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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

FATCQ: Fast Answers to Customer Questions Volume 4

Greetings yet another time!  As in previous iterations, I am answering customer questions candidly and within no more than three lines of text in Google's composer!  My previous limit was five lines, but I want the challenge of having to answer these questions really fast.  And concisely.

In this article series I endeavor to answer any customer question, as long as it is not disingenuous and does not request confidential information.  Feel free to ask questions for future installments in the comments of this web zone.  These are combinations of questions I have been asked by customers in-store and online, and one that I made up on the spot, so let's start with that one.

Q: I came into the store today and you weren't there.  What gives?
A: I am at the GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas this week along with my wife Stephanie and my business partner Mike Griffin.  Not to worry, our DSG Gilbert and DSG Tempe staffers possess great expertise and can accommodate the vast majority of customer needs and requests.

Q: Can I meet up with you at GAMA?
A: I'm going to spend some time in the retailer lounge so I can network with my fellow shopkeeps, to teach and to learn.  I'll post to the Facebook retailer groups when I have specific times or when I happen to be there.  My calendar for the week was already pretty full (I'm presenting four seminars!).

Q: I bet you feel pretty stupid for being wrong about Damnation and Craterhoof two weeks ago?
A: I feel pretty awesome for being correct about essentially everything else, actually.  Remember, at 8:59 a.m. on Monday morning of spoiler week, the set was bad and would be low value.  Turns out it was the best ever.  Even Rudy himself, king of downward market pressure, offered his approval.

Q: What was the deal with Gloomhaven?
A: It was this winter's Scythe, a board game where the demand was infinite but the publisher printed only thirteen copies and shipped them all to a Barnes & Noble in northern Michigan.  Distribution got an 8% fill rate.  Online price is $300+.  We got one copy and sold it for $170.

Q: For that matter, what's the deal with board games?  Are you in or are you out?
A: Moving our comic archive to DSG Tempe sort of changed the math at DSG Gilbert.  With enough rack space to let board games breathe a little, I have been building deeper into stock on solid sellers.  Boss Monster, Lanterns, Gloom, Mystic Vale, Castle Panic, Forbidden Desert, etc.

Q: Regarding board games, what will you do if a Gaming Goat opens in Phoenix?
A: Mostly I will shrug.  Their model does not really threaten my revenue mix.  Their 30% off deal on board games is psychologically attractive, but they would make almost the same unit sales at 20% off.  Money left on the table.  That said, I think they may have tapped into potent market space.

Q: You refer to your "revenue mix."  What is that?
A: The categories where we make our hay.  Magic singles overwhelm all right now, explosive growth throughout 2017.  On lower volume, video games are my healthiest category pound-for-pound.  Miniatures and D&D are decent lately.  Competition has affected us less in 2017 than ever before.

Q: If Magic is as much a revenue driver as you say, why bother carrying the other things?
A: Because I want to!  I pay the bills how I must, but I am a gamer and enjoy other categories of the tabletop and electronic game landscape as well.  For example, I don't have much time for Dungeons & Dragons anymore, but that is where it all began and I still dig it.

Q: Do you even still play board games?  What's good right now?
A: They are the main thing I play, when I have rare time to play anything.  The best board game released lately in my opinion is New Angeles from Fantasy Flight Games.  Honorable Mention goes to the card builder Peptide by Genius Games, which is already becoming tough to find.
Q: So DSG Gilbert: Renewed or no?
A: No.  The lease ends this fall and the successor tenant is already signed.  DSG Gilbert will move.  We do not yet have a landing spot for it.  We want to be in the same general area.

Q: Seven or eight months... isn't that cutting it a little close?
A: Yes.

Q: Doesn't it take 90 days to clear permits in Gilbert?
A: It can.

Q: So what will you...
A: We are aware, I assure you.  We plan to find a location already cleared for occupancy.  When we opened Gilbert our construction buildout turned out to be mostly wasted money.  By taking a suite as we find it instead, we can hold out for a better lease option on shorter notice.

Q: What about east Mesa / Superstition Springs?
A: We still have our eyes on the mall offering.  Three new stores are slated to open in the area sometime this quarter, and I have severe doubts that a market base consisting mostly of retirees can sustain them all.  I'll let those three fight amongst themselves, and I think I know who will win.

Q: You, uh, ever going to take down the Tempe Comics sign?
A: All in good time.  We have a perfectly good sign in Gilbert that may or may not be usable for the new location, and if it isn't, we'll move it to Tempe.  That sign was over $6k, so it is coming with us one way or another.  I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a third sign.  Waste not, want not.

Q: Do you have a plan for DSG Tempe?  Things seem very inchoate there.
A: Much will depend on what we do about DSG Gilbert.  DSG Tempe has a lot of inexpensive square footage, a capable crew, a community that shows up, and other assets.  Part of the GAMA agenda this year is for Griffin and I to explore ideas for how to develop the Tempe premises specifically.

Q: So now that most of the comics are in Tempe, what happened to comic sales in Gilbert?
A: Almost unchanged, which suggests to me that our lack of space was a severe barrier to visitors' ability to shop the comic archive.  Most of our boxholders have been cool with the change as it affects them little.  A few people were unhappy with the change and I'm genuinely sorry about that.

Q: Your Yelp and Google reviews are mostly good but there are some pretty savage one-stars in there lately.  What's up with that?
A: It's review culture.  There's usually a real story the reviewer isn't telling.  One guy was upset we wouldn't sell him rare comic books, price tagged $20 each, that he "found" in the $1 bargain bin.  That's not how it works. Items that are misplaced or mis-racked don't suddenly become 95% off.

Q: What about the guy who says you offered 7% on his cards?  Aren't your buy ratios much higher than that, like 33% or 50% on most cards?
A: Of course they are.  He was a backpack dealer trying to sell off his leftovers.  Cards less than a certain value, we buy at bulk rates.  Much of his inventory was low-value cards.  Interesting how he doesn't mention that in his review.  Two sides to every story, folks.

Q: What do you do about misleading bad reviews like those when you see them?
A: I try to gain some operational benefit out of them if I can.  Training opportunity.  If I know who the person is I might reach out.  Some of our bad reviews are not misleading and are fully deserved.  Those are the ones that give me the best information on what I need to fix or do better.

Q: Play any Magic lately?
A: Two or three sessions of Vintage Cube, which were excellent, and some Aether-Kaladesh draft, which is a better format than I expected.

Q: What's wrong with Magic right now?
A: Too long to answer in an article like this, but in summary: Too many Magic stores opened and are in cash distress, and must dump product that doesn't move instantaneously, driving down product values.  As the situation shakes out and bad stores close, good stores will get healthier.

Q: What's wrong with Warhammer right now?
A: Not a lot.  Games Workshop is on a positive streak lately and their new releases for both 40K and Age of Sigmar have been well received and good sellers.  This week we're expecting to see GW announce new retailer terms and requirements.  That could be a big deal and lead to a future article.

Q: What's wrong with comics right now?
A: DC's two-week treadmill is having exactly the impact we worried about, it's wearying for subscribers and we've seen a fall-off.  Marvel politicized its storylines too much; even for sympathetic readers we saw interest wane.  But otherwise we're seeing relative stability.

Q: What's wrong with RPGs right now?
A: If it's not D&D, nobody is buying any.  Hereabouts, at least.  Meanwhile, Dungeons & Dragons is the hottest I have seen it since I re-entered the business in 2012.

Q: What's wrong with video games right now?
A: Nothing.  The Nintendo Switch is awesome, every system out there has great games now and upcoming, and prices are inching downward.  The only complaint I can find is that it's still tough to find NES Classic Mini and New 3DS XL systems on store shelves.  That's a positive problem.

Q: What's wrong with X-Wing right now?
A: The player base and publisher are still going through some of the competitive growing pains that Magic etc went through decades ago.  The flow of product is improving, but still not dependable when a hot new build sends many players seeking the same ships.

Q: What's wrong with other TCGs right now?
A: Destiny and Final Fantasy are just zero product availability.  It's very difficult to cultivate the player communities for both with bare shelves.  But if I had to pick one to get a shipment of and not the other?  I would pick Final Fantasy TCG.  Meanwhile, Pokemon is mostly just great.

Q: What's wrong with the LCGs?
A: I am worried about Android Netrunner lately.  The last two cycles, Mumbad and Flashpoint, were not that well received by the player base.  Hopefully the new Red Sands cycle will turn things around.  A Game of Thrones is mostly great.  Arkham Horror has severe stock fulfillment issues.

Q: Why does everything have to be wrong?
A: OK, I made up this question.  I think the game trade is mostly good right now.  It's just easy to find topics of discussion that start with a gripe of some kind.  Commiseration makes companionship.

Q: What change in your personal purview within the company do you most want to see in 2017?
A: I want to get back to working on the business, not in the business.  DSG experienced its greatest and healthiest growth when I was able to be an architect, rather than splitting time between supervision and execution.  Red October and the downturn that followed put me back in the trenches.

Q: What change in DSG's business model do you most want to lay the groundwork for in 2017?
A: Making it a place worth paying to play at.  Whether this means comfortable rental rooms, a coffee bar of some sort, games available for borrow, or some other combination of factors, I don't yet know. But I think we have to solve our industry's unhealthy allergy to monetizing space.

Okay, that concludes the fourth installment of this fun exercise!  Leave a comment on this web zone or on Facebook if you have questions you'd like to see me answer in volume five!

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