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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thoughts, Part 4

I think it's time to step off the topical work and continue my anthology of general observations from within the industry and DSG.

It's surreal to have the Summer Olympics on the store TVs, since the last time that was the case was the week the store opened in 2012.  We got to have the Snow-Covered Corruption Olympics back in early 2014, but most Arizonans are only marginally interested in winter sports, and I was in rough shape at that point, occupied by my day job while DSG struggled.  Not so back during the London Games, which evoked memories of the excitement and untapped potential of the business during its nascent hours.  (Tokyo 2020 is going to be about the coolest Olympics ever, worth trying to travel in my opinion.)

In fact, the entire anniversary week has been a nostalgia bath for me.  For the store's 4th Anniversary, I gave our Game Day participants each a free booster pack of Eternal Masters, and other tournaments going on over the weekend got similar freebies: Android: Netrunner players got to pick any Data Pack, and HeroClix players got a free extra tournament booster for their storyline event.  No advertising, no warning, I didn't want grinders coming across town to play just so they could poach the highest EV Game Day in local history.  I wanted to give a special treat in gratitude only to the players who had already chosen to play at DSG.  I like to do that sort of thing once in a while.  I try to mix it up and make it rare and random, and I seize upon things like big events at other stores as a good indicator that anyone in my shop that day is probably truly part of our player community.

I don't get to play enough games, but games that I have learned recently and enjoyed include Costa Rica, Castle Panic, and the new Empires expansion for Dominion.  I turned to some video game fun the other night, only to discover that my son had ruined my Rock Band 3 game disc.  I looked up my inventory at the store, thinking, "Hey, maybe, right?"  Nope.  Played some Beatles Rock Band with the girls instead.  They aren't fans, they know the rest of classic rock better than they know the music of the Fab Four.

Wallet Fatigue is real for Magic: the Gathering.  Eldritch Moon is actually a pretty decent set of cards, especially for Standard, but the player base just can't keep up with the purchasing tempo for this year.  Pre-orders were down, and now pre-orders for Conspiracy: Take the Crown are close to nonexistent.  A nice spicy spoiler would help.  Kaya isn't it.  Inquisition of Kozilek... partial credit.  A fair showing of casual-relevant stuff in the early spoilers.  Kaladesh in late September should be gigantic, but oh man, I hope it has the legs that Battle for Zendikar didn't.

We kind of knew right away, and they aren't finished really tucking in and doing the heavy lifting of deep enforcement, but the Asmodee/Fantasy Flight/Days of Wonder etc online ban is doing a pretty good job of preventing product dumping across those game titles.  In the aftermath of Black Friday, I know I was not the only retailer teetering close to cutting them loose, conceding to the reality that they appeared content seeing $100 titles perpetually available for $52.95 online.  As I type this, the biggest $100 marquee title of the month, Mansions of Madness, is available on Amazon for $95.20, a scorching 4.8% discount.  That's parity.  Retailers can compete in that ballpark.  We don't need the restriction to be near-absolute like it is with Apple or PING or LEGO.  It just had to be a bit tougher for garage resellers to source product to earn their pittance.

More workflow than an outsider thinks is devoted to moving merchandise into place.  For new product, it's the endless weekly litany of breaking down orders, entering them into the system, tagging, and deploying.  For used items it's more labor-intensive, which is yet another reason why stores dealing in any used goods buy as low as they do.  For example, for video game systems, there is now generally a need to restore the system to factory contents because of jerkwads leaving porn on the hard drives or camera saves, and we can't be selling that stuff to some kid and have an angry mom come back.  In more mundane triage, a lot of video game gear is dirty and needs cleaning, removal of corroded batteries, sometimes new amaray cases, and so on.  For cards there is the well known deployment of pick bins, penny sleeves, dividers, and the grading and entry process by and through.  I also buy used CMGs such as HeroClix and Dice Masters, and by no accident at all, almost none are yet available because I haven't gotten as far as to build their storage and define their triage processes.  I am grateful that my staff ran with the football of processing used Warhammer buys.

There is little in this business that makes me happier than putting a standard-issue item out for sale and having it get bought within hours or even minutes.  I know that probably means I under-ordered on it, but that's a great problem to have.  I tend to order in minimum quantities of two for anything that I expect could get re-ordered.  This is because you get far better data from when it sells.  If I stock one copy of Knights and Jello: The Board Game and it sells three days later, is it a hit?  Did I just get lucky and catch the one guy in town who would have wanted one?  Should I restock?  A lot of board game and RPG products are one-and-done.   Did it sell faster than expected or slower than expected?  I don't know!  But if I ordered TWO copies of Knights and Jello and one of them sold on release day and the other one sold a month later, now I have information!  The game is not a hit, and my shelf stock level for KaJ is going to be one... or zero.  Whereas if both copies sold the first week, that stock level is going to be at least one and might be two.  If both copies sold the first day, I might re-order a case.  If the game is that hot, I might already be too late to get more until it gets its next print wave finished.

I appear to have crossed some kind of event horizon where I am known about in the commercial real estate community, because not once but twice in the past week I have been contacted by property managers with space available and competitive rent rates.  I have to do my diligence on these, it's irresponsible toward my investors if I don't.  But neither of them was a location I had scouted.  Hey, with the right set of numbers, anything is possible.

That's about it for this installment.  Thoughts, Part 5 will be along an indeterminate amount of time in the future!  The Backstage Pass will of course return every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Arizona time.

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