First, let me qualify what I have long known: “You cannot define what another person’s measure of success is.”
Allow me to explain.
Long ago in a city far, far away a friend and mentor of mine, one Dave Wallace, visited my store. We talked for hours while he watched my operation, then we visited my nearest competitor. My store was large and spacious with three employees working and helping dozens of customers. My competitor was cramped, small, dimly lit, and sold everything for 20% off retail.
Upon leaving my competitor, Dave proclaimed, “That guy won’t last a year.”
He had been in that location for 18 years already, doing that very model quite successfully.
While I have space for gaming, he did not. As such, he needed no space that did not have product in it. While I had a large payroll, necessitating $32K in sales each month before reaching a profitable scenario, he had one part-time employee, and low rent. $4500 a week for him was huge, and profitable.
Now at two stores and looking to open my third, I am thinking on this truth: “You cannot define what another person’s measure of success is.” Not because I am worried about competitors affecting my bottom line, but because I am now much more concerned with how publishers limit my bottom line.
My number one most requested game in 2014 was Cards Against Humanity, which I did not carry. In 2015 my manager talked me into stocking it, and it was our best grossing game line that year. In 2016 they got CAH into Target, kept it out of distribution despite promises by the owners at GAMA Trade Show 2014 and 2015 to get it INTO distribution, and my sales suffered.
Today my number one most requested game is Star Wars: Destiny - and I have ordered it from the single distributor I can, more than 12 times. I have gotten exactly not a single pack, deck, booster or starter for that line. Ever. I am on the ‘long list” of “might someday get that stuff” from my distributor, who treats me like an unruly stepchild every time I ask for that product.
As a result, I have gone further afield from games to the point that my “Games & Comics” shop is now really a “Comics, Toys, Gifts and Games” store. How healthy is that for the game industry? I am not an industry leader by any measure, but I am going to hit close to one million dollars in sales in my store, in a town of less than 10,000 people. Whether I hit one million or not will be a coin flip. It will depend on August, our worst month every year. But, it will be close, either way.
I am now selling more comics than games. More jewelry than games. More action figures than games, more statues than games, more back issue comics than games, more used music, more used DVDs and more Blu-rays than games. In fact, I sell more used video games than non-video games.
I do sell more games than apparel. However, I have 30 times as much money in games as I do in apparel, and it’s fairly close which one sells the most.
If the games I wanted to stock were always available – Yu-Gi-Oh! to demand, board games to demand, core games for things I can get expansions for but not core games of, Star Wars: Destiny and a couple dozen other difficult-to-source games - I’d do better with games. In fact, then I might still be a Games & Comics store.
So really I should thank the publishers for forcing me to get into other lines of product and find other methods of sales, sourcing, promotions and customer acquisition. If I were a Games & Comics store, I might not be having a battle to make a million in sales, I might still be struggling to make $500K a year in sales. Though if I could now get the games I prefer to carry, I might be hitting $1.2 million a year in sales.
But clearly the game publishers are not as interested in keeping their products in stock at my store where we teach the games, host the events, and seat the players. My RPG crowd is 40+ per week, and my Battletech gamers are about 20-25 a week; you’d think I could convince publishers that a store in a <10K population center who can do a mil a year in sales and employ 15 people could sure promote their games - I can’t. That’s another reason I am doing gift and toy shows this year, not the GAMA Trade Show. Games are the least relevant of my product lines. Meanwhile, plush, apparel, jewelry, stones, signed pictures, posters and paints are all trending to eclipse games as a category.
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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.