says what you do now won't be enough for the future, here are examples of how to future proof your business, and thank you for listening, go back to your doomed existence. It needs some action items to help people get from "you're doomed" to "here's how you plan your future."