Monday, December 6, 2021

Oh... Jigsaw Puzzles

How I want your cut up pretty pictures that take no effort to sell to work for me. It's a picture. In a box. Do you like the picture? Is the difficulty level hard enough for you? Excellent! Oh my god what a simple thing to sell, rather than thousands of boxes of things that need explanation.

Oh, you're a puzzler. You require puzzles of a particular quality, preferably a highly ranked one? I have Neuschwanstein Castle, but it's not from the brand you prefer? Here, let me buy another shelf to house all of those. Eventually I'll get this right.

The bottom line of any inventory, is you want performance. Things must sell quickly. Puzzles are high hanging fruit. Puzzles are what you buy when you feel like you have all the games fit to sell. There are exceptions. If you sell a lot of toys, cater to a "muggle" clientele, or your store is in a touristy or super transient area, you may discover puzzles work great. Maybe you have snowbound customers that don't really like games. 

For the rest of us, puzzles are a final destination of dollars. Puzzle sell slowly, require depth and breadth of stock, and right now, you can't get the right ones. Puzzles sell like less popular dice, requiring a pyramid of junk to get average turns on Neuschwanstein Castle. Let's take a look:

Brand is everything for the puzzler. Ravensburger is the dominant player in puzzles. If you can't get Ravensburger, I would argue you're chewing around the edges, trying to make puzzles work without the dominant player. It's like selling role playing games without Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, I would argue if you aren't already selling puzzles, you wait until Ravensburger can fulfill orders in a reasonable fashion. 

There are brands that a puzzle selling store owner will rush in to tell me are sure things. I've listened to them. They're wrong. A sure thing in one region of the country, is "some weird brand" in another. Ravensburger is the only sure thing. Ravensburger may dominate, but there is plenty of room for small players. We have tried many of those brands on advice of others, and I can tell you some of them even work in other stores nearby, but not ours. 

Puzzle size is important. The undisputed champion of puzzle sizes is 1,000 pieces. There's a Bell Curve, with 1,000 pieces at the top and everything else falling away on each side. 500 pieces are generally catering to children and the nearly blind (I'm moving into that category). 2,000 pieces are challenging but not unreasonable. There will always be that knucklehead who insists on a bajillion piece puzzles, and if you buy it, you will sell it in a year or two or five. I once offered a 64,000 piece giant puzzle to anyone who could walk down the street with it held over their head. If I were buying puzzles fresh, I would buy every 1,000 piece puzzle and then some on each side of that.

The puzzle rush is over. If you had heard people were going nuts with puzzles during lockdown, you were right, but as things return to normal (which varies in each region), puzzle sales have flattened out. I'm not saying don't buy puzzles, but when we talk about inventory metrics, you are likely to be disappointed with puzzles, unless you have extenuating circumstances in your favor. 

Finally, puzzles is a long game. You build up clientele over many years. You don't treat puzzles seasonally, even though they sell seasonally. You stock well year round. You listen to your customers and bring in the brands they want. You use your metrics and drop the ones that don't work. 

Fun fact, unlike games, nobody will buy a puzzle they don't want at any price. Liquidating puzzles is death. I stole the idea of putting them in blind bags. Mystery puzzles sold at cost will move puzzles. But nobody will buy that puzzle on clearance, if they know what it is. You can safely avoid puzzles, or at least save them for last, where they reside in my sales reports.

No comments:

Post a Comment