Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne asks (and answers) why March 2021 was a great month for sales.

I find it rather strange that, in the midst of a pandemic, a large number of game and comic retailers have reported that March 2021 was their best March ever in terms of sales; with a number of them commenting it was their best month ever in terms of revenue.

At our store, sales increased over 110% since March 2020 when Illinois started its lockdown.  We had to close to foot traffic on March 21, 2020 as the state deemed us a non-essential business, and boy that hurt, both in terms of sales and emotionally.  After all, who wants to get called non-essential?  The store was down about 25% from 2019, making it comparatively easy to beat March 2020’s figures and post a triple-digit sales increase. However, March 2021 sales increased about 60% when compared to March 2019, making March 2021 our best March ever.  In fact, March 2021 proved our best month ever, up double digits over any other month in the store’s history.  So how come?

Stimulus Payments
A number of stores attributed their increased sales to the stimulus payments incorporated into the COVID-19 relief bill.  Although that doubtless had an impact, we started seeing noticeable sales increases of 20-30% better than an average day in the first week of March.  The stimulus money didn't start hitting people’s bank accounts until mid-month, with some people reporting that they received it within two days of the bill getting signed into law on March 11.  Still, that was over a week after stores started reported outsized sales increases. While the money definitely had an impact during the latter part of the month, it does not account for the increase in sales during the first half, and 2020’s stimulus money had hit customer accounts too long ago to account for this sales surge in the early part of the year.

Tax Refunds
People who had filed early did start to see tax refunds flow into their accounts and that extra money always sparks a surge of spending.  However, customers started getting refunds in February and March just as they do every year, so there is nothing different about their filing this year that would account for the sales surge.  In fact, the IRS has pushed back the due date for this year’s income taxes to May 17 so procrastinators and those who use a paid preparer (who, based on my experience take longer to file than doing so yourself) have even longer to delay filing and getting their refund.

Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering
Pokemon TCG sales have been ridiculously strong for the past several months and the release of Shining Fates followed by Battle Styles a couple of weeks later really juiced revenue, especially for those stores that had bulked up on their orders and received large allocations of both sets, with gift boxes selling for two to three times MSRP on the aftermarket.  Similarly, Time Spiral Remastered proved in high demand, with a number of stores selling out of their allocations on preorder, meaning none hit the shelves, even as cash hit the store bank account.

After a really nasty late February, people seemed to respond to the really nice weather and just wanted to get outside and go someplace.  We saw an increased amount of foot traffic during March and almost all of those customers left with an armload of board games, RPG books or a sack of TCGs.

What do you think?  Are my reasons valid or do you have some thoughts as to why sales increased so much?  Email with your thought.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of