Long ago he set the ship aright
Then he sailed away into the night
And I don't believe I wear rose-colored glasses
But I believe we have the greatest hope
And I know that we are more than dust and ashes
And one day we will know what we have known.
- Transatlantic, "The Whirlwind VI: Rose-Colored Glasses" (main) (alternate)
Looking back across posts from this weblog these past few years, it's easy for me to tell whether business was great or lacking at the time I wrote each article, whether my personal outlook on the business was positive or pessimistic. Even in the best times there were setbacks, just as even in the most difficult times (some of which accompanied our move this summer) there were home runs. More than that, I carried my business worries home, and that's something I would dearly like to learn one day how not to do.
I'm sure some of that confidence or worry, that excitement or disappointment, or perhaps all of it, bled through clear as day to the reader's side. I am autistic so I can't really tell. I find it close to impossible to discern what someone else is thinking or feeling, unless they give off the most obvious cues, and not always even then. This deficiency can be something of an advantage on the logistical side, where I can examine hard numbers without being swayed by personality effects or emotion.
In any event, here is the answer key to 2017. Here is what really happened. You may have intuited much of it already, but now the signals should match the inputs for you.
January - The big news of the early year for DSG, of course, was the merger and acquisition of Tempe Comics and the organization gaining Michael Griffin and his crew. We would end up closing that location at the end of October, but it served as a failsafe in case we couldn't find an acceptable lease. We could have continued as a merged store there, though that would have meant a substantial business adjustment as the Apache Blvd location was truly awful and had bad parking, bad freeway access, and minimal shopping footfall. The strengths of the physical plant were a dirt-cheap lease and a decent amount of space. It could be a lot worse.
February - By this time we got to the end of our possibilities to stay at the Gilbert location, and had to start scouting out in earnest. I was deliberately obscure about specific times and dates in certain blog articles so as not to tip off the competition to where we were looking, but once we had our spot, I had no qualms about making it public and only had to wait until the landlord gave the all-clear that no other tenants would be impacted by our announcement. In Magic, Aether Revolt disappointed somewhat; it would take until much later in the year for players to want cards other than Fatal Push. Now the set is a trendy spec pick.
March - I had a splendid time at the GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas, and I look forward to attending in 2018 in Reno. In Magic, Modern Masters 2017 underperformed out of the gate thanks to the player base assuming it would have no value because Rudy and the other unregulated "investors" told them to be bearish on it. After Iconic Masters landed in November with its second-tier roster, all of a sudden everyone loved Modern Masters and it was the best. Yeah, I said it was the best when it was first spoiled and it had so many great cards in it. Maybe try thinking for yourselves and not taking buying advice uncritically from YouTube personalities? Back to that in a moment.
April - Our Tempe location was burglarized, and even though we got an insurance reimbursement, it was still an expensive and harmful event that netted us significant losses. This event served as essentially our final determinant that the only way Tempe was staying open was if we could not find an acceptable lease elsewhere. In Magic, Amonkhet landed and the player base mostly didn't like it. The overload of product had begun and Magic product performance in its totality became worse from here on out. Without singles, we'd have been in a really clenchy position.
May - We landed our Chandler location, though it would take weeks to finalize the lease and far too many months of construction before we could move in.
June - Lots of waiting. Small optimizations. Knowing the storm was imminent, I took the family to Disneyland.
July-August - My memory of this time period is mostly dark and angry. And hot. Dealing both with construction in Chandler and normal store operations back in Gilbert had me at the limits of exhaustion and frustration. In Magic, Hour of Devastation flopped. The warning alarms were blaring. I was standing on the brake pedal, reducing my orders, but I didn't do so fast enough, and I felt the pinch. The set was good, but wallet fatigue was metastasizing into authentic player disengagement. I used the blog as a welcome diversion by starting the Arizona Gamer Story. It has plenty of installments still to go.
September-October - We exulted in opening our new location, but it was still half-finished and we had none of the advantages of size or comfort, and all the disadvantages of a store move and the attendant loss of business. And half of everything was put away or inaccessible or some damn crap reason we couldn't do it right. (We're down to 25% of everything being screwed up, as of this writing. Maybe 20%.) The impact of the move was less than I projected; many of our customers followed us to Chandler. But October was the worst month of sales all year and it wasn't close, and that's counting Tempe still being open. Griffin and I were stretched to our limits, doing far too much in far too little time. We won't think back on these months with fondness. But we got through and made it to the promised land.
November - I haven't closed the books yet for the month but it looks like it might have been the best performance of the year, even up against ten previous months with two open locations. The November swoon was real, but at the end of October we got the rest of the main room open and as a result, event attendance exploded and drove revenue. Every single Friday and Saturday in November was better than every single day in October except for Friday October 6th, which had the combination of Ixalan still being new, Commander 2017 being back in stock, our PPTQ registration opening, and the Legend of the Five Rings LCG releasing. We did still have some dud days in November, especially mid-month, and too many new releases. But Black Friday was great, it set a new record, and the ensuing week has been decent and has let us make up some ground. The crew is finally unified in one place with one goal, one mission, one flash of light, one vision.
December - Around the community, there is unrest and uncertainty. Remember those YouTube personalities? Yeah. Back on the homefront, expenses are still staggering -- we'll be paying for construction until the end of 2018 or even later. We are fortunate to have so many understanding creditors. But the holiday sales tornado has already been kicking up some swirling winds. The mainstream customer visits have been an utter delight to witness, especially with us having a chance to start all over and erase mistakes from our original Gilbert opening. I have literally years of work ahead to make DSG's Chandler hub the store it ought to be. But for at least this glorious winter into spring, that's our entire focus. Be awesome. Here. Doing this. And the people will arrive. And DSG will reach back out into other locations in due time.
I may be too busy to keep the blogging schedule for the rest of the month. At least, I certainly hope I am. If I don't return in time, stay safe out there, and I'll see you again in 2018!