Friday, December 10, 2021

Why Magic Singles Are Good For Game Stores

There are two sides to every story. Why would you possibly want to spend your life sorting worthless cardboard? There are some good reasons:

Market Differentiation. You have a unique product selection, unlike any of your competitors. Amazon doesn't have your singles. The giant store down the street doesn't have your singles. Your single collection changes all the time, a clear draw to competitive Magic players. A store collection is a unique, dynamic product offering that takes time and energy that makes no sense, the larger the player.

Global Market. Getting an Amazon FBA account set up, or working or an online store shipping, is a major undertaking. Selling singles from your small store on TCGPlayer is super easy. Your little shop, undercapitalized with just you, can be a player with singles online. It's also a catalog where your customers can view first and buy in store. As this gets more involved, you can even buy singles centric point of sales systems to help you manage.

The American Dream. The amount of money you will make selling singles is directly related to your time and knowledge acquired related to this project. It's a massive time sink, but you'll be rewarded. If you're young and without a family, you can devote extreme amounts of time making singles a major source of your income, while your friends are busy developing their careers in other ways. The difference will be how your efforts directly result in income. You can do this with almost no capitalization, meaning you are building something from nothing.

Forced Reinvestment. While your competitor might be squandering their profits on truck parts and trips to Mexico, you are being forced to re-invest in your business. When you put it out there you buy Magic singles, you must buy all the time. It's not unusual to see a small store in a very short period of time with a singles inventory value that rivals many larger stores entire inventory value. So far, singles appear to only go up in value. As long as people play Magic or are interested in collecting, this trend will continue. Eventually, we'll see generational shifts and values will decline, but we haven't seen a hint of that after almost 30 years. If people are playing Magic, they're buying singles.

Margin Equalizer. Sealed Magic product has an awful margin, there's just too much of it printed. Market margins for sealed are around 35%, while you can get higher margins selling singles. When I sold singles, it seemed we were getting around a 45-50% margin, which makes up for the poor sealed product margin. Magic singles rounds out the bad margin of sealed product, providing a margin that a store can not just survive on, but prosper.

Community Draw. People tend to buy where they play, and they play where they can find the product they need. Magic players, especially competitive ones, need singles. If you're a tournament oriented shop, you must have Magic singles. You probably have the interest and the staff knowledge, so engage. 

Narrower Focus. Because your money is tied up in singles, you will likely not have to deal with the nonsense that comes with certain parts of this trade, like the churn and burn board game market, or the idiosyncratic RPG market. You probably won't need to worry too much about why there's another Space Marine codex after just three years. Your forced reinvestment into singles will take up a lot of your inventory dollars, and let it. Diversification is fine for large stores, but smaller stores need to focus to survive. If you grow larger, you can play in other sandboxes, but for now, focus on CCGs, singles, supplies, snacks and seats. It's a valid model for the undercapitalized.

Fungible Assets. Cards are cards. You can avoid costly buys by trading cards. You can trade to your hearts content, without creating an expensive paper trail of cash transactions. As I've mentioned, my singles weren't even insured as inventory, but as "fine art." How much are your 1,000,000 commons worth at the end of the year? Something? Nothing? You decide. They're worth what people are will pay for them, and nobody has asked to look in a long time. I'm not saying break the law, but I am saying there's some slippery ways you can horse trade that you can't do with standard inventory.

Give Your Finger to the Man. Distributor margins got you down? Publishers raising your costs without raising MSRP? Wizards of the Coast demanding monthly reports? Naw dog, you're in the secondary market now. You keep that primary market nonsense far from me. You buy from customers. You support the community and the community supports you. Power to the people.

Building the Perfect System. The true card wizards have a system of buying, sorting, pricing, tracking and selling cards. Their system includes training and delegation so that others can do the same. This is their secret sauce. You also have the opportunity to craft a singles system, bodge together good ideas, and come up with a plan that works best for your needs. Get a bunch of experienced retailers in a room, and they'll be talking about their sauce, comparing spices. It's not one size fits all, and you can't just install a system. That's job security. A system is hand crafted, bespoke. If you like the idea of making something from nothing and crafting systems to optimize your empire, selling Magic singles is going to be a dream come true.

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