Saturday, January 1, 2011

Stocking Miniatures

Following up on Tuesday's post, I wanted to discuss the economics of bringing in a line of miniatures to a store. If you've been into the store in the past 6 months, you'll (maybe) remember we have a large selection of Games Workshop figures, large enough to qualify as a partnership store, of which there are only about 150 in the US. We also carry a good selection of Battletech, Reaper, Hordes and Warmachine, though not complete and nowhere as large as our Games Workshop area. We also have a good sized selection of Confrontation, mainly because, before Rackham got into financial difficulties and starting shifting distribution methods, we had a good sized Confrontation crowd. We carry a smattering of other miniature lines including Aidken, Hundred Kingdoms (both of which are now marked 25% off), Uncharted Seas, Flames of War, Mallfaux, All Things Zombie and Cool Mini or Not. We choose not to carry these lines in depth because, for two reasons, miniatures are the most expensive things for a game store to stock.

Reason number one is just the individual cost of the figure. A single Reaper figure retails for $5-6 each, while Battletech figures are in the $10 neighborhood. Games Workshop and Flames of War figures are in the $15 to $20 neighborhood and Confrontation figures regularly exceed $20. Games Workshop tells retailers to expect to spend $5000 to $7000 to bring in a decent supply of their Warhammer Fantasy and 40,000 figures and the initial buy-in for Battlefront's Flames of War isn't much cheaper. For the cost of fully stocking one miniatures line, a store could easily build a very respectable RPG, boardgame or CCG selection.

The second reason is that most miniatures these days are designed to work with a specific miniatures system. Warhammer Fantasy Battle players aren't going to want to use Mallfaux figures in their games and vice versa. Unlike 15 to 20 years ago, almost every miniatures line is tied to its own system and players, rightly, want to buy figures that will work with the system they choose to play. As mentioned above, for most miniature systems, a store needs to spend several thousand dollars to fully support the line. There are a few lines, such as Mallfaux and Uncharted Seas, that a store can stock reasonably well with the rulebook and core army sets, but even they eventually add on additional blisters or clamshells of individual support or leader figures, bumping the cost up further.

The cost is the reason most stores only stock 2-3 miniature lines in depth, Warhammer 40,000 most often because it is the most widely played miniatures game in the US so stores can reasonable expect a player base in their region and customers to buy the figures, so the store restocks them, so customers buy more, lather, rinse, repeat. The second line depends on what customers want to play (and buy). Over the past 15 years, based on store play and sales, we have brought in (that I remember): Warzone, Chronopia, Legions of Steel, Thunderhead, Battletech, Warmachine, Hordes, Wargods of Aegyptus and Confrontation. There are probably a few others I've forgotten. Currently, we're heavily supporting Warhammer 40,000 and working to build Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warmachine back to reasonable sales levels. I expect to see in store play in those resume steadily in six to eight months. Heck, even mighty Warhammer 40,000 was down to 3 players about 4 years ago.

1 comment:

  1. That last part is what kills me as a store owner. There always seems to be one miniature line in decline while another is gaining steam. Dropping that declining line is very difficult compared to say, a role-playing system with a dozen books or a slow turning board game. Once customers see a line in decline, they flee like rats on a sinking ship.

    Another thing you haven't mentioned is the tremendous shrinkage (shoplifting) of miniatures, compared to other products. Although you have a very high sales per square foot with miniatures, which makes them attractive for smaller stores, the shrinkage reduces the profit margin, making them less desirable.

    Finally, I've found that inventory performance, measured by turn rates, is only good with miniature games that are played in the store. When organized play is weak or non-existent, turns slow to unacceptable levels compared to other product options available to the retailer. RPG and board game players require very little organized play to be happy. Adding OP is good, but you can get away without it and have good performance with those lines.