Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why We No Longer Carry Historical Miniatures

Every once in awhile I hear from someone that the brick and mortar store is dead or that stores need to evolve into new models. I have to smile every time I hear that as the game store has evolved and will continue to do so.

For example, back in the 1990s, we used to stock a full 8-12 feet of historical miniatures:  Napoleonics, ACW (American Civil War for those who don't speak acronym fluently), Civil War Ironclads, etc. However, over the years we saw a shifting in demand. Customers wanted specifically posed figures for specific units for specific eras of specific wars. To satisfy the demand would have required us to drastically expand the amount of space devoted to historics without a significant increase in sales. We are talking several thousand dollars invested  for a few hundred dollars increase in figures sales as most people only wanted 1-2 figures at a time. Unfortunately, we had to put in orders of $400 to $500 at a time in order to satisfy those 1-2 figure purchases, leading to extensive inventory creep.

Slowly, in order to get exactly what they wanted, customers turned to mail order purchases, first from catalogs in the early 1990s, then as the Internet became more familiar, to online purchases. The store, we slowly cleared out the remaining historics and replaced them with the bludgeoning Games Workshop, Ral-Partha and Reaper lines.

The downside of this to historic miniatures is that, as stores like ours moved away from historics, so did public play space devoted to them. Most historic miniatures games are played either in homes or at conventions such as Little Wars and Historicon, where you play with people already familiar with your preferred genre of history but have little chance to introduce outsiders to the game, one of the benefits of playing in public. In the 1970s, miniatures wargaming WAS historics, now they are a fraction of the industry.