The Merchant’s Anvil is a monthly column by Paul Alexander Butler, owner of Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, Maryland and co-owner of Gaming Days, LLC the parent company of Free RPG Day.  This month, Paul wonders just how many paint bottles should be on his store shelves.

With word coming that the much-delayed new paint line from Duncan Rhodes is finally hitting retail soon, one must wonder… how many paint lines is too many?

Miniatures are a hugely important part of my store’s success.  As I’ve probably mentioned in this very column, Games and Stuff is less than ten minutes away from the former home of the Games Workshop U.S. Headquarters and flagship store.  And where I live in Baltimore city is not far from where the Avalon Hill offices once stood.  While both of those businesses have moved on in one way or another, I like to say there is wargaming in the bedrock around here.

All of which is a long way ‘round to say, I carry a lot of paint. Depending on how you’re counting, I’ve got anywhere between 6 and 12 paint lines.  That’s a lot.  Do I need yet another paint manufacturer in my store?  Probably yes, I will be carrying Duncan Rhodes’s Two Thin Coats (see "Duncan Rhodes Painting Academy’s ‘Two Thin Coats’").

There was once an oft-quoted study about yogurt, of all things, how when offering just two brands of yogurt, a grocery store saw sales that were significantly higher than when they offered five or six varieties.  The thinking here (and I’m simplifying a topic that folks have written entire books about), is that the overwhelming panoply of fruit and cultured milk options resulted in a kind of analysis paralysis, and folks sort of tapped out and simply bought less.

So on the surface, this would suggest that having maybe two paint lines in your store is the way to go.  And for many, I’m sure that’s the right path. But here’s the thing.  Buying Brand A of yogurt likely means you’re getting it instead of Brand B.  With paint, what the serious hobbyists are doing is adding to the functionality of their toolkit.  They enjoy trying out new brands, and having one brand for a particular project, another for something else. And maybe a third for those fancy prismatic colors or rust effects.

Painters in my store are what I call "grazers" in their shopping patterns.  They move from display to display picking a bit here, and a bit there.  And for these folks, the variety is the draw. I talk a lot about how we should all be trying to be the best store in our market, department by department.  And one of the ways you can achieve that in the miniatures space is by providing the best variety of paints and hobby supplies to those "alpha" miniature painting customers.

Now obviously not every store has the space or the budget to pull this off, or even the critical mass of painters to make it worth it.  But my point here is that if I chose whether or not to carry a paint line based solely on turnover, I’d most certainly have a lot less paint.  And sometimes, lines are certainly eliminated in that way (I’m looking at you P3).  Yet I feel in this instance, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

(For the record, your roleplaying game department works the same way, but that’s a topic for another day).

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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