Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Figures

This week's ICV2 column looks at Halloween retailing figures and the growing importance of the Halloween season on retail sales.

If you wore a costume tonight or this weekend, odds are it was a witch, Harley Quinn or Batman as those are the most popular costumes for adults. Pre-teens most likely dressed as Batman, Wonder Woman or Supergirl as superheroes dethroned princesses as the most popular costume for girls this year. Batman has been the most popular one for boys for several years.

You most likely give out Reece's PBC, Kit Kat or Butterfinger bars as those are the three  candies among the top five in every state. Candy corn, surprisingly, is the most popular in Texas, Oregon, Wyoming, Tennessee and South Carolina.

You probably spent $25 on candy, $32 on your costume and about $30 on miscellaneous decorations, and, if you have a pet, 15% of us dress them up:

Thursday, October 27, 2016


A commodity is a product that is only differentiated from similar products by its price. Case in point, the Cavendish banana (yes, those yellow bananas you find at the supermarket do have a name). Since one looks like another, you cannot tell if they ones you have sitting on your counter at home were bought at Aldi's, Wal-mart, Schucks or Kroger. The only difference between them is the price you paid for them.

Decades ago, companies did differentiate their bananas. Chiquita put a little blue label on them and could charge a premium price of a quarter or more per pound because they were "Chiquita bananas". Over the years though, that blue sticker lost its value as Chiquita stopped doing anything to protect its brand and Chiquita bananas became no more premium than any other banana.

Something similar is happening in the gaming industry. Games that customers used to have to go to a specialty store to get, such as Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, etc, are showing up in stores such as Target, Barnes & Noble, even Wal-mart, making it much easier for the customer to find them. The trade off is that the games are becoming commodities, the only difference between one copy and another is the price.

Iello has inoculated itself against the commodification somewhat by producing two different versions of King of Tokyo. The FLGS version comes with Gigasaur while the Target version comes with Baby Gigasaur, meaning that the same version of the game is not available everywhere.  Similarly, as I noted in an earlier post, WOTC is releasing Volo's Guide to Monsters with two different covers, one for the game store and one for the mass market. This may be early steps  brands are taking to protect their value from commodification.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Only Variant Cover In The Gaming Industry (of which I know)

Channel specific and variant covers are fairly common in the comic industry but extremely rare in the game industry. The only previous example that comes to mind immediately (and please email if you can think of other instances) occurred back in 2007 when Avalanche Press released its Rome at War III:  Queen of the Celts boardgame, focusing on the Roman invasion of Britain. Avalanche Press released a tame cover featuring a sword and shield and a more risqué cover, with a bare breasted Queen Boudicca, with strategically placed hair, riding a chariot into battle. Avalanche Press had released a number of sourcebooks and adventures with similar pinup style cover art under the OGL earlier in the decade, which, after the first couple, had not sold very well. Hence, upon deciding the company wanted to use the same artist for Queen of the Celts, but realizing a number of retailers might object to what it called the “pinup” cover, it released a tamer cover as well.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Volo's Guide to Monsters

Volo's Guide to Monsters, which arrives next month, will take a direction similar to what Shadowrun has done for a number of years, interspersing commentary on the entries from both Volothamp Geddarm and Elminister. You Shadowrun fans will remember that many of their guidebooks to the world come annotated with comments from "runners" in the world, as if the books existed in digital form and they were able to comment upon it. Such comments could clarify points, obscure them or even offer adventure hooks. Hopefully, the comments added to the Volo's Guide will prove similar.

Volo's Guide to Monsters will ship with two covers, a "mass market" version and a "game store" version. We currently only have the game store version ordered so if you want a copy of the mass market cover, let us know.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Derived Demand and the Collapse of Hastings

This week's ICV2 column looks at the concept of "derived demand", which I addressed some last week and how it contributed to the collapse of Hastings.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Get Hired (or Avoid Getting Hired)

Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, has a pretty good post on, especially if you are a student, how to best position yourself to encourage a potential employer to hire you. A couple of things I will comment on:

1.  If you want a job at a place, show you are interested and planned ahead by bringing a resume with you. Coming in without one and asking if we are hiring indicates that stopping was more of a spur of the moment impulse.

2. Dress appropriately. If you are applying for a job here and are male, suit and tie are not necessary, nor are a skirt or dress if you are a female. Staff doesn't wear them here so you don't need to when applying. On the other hand, staff here doesn't wear pajama bottoms or t-shirts with obscene sayings on them, so applying wearing those is not a good idea.

3.  Much as I tell my students at SEMO, unfortunately, potential employers are not interested in what your job goals are or in which fields you would like to work. Employers want to hire you to fill a specific need they have in the organization. If I need someone to work odd hours on the store schedule, you are more likely to get hired if you indicate you can work during those times than saying you need every night off.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Derived Demand

Stores almost never buy games because the owner wants them (except in those cases where the store owner opens the store because of their love of the game as is the case with a lot of card shops). Store stock games because of  "derived demand".

Derived demand is the concept that business make purchases because  of demand for a product or service that is caused by another source. In its basic form, stores buy merchandise for resale that they believe their customers want to purchase. This is why one store stocks WarMachine while another carries Flames of War, while one store has a fantastic selection of independent graphic novels, and another has almost none. Stores purchase products based on what their customers tell them they want by what they purchase.

Case in point Cardfight Vanguard. A number of stores in the St. Louis area do well with it. We do not. I think we have sold one pack in the past 2 months. Every once in awhile we get someone who asks for tournaments and we tell them that we will happily host them when sales show there is a demand for them. So far, demand has not justified any more support for the game. We would like to run tournaments for it and Force of Will and DBZ and Arkham Horror and Flames of War etc. but the sales for them just don't justify us putting in the effort.

Derived demand is one of the problems  that led to Hasting's bankruptcy. As I understand it, headquarters ordered much of the product for the individual stores and did not take into consideration individual demand for pop culture products, especially POP figures and comics, by customers at the stores. Sales of those need very close monitoring else a store can develop a bad case of inventory creep, with product sitting on the shelf instead of turning into cash.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Stealth Products

Stealth products always bemuse me. By stealth products, I mean products that show up with little advance motive or promotion that my customers would have quite a bit of interest in if I could let them know about it. Cases in point the new Legendary Deadpool expansion and the Dominion upgrade set that came out a couple of weeks ago.

Contrast the (lack of)promotion surrounding them with the amount of promotion WOTC put out for the new Widow's Walk expansion for Betrayal At House on the Hill.  Stores knew about this expansion months ago and could put in pre-orders for it 8 weeks ago. We were able to talk it up with customers and even tell them the exact date we expected to have it in store. Both Deadpool and the Expansion Set arrived with almost no advance notice. We found out about Deadpool this week and the Dominion Expansion Set the week before it arrived. Hardly enough time to generate any interest or let customers know about the product.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Interesting decision by the TableTop web series this year. The plan is to release season 4 behind a paywall for the original run of the season later this year then open them to the general viewing public in 2017. The price to access the episodes isn't too bad, only $4.99 per month, and you do get access to the rest of Legendary Entertainment, and by default Geek & Sundry's, premium content.

Problem is, how many people feel the additional material produced by Legendary is worth the $4.99 per month to get it early. The only thing I ever watch on the G&S website is TableTop. I used to watch Talking Comics Weekly but that got discontinued a year or so ago. The rest of the material on the site just doesn't interest me, though it certainly may interest others.

I applaud G&S for working to keep TableTop on the air as, while the "TableTop bump" has certainly diminished from years 1 & 2, it is still the best venue the industry has for attracting notice to the games that we specialize in, the ones you won't find in the game aisle at Wal-mart (though you might at Target now). The same model was adopted by Sesame Street last year, producing new material for 1st run on HBO then releasing it for free on PBS later. Childrens Television Workshop says the organization has lost money for the past several years as licensing and product sales have slowly dried up, and this plan has brought in enough money for CTW to put it back in the black. I hope the model works for TableTop as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Widow's Walk

For a game that has been out for well over a decade and in an industry that had become dependent on expansions and upgrades to games, Betrayal at House on the Hill has done surprisingly well for itself. Well, that streak will end this Friday with the release of the very first expansion for Betrayal, Widow's Walk. At only $25, we expect to see quite a few of these sell and have already 2 copies on pre-order so we will see you this weekend on the Widow's Walk

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Shelf Space

Turnover is a major factor in determining if a game or graphic novel gets restocked or not.

Turnover refers to the number of times I sell a product during a given period, either per week, per month or per year. A game or graphic novel needs to sell a certain number of times in order to justify us restocking it. If a game only sells one copy a year, it is better for us, from a business standpoint, to not restock it and put those funds we would spend on it to stock in a different product. Case in point, a number of Pathfinder paperbound books. We looked at the sales records on them and found that a good half of the ones on the shelf have not sold a single copy since the first of the year, so we marked them down and put them back in the used section with no plans to restock new copies.

The Genestealer Cults figures from Games Workshop are a good example of a product with high current turnover. We have sold several copies of the Genestealer Cults book and associated figures and have restocked it weekly since release. We will do so until sale drop off but, since the army has proven a key one for Warhammer 40,000, we will keep the line in stock. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

How To Decide

Scott's column this week on ICV2 looks at the decision making process and how we decide to do things.

Friday, October 7, 2016

More Magic

Based on a suggestion from WOTC we will start running FNM twice on Friday, once at 2 p.m. and again at 6:30.  The afternoon game is either free or $5 and does require 5 people before we will run it. and will be standard format.  The evening game will still start at 6:30 and will be either Draft on the first Friday or Modern the rest of the month.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Suprise, Suprise, Dominion 2nd Edition

Did you know Dominion 2nd edition came out this week? Don't feel left out if you were surprised, almost all retailers were as well. We learned about it about a week ago, after many stores had stocked up on the 1st edition rules set for the Christmas season. Customers coming in purchasing them for Christmas gifts will want the new edition, not the previous one. The only saving grace of this is that Rio Grande came out with an upgrade kit, allowing those with the 1st edition set to play with the new 2nd edition rules.

Compare this with FFG and Games Workshop, who gave customers and stores a good 6 months notice regarding the ending of the license. This gives stores enough time to decide what they want to do with the FFG games and customers plenty of time to decide whether to pick up the 1st edition or wait for the 2nd.

If you have a copy of the 1st edition rules, we do have several sets of the upgrade kit, which RGG did make available, for only $15.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Pathfinder Program

This week's ICV2 column expands on last week's blog post about the new Pathfinder Society retail initiative and why it might not turn around PF sales decline.