Friday, July 26, 2019

Promo Pack Change

WOTC announced that they have changed the contents of the promo pack that replaced most of their promo cards. Three of the 4 cards remain the same but the promo stamped land card will be replaced, starting with Throne of Eldraine, with a card with a code good for a pack of "cards" cards in Arena. That card will likely prove more popular than the land cards as those have been consistently passed over when put out as prize support

Monday, July 22, 2019

Derived Demand and Decision Making

You, me and everyone else makes decisions and mentioned that businesses have some addition criteria they take into consideration when making their decisions, especially regarding what to stock and what events to run and promote. Primary among these criteria is that of “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 there is customer demand for them, ergo store “demand” for games is “derived” from customer demand for them, hence 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. A wall of POP figures looks impressive but each one represents money tied up in inventory instead of in the bank account.

Derived demand is also the driving force determining whether a store offers a large number of tables for gaming, with ameninties such as timers, play mats and store provided terrain for miniatures, or just a single table with half a dozen chairs at the back of the store. If customers come in wanting to use playspace, and sales justify making the space available for it, stores will provide the space and upgrade it based on customer demand. Of course, if customers come in and ask for play space but do not purchase the related product to support it, the store will reduce or even do away with tables, opting to use the space to display product and/or services for which there is more demand. It all comes back to the customer.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Magic Promo Packs

WOTC has decided to replace their promo cards for Magic events with promo packs. We get a certain number of promo packs based on attendance and have to make those last until the next "season" which will start with "Archery" at the end of September. So how to allocate them.

What we have decided to do in order to make sure as many people get a card as possible is to open packs, based on the number of players, and allow players to choose a card based on their standing at the end of the tournament. If we have 8 players, we would open 3 packs. let the players select the cards and then add the remaining cards to the selection pool for the next tournament. Of course, this would mean, in order to get a promo card, players would have to remain until the end of the tournament.

The other option we could choose, and this is the one used by Desert Sky Games, is to not put in a pack in events that do not have at least 8 players. With an 8 player event, the player that goes 3 & 0 gets the promo pack in lieu of 3 booster packs. With every 6 additional players, we add one more promo pack to the pool but those are given out randomly, rather than based on standing.

We would be interested in hearing your thoughts on either method. Please comment or let us know when you stop off at the store.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Why Sales People?

this article asking if the sales person is dying as a job category caught my eye, that and the discussion of the growth of the concept of “retailtainment” as the direction in which retailing will move.
If you have read the linked article, there are a couple of points with which I would take issue:

1)      The author grossly overstates the importance of online retailing to the overall retail sector. Although it has grown rapidly, online retailing still accounts for only about 10% of sales in the entire retail sector.

2)      The retail sector typically ramps up hiring for the holiday season in September through November then lays off a lot of those hires after Christmas, so an 89,000 person decline in retail sales people may not be that out of line for the period October to now.
Retailing remains important though with 1 out of every 10 people in the US employed in retailing and it is still where most people get their first job and learn valuable skills, such as interacting and working with other staff members and the public, time management and personal  responsibility , that will serve them, if learned properly, throughout their life. However, unlike when I first entered retailing in the 1980s, people no longer spend their careers as retail salespeople. Movement by stores towards part time work, lower wages and fewer, if any, benefits (and I am talking things like health insurance and retirement plans, not free snacks and a discount off game purchases), have kept employee turnover high across the industry, approximating  67%, meaning the average retailer has to replace two-thirds of their staff every year. This is why many large chains have moved toward self checkouts with only one staff member monitoring 4-6 check out stations while Amazon tests staff less stores, where the customer selects items off the store shelf, scans the items themselves and the purchase gets billed to their Amazon account. Simple once set up and no human interaction needed. Will this happen quickly? Nah, too much infrastructure needs to get implemented for retailers to adopt the model widely anytime soon, but it is coming.

This is why stores will move toward the “retailtainment” model,  in which customers are entertained while they shop. Customers want an experience to go along with their shopping, which is why they flock to a new restaurant when one opens. Dining there is a new experience, one they cannot get elsewhere. In fact this is why new stores have heavy foot traffic for the first few weeks after opening. Customers looking for a new experience stop by to check it out, but once the new wears out, they head off to the next experience.

So what do game stores have to do? Create experiences. Tournament model stores, those with as many or more tables than retail space, already do this, creating weekly or daily experiences for their customers. The rest of us have to use atmospherics (appealing to the senses) to bring the customer back. Stores and salespeople aren’t passé but we will have to work even harder to remain relevant.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

RIP Bill Jaffee and James Mathe

The gaming industry lost a couple of long time mainstays with the unexpected passings of Bill Jaffee and James Mathe.  Jaffe, who passed away in his sleep on June 8th ,  had been part of a number of companies in the gaming industry working  with Lou Zocchi during the nascent days of the development of distribution in the industry, before  moving with Zocchi Distribution when it was purchased and, and over the past 20 years, working with companies such as 1A and  most recently, as far as I know,  Mr. B’s Games.  Besides having a warm and welcoming personality and a love of boardgames and historic wargames, Jaffe notably had an encyclopedic memory for stock numbers and could upon request, during his time with Zocchi, give the stock number for any TSR item, whether in stock or nor. I last saw Bill at an Alliance Open House a year or so ago and he was, as enthusiastic as ever, talking about the new games coming out from Mr. Bs Games.  Farewell Bill, I, and many others, will miss you.

I never met James Mathe until later in his career in the industry, only encountering him in his position as the owner of Minion Games and an articulate spokesman for the benefits (and difficulties) of using Kickstarter to fund boardgame production, as well as game design, publishing and running a game store. Mathe could speak with expertise on all of these topics as he had founded the Game Universe game store,, Minion Games and sat on the board of directors of (now part of Drive Thru RPG. He also created and continued to run the Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice and comments in numerous other industry related Facebook groups. Mathe’s website has dozens of posts offering advice on various aspects of the game industry such this By the Numbers post looking at the terms used in business and a quick look at the numbers the average new game publisher could expect to encounter:

·         1% = the number of packages/games you should expect to get damaged. lost, or have flaws for reshipping
·         1% = the number of backers you can expect from a large broad mailing list
·         5-6% = the royalty of Gross Revenue a game designer can be expected to receive (2-3% MSRP)
·         5x = the minimum multiplier of your production cost (plus shipping to your warehouse) you use to figure out MSRP

People who knew Mathe much better than and who worked with him in one or another of his various since as Jamey Phillip , Michael Webb and Chuck Weldon all posted lengthy reminiscences   of working with him at various times during his career as retailer, publisher and consultant .

Much like Bill Jaffe, I primarily ran into James at trade shows, and remember sitting down with him and a few other publishers and retailer at a trade show a few  years ago (do not remember if it was Alliance or the GAMA Trade Show) and discussing the state of the industry for 2-3 hours.  I remember being impressed at how wide and deep his knowledge of the industry was.  His passing is a great loss to his family, friends and the gaming industry.