Personal accountability is a concept my father drilled into my psyche starting when I was about nine. I didn’t feed the dogs one day before I went to school. That Saturday, he did not allow me to eat or drink anything from 6AM until 4PM that day. It taught me not only personal accountability, but also the concept that what YOU do affects OTHERS. It taught me that failure was unacceptable.
Fast forward 45 or so years, and I still believe in personal accountability - or, I guess, in the personal accountability of retailers. Because I am a retailer, and I don’t think it is anyone else’s job to provide for me. And I STILL find failure to be unacceptable.
It is not Wizards of the Coast’s or Games Workshop’s, or ACD’s or Lion Rampant’s, not even other retailers’ job to make my store succeed. That is MY job. And although I have positive relationships with all the companies I mentioned, I am not their responsibility. When a company like Reaper or Mayfair gives me favorable terms on a deal, I hope I have either earned that or will in the future repay that favor. When WotC puts out a From the Vault set of cards, the amount of those card sets I can buy will be determined by my past performance as a retailer. If GW decides to sell their models direct instead of through distribution it may make me really mad, but I have always said that if it is their product, it is their right to decide how to sell it.
I like to make my profits from selling cool items that others put out - that is why I got into being a retailer!
In business things change. If WotC prints too much of a Magic set (cough - Chronicles, Ice Age, Nemesis, Homelands, Fallen Empire - cough) they cannot count on me to bail them out. And, neither should I be counting on them to bail me out. We are colleagues at best, I am their customer in most cases. They are not my partner, nor my financier.
The same goes with distributors. Even when a distributor has an exclusive - they may have a reason not to deal with me, and if so, then I failed at doing my job of being a valued retail partner to that distributor.
This comes to mind today for a couple reasons. One is a bit of heat I saw Rose from Lion Rampant taking on a forum, and retailers threatening to close their accounts. Another was my own aggravation with a distributor over sending me an order COD Money Order, even though I have been COD Company Check for over a year, not bounced any checks, etc.
Things change. Retailers are experiencing the pinch this year a bit worse than before, I believe. I think a lot of retail store owners are experiencing lower-than-usual Christmas sales. Online sales are affecting retailers more strongly than ever. The collectability of games like Magic or Clix makes the “raw” product more of a commodity than ever, and that means very price conscious customers among the serious gamers. Events and tournaments are less profitable than ever due to increased prize expectation from the dedicated serious gamer crowd.
My response has been to diversify out of the niche where I have to rely on those gamers for my revenue. My gaming space now has more Dungeons & Dragons games running in it per week than CCG games. My store has a lot of general interest merchandise that dovetails well with comics, games and other hobby items and collectibles.
But, I see the response of many retailers to be to blame someone. After all, it cannot be their own fault that their sales are off, down, or profits are lower than anticipated. It must be the publishers who do not provide enough product, or the distributors who are holding it from them. I have heard that argument before. Starting with Revised Magic and later Pokemon Base Set First Edition.
In business, I find it more suitable to find a way to succeed than to find someone to blame for my failures. Amazon surely hurts my sales, and it is why I use Amazon to increase my revenue, selling up to $14K a month on Amazon. EBay hurts my in-store sales, but I combat that by selling up to $5K a month on eBay. Video games siphon away a lot of hobbyists who might have played Magic or 40K, but I recapture some of that business by dealing in used video games and systems.
I buy and sell used movies, music, games of every type, comics, coins (my real joy), and play in a weekly D&D game (best I have been involved with for years). My store employs seven people and provides for several families. I don’t want to tell my kids, or my employees’ families, “You can’t buy groceries because X distributor wouldn’t sell us Y product.”
So, I make it work. I. Make. It. Work. And my staff makes it work. Together we succeed. Because the alternative is to fail. And, I find that unacceptable. And, blaming others helps no one.
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