I find it rather strange that, in the midst of an epidemic, a large number of still operating game and comic retailers have reported that this past March was their best March ever in terms of sales with a number commenting it was their best month ever in terms of revenue. Here, sales increased over 110% from March 2020 when Illinois started its lockdown. We had to close to foot traffic on March 21 as the state deemed us a non-essential business, and boy that hurt, both in terms of sales and emotionally. After all, who wants anyone to get called non-essential? The store wound up down about 25% from 2019, making it comparatively easy to beat March 2020’s figures and post a triple digit sales increase. However comparing March 2021 sales to March of 2019 showed an increase of just shy of 60% with March 2019 our best March ever. In fact, March 2021 proved our best month ever, up double digits over any other month in the store’s history. So how come?
Stimulus payments—A number of stores attributed their increased sales to the stimulus payments incorporated into the COVID-19 relief bill. Although that doutless had an impact, we started seeing noticeable sales increases of 20-30% better than the average day, even pre-pandemic, the first week of March. The stimulus money did not start hitting people’s bank accounts until mid-month, with some people reporting their received it within two days after the bill got signed into law on March 11th. Still that was over a week after stores started reported outsized sales increases. While the money definitely had an impact during the latter part of the month, it does not account for the increase in sales during the first half and 2020’s stimulus money had hit customer accounts too long ago to account for this sales surge.
Tax refunds—People who had filed early did start to see tax refunds flow into their accounts and that extra money always sparks a surge of spending. However, customers started getting refunds in February and March just as they do every year, so there is nothing different about their filing this year that would account for the sales surge. In fact, the IRS has pushed back the due date for this year’s income taxes to May 17 so procrastinators and those who use a paid preparer (who, based on my experience take longer to file than doing so yourself) have even longer to delay filing and getting their refund.
Pokemon and Magic—Pokemon sales has been ridiculously strong for the past several months and the release of Shining Fates followed by BattleStyles a couple of weeks later really juiced revenue, especially for those stores that had bulked up on their orders and received large allocations of both sets, with gift boxes selling for two to three times MSRP on the aftermarket. Similarly, TimeSpiral Remastered proved in high demand, with a number of stores selling out of their allocations on pre-order, meaning none hit the shelves, even as cash hit the store bank account.
Spring—After winter and a really nasty late February, people seemed to respond to the really nice weather and just wanted to get outside and go someplace. We saw an increased amount of foot traffic during March and almost all of those customers left with an armload of boardgames, rpg books or a sack of TCGs.