Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Short note on Retail.

It's a busy time of year for the retail biz. One of the oddities of being on the inside of retail is that you learn exactly how early "holiday shopping season" really starts. No, not the shoppers, but the sales calls.

Every year, like clockwork, on October 1st, I start getting the cold calls1 from game companies. Usually I already know about three-quarters of the companies that call at that point. These aren't eurogame companies, or hobby games (those companies aren't big enough to fund cold calls). These are the larger family game companies. Some have made it into the Mass Market, some haven't.

I only get frustrated with the ones who take offense that I don't want their products. "We've won an award!" they cry. I hesitate to tell them that while awards are shiny, and the stickers look nice, that only one or two award-winning games sell for more than a year. The chances that your game will do well locally? Not very high.

The cold calls stop by late october/early november. The big companies realize that holiday buying is wrapping up at this point. The big orders have been placed already. Now the smaller companies start calling. I've rarely heard of these companies. Sometimes their product looks interesting. Sometimes they don't. Invariably they won't be good sellers, but every year I try to take one or two risks on a strong looking product. Sometimes it pays off. Again, these are rarely strategy games, these are mostly party games.

The final round of sales contact comes about now. Early december. These are the folks that show up at the store with a game in hand, several cases of product in their car and ask how many copies we need. These people are stunning in their earnest belief that they have a sure-fire hit on their hands. It's also one of the most depressing parts of my job. I have to look at a game, with the inventor/publisher on hand and try to figure out how to say no without entirely offending them. Of course, if they are offensive or rude, I have a tendency to do the same back. It's amazing how many people think that better sales comes from telling your potential customers that they are idiots. Ugly2.

I've seen rip-offs of Uno/Crazy 8s3, dice games that imitate LCR, tons of party games, chess variants 4, and more. Most are made by one person and tested on their extended family.

I rarely buy these last products. They're just too late, and often too poorly presented. Even if a game offers a great value and gameplay, if nobody has heard of it, and the box is boring - the game won't sell5.

This year I've taken less small games. We've seen so many new titles over the past year that I don't feel I have a spot for these last minute games.

That's it for retail. Sometimes the urge strikes me.

I was out at BGG.con and completely failed to introduce myself to anyone. My apologies. Good times though. It was a strong Essen crop this year. The only complete miss for me was a three-player attempt at Army of Frogs (from the makers of Hive). We got into an intractably drawn out endgame. We quit because it wasn't fun and could have gone on forever.


1 Telemarketing speak for an unsolicited sales call. If you didn't already know that. I have no real idea how far into general culture that term has migrated.

2 So, last year I took a case of a nameless game. It didn't sell at all. Nonetheless, after taking it, I got a call from the guy every week asking if we needed a restock. Every week I'd tell him - no, your game hasn't sold, I've still got the six copies you sold me, I don't need any more. And every week he'd tell me that it was doing really well everywhere else and was I sure I didn't need any more? Ah. Insanity. Eventually he got told to go away and never call me again. The game is still around. I've even seen it in other stores. Hopefully someone is making money on it besides the salesman.

3ZAR. It even has three letters in its name, just like uno. Surprisingly, this one sells a couple times a year. But remember, LCR sells year-round as well!

4 Kruzno anyone? As attendees of our annual party can attest, we had plenty of Kruzno to give away.

5 -cough- experience talking -cough-

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually played a game of Zar earlier this year at an SF con. I gather it has some popularity in the Minneapolis area. It actually was kind of fun. I didn't know you had it.