Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Law of Six Dudes (Tradecraft)

I love miniature games. I love everything about them, the beautiful sculpts, the creativity in painting, thinking up various ways to trounce my foes. Because I love them, I want to carry all of them. However, not every store is cut out for this, or more accurately not every demographic is capable of supporting this. I've discovered The Law of Six Dudes.

The Law of Six Dudes says I may sell a ton of starter sets for any given miniature game, but there will be a limited number of customers who engage with that game beyond that initial surge. It's six dudes. They're not all dudes, and the number six is my arbitrary number. It's not really a law, more a rule of thumb, but you get my gist.

So what do you do when faced with the Law of Six Dudes? This comes down to your very retail philosophy. Do you demo games, run events, and promote these games to break the Law of Six Dudes? You can spend an infinite amount of energy attempting to create a community where there is none. You may get some of those starter set people to re-engage and you'll suddenly have Eight Dudes, or Ten Dudes. That's an awful lot of work for not a lot of return. Is that your job as a retailer?

You may decide to drop miniatures entirely. Certainly no reasonable mass market retailer would continue supporting a product line that appealed to Six Dudes. But we're specialty retail. We're where you go where everybody knows your name. I've carried RPG product lines for over a decade for TWO dudes. The problem is miniature games are really expensive to carry. The opportunity cost to carry a wall of plastic (once lead) for the potential for a Seventh Dude is far higher than one of each book in the RPG department. It would not be unreasonable to declare your store not a miniatures store and stop letting your love of pretty models get in your way. That's not unreasonable at all.

Our solution has been one of accommodation. I accept that there may be but one successful miniature game, and thouest name is Warhammer 40K. However, I also accept that there are strategies to accommodate those six dudes. This means miniature product is carefully curated and cycled through. When the six dudes have had their fill, I don't wait for dude seven to wander in. We also don't clog our event nights with these six dudes, but instead have a catch-all day where all the army men from the beginning of time can be fielded. We've dabbled with nearly every major miniature game over the last 14 years, and you may play them all on Sunday.

Accept your Law of Six Dudes. You are not all things to all people. If you can grow beyond the six, that's great. If you wish to declare you are really not a miniatures store, and drop them entirely, that is perfectly fine and reflects your wisdom not your foolishness. If you want to accommodate as we've done with a curated experience, that's a potentially profitable position that makes most (but not all) customers happy. What you really don't want to do, and I did it for years, is delude yourself about your demographics and your position in the market. It's a painful way to lose money, catering to six dudes, pretending there may be twelve or a hundred. It ties up capital, makes you sad, and shows everyone you're the fool.

The upside of the Fool is it's the card of renewal and new beginnings. 
Start embracing The Law of Six Dudes with a clearance sale.

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