We were talking in a mentorship forum yesterday about how we decide what to buy. Of course there are metrics, but then I mentioned witchcraft. We use witchcraft. Another mentor chimed in that he too used witchcraft! What is witchcraft?
It's tradecraft really, but not a skill or metric. Witchcraft in this context are the many subjective elements of any given product, a product we have never seen. Here are some of those elements:
- Publisher reputation. How do I feel about them? I like making money, but I'll buy more or less depending on how I feel about the publisher. It's sometimes personal.
- Safety stock. Is this product likely to run out? Am I being told it will run out? I just placed a top up order of Root, because it was clearly the last shipment for the holidays. Is this a top tier product I don't want to run out of? I don't want to be out of anything D&D, for example, so I don't mind ordering beyond my normal threshold. Nobody with cash reserves loses money on Magic overstock; eventually it sells for more than you bought it for ... if you can wait.
- Customer Demand. Do I know of a predicted high demand? Is there buzz? Are there known problems? What are my customers saying? How is game room attendance? I look up every Games Workshop release on Reddit to hear the buzz. Is this a re-packaged boring product? Is it a good value? Are the rules good? Are they crying because they want it, but can't afford it?
Do I Have Room? It was clear in this forum that some of us have reduced our gaming space due to increased inventory. If I order a lot of this product, will I have room? I have a pallet of Frosthaven on the way, but if I had more than one pallet, it would be a space problem.
Frosthaven lands in the US
- Is the Theme Popular or Not? Cat themed games do well at the moment. Political and sports games always do poorly for me. Games with great miniatures often sell, even if the rules are ho hum. What if I was offered Cathaven, a beautiful miniatures game of cat politicians playing baseball? Oh no!
- Is it Devalued? Is the publisher known for discounting their product? Is it a commodity product sold like stocks? Most CCGs are known to be hot or cold before they're even released. A devalued product might still get purchased, but as a one shot. It's disposable. A company like Games Workshop is so good at protecting their brand value, I can always clearance their miniatures and make all my money back, unless it's a book, cards or dice.
|Upcoming Magic: The Brothers' War Set Booster with Commodity Pricing|
- Is It Limited? AEG allows for early retailer release of some of their board games. Some of these games are just alright, but when the Internet is removed from the equation, and I get a true regional demand for a product, I realize that even an alright game will sell very well as an exclusive. A game in which I might normally order two copies, now sees me ordering two cases. Sometimes premium product is a bit of a downer, like a lot of Wizards of the Coast Premium store exclusives. Just because supply is limited, doesn't mean demand is high.
- Is It Already Out? Sometimes you'll find the "new release" already being sold on Amazon or it's a Kickstarter left over. Sometimes distributors will sell a game as new that's actually just a reprint. If it wasn't for boardgamegeek, and past experience, I often wouldn't know! We are a front list driven trade, so old stuff is death.
- Can I Afford It? What does my Open to Buy worksheet say? Some buys, like Kickstarter orders, are only an option when I have disposable income. If you pay in advance, you may not have the cash this week. Q4 doesn't have me backing many Kickstarter projects, as I save to pay off my debt.
- Does It Solve A Problem? I might be looking for a product line. For example, I would love to find a line of miniatures bags that are well priced, well stocked, and always available from distribution. I don't have the volume to order from a dedicated bag company. On the other hand, I don't need another dice manufacturer.
- Packaging. Is it difficult to display? Is it in a tube? Does it come in a plain cardboard box (chess sets). Does it need to be put in a display case? Display cases are the kiss of death and there's limited display case space.
- Theft! There are product lines we don't carry because they attract professional thieves. We'll no longer carry caps, wallets or purses, for example. If you can imagine it on a blanket in front of a train station, I don't want it. And yes, our stolen goods were being sold on a blanket in front of a train station.
- Offensive. Will this cause controversy or do I find it personally offensive? Is it racist, sexist, overly sexual, or otherwise out of step? Some games intentionally try to push buttons, and honestly a lot of people love them. Cards Against Humanity was practically demanded by customers, and we sold nearly 2,000 copies of it. Do I feel good about that? Nope. Do I feel bad enough to give back the $90,000 we made with that line? Nope. Do I cary it now that it has cooled off? Nope.
- End of Life Issues. Can I get rid of it easily at the end of life. If you sell online, are there restrictions on where you can sell it and at what price? Board games are easy to clearance, but Role Playing Games die on the vine.