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 lays out the problems retailers have with Games Workshop and offers potential solutions.

Although Games Workshop accounts for the largest share of sales in the miniatures segment of the hobby games industry, the company keeps making it hard for stores to do business with it (Disclosure: I own stock in Games Workshop).  The company instituted a pre-order system a few months ago wherein stores must put in pre-orders by Tuesday evening of the week that the new items are announced which happens officially on Saturday.

So Games Workshop announces new releases on Saturday, two weeks before the release date.  However, because of the system the company has set up, we must put in our pre-orders three to four days ahead of the official release.  Generally, Games Workshop is pretty leaky at keeping its new release schedule secret, so our customers usually know what is coming out and can get orders into us before the order cutoff.  However, on several occasions, we have had customers who, for whatever reason, are not that closely tied into the network and get us their orders when the official releases are announced.  Stores are not supposed to officially announce the items coming up on new release for our Tuesday orders but are supposed to wait until the official Saturday announcement.  If you think comic FOC is wonky, imagine putting in your initial orders when all the information you have is what people might have posted on assorted websites in advance of the announced dates.

It would also be helpful if Games Workshop would stop treating its new release listings as state secrets, and announced them weeks or even months in advance.  A year-long release schedule would be really nice, allowing stores to set up a budget for new GW releases.  As it is, a major new release from Games Workshop such as Leviathan or a Battleforce or Combat Patrol, while generally not as hard on the budget as a new trading card game release, can still run a few thousand dollars, often more than the amount of cash a store has around.  Stores know the dates of TCG releases far in advance and can budget for them.  It may still involve grimacing and cutting spending on other items, but stores know when to expect the new Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, or Yu- Gi-Oh! release and can plan for it.

From what I have been told by my past sales representatives at Games Workshop, the company has its release schedule planned out at least two years ahead of time, as that is when the company puts in its initial orders for print products.  For some reason, miniatures can be produced somewhat more quickly, but there is still a lengthy lead time.  There is no good reason, aside from company policy, not to put out a release schedule six months or even a year in advance.  Once it announces a new release, Games Workshop is one of the best companies, barring a few recent new releases, in getting them out on time.  Knowing what is coming out months in advance, at least as far as products like new Codexes and new figures for assorted armies, would really help with budgeting.

GW also has had a problem with getting restocks for a few items, such as Commander Farsight and the Regal Dorn Battle Tank, which took six to eight months after initial release for restocks to arrive.  It may be wishful thinking on my part, but a hot figure like those should get restocked more quickly than six months later.

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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