Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where does it all come from? Part 3

Ok, when I said a few days ago that "tomorrow I'll put up the RPG chart" I forgot to take into account that

1) the weekend was coming up
2) I had a Warhammer Tournament to get ready
3) I had 2 sessions of Pathfinder to run for our Pathfinder Society group here on Sunday
4) IT'S CHRISTMAS season and I am in retail (which generally means that I do NOT get to control my own time, it controls me.)

But, I have a few minutes now, (aided by the fact that the order that I was expecting today didn't come in because of the storm in California a couple of days ago) so I promised myself I wouldn't get dinner until this post was up.

In my database, I have two ways of breaking RPG's down  First of all, I break them down by basic genre; Fantasy, SciFi, Western and so on and so forth.   I also break them down by product lines; D&D, Gurps, Traveller and such.

Let's take a quick gander at which genres are selling the most.

Now, this isn't much of a surprise.  Fantasy RPG's are the market staple. (thank you Mr Tolkien, Mr, Howard, and Mr Lieber).  In the store we have D&D and Pathfinder taking up much of the burden of fantasy RPG sales, but there are a few others contributing to that.  Earthdawn, Exalted, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay  and a couple of the Indie games also added into that.   SciFi games came in second with sales of Traveller, Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and a few other minor ones.

Now for the chart that probably will be a big surprise.  I know that it was for me.

Yep... not only was D&D NOT number one, it wasn't number two or three either.  It came in at number 4 and from the looks of the chart, it sure wasn't too much higher than the number five, Savage Worlds.  Traveller is the number one, and that's for one reason.  We have a gaming group that's switching over to that game, and the person who's running it and one of the other players have been picking up the line.  Here's the sad fact.  This will be an abberation on these sales figures, and I highly suspect that next month, Traveller will fade farther back down on the list.  It's position this month, is really not something that can be counted on, but the fact that ONE group, was able to bump it to the top spot speaks volumes.  What it says to me, is that the RPG market, at least for me is in a horrid decline.  When one group can come in and overshadow D&D like that, there is a problem.

Now, WFRP had one special thing on it's side which gave it the number two slot.  It costs 100 bucks for the main boxed set.  Sell a few of those and it would be hard to keep it out of a top slot.

Pathfinder is number three, and more importantly it's eclipsing it's parent D&D.   There's a lot of grousing about 4th ed amongst veteran gamers, and many of them have sworn off of playing.  To me, this is a bit of tragedy, as basically it's saying "im so stodgy that I really don't want to hang out with my friends anymore and socialize with them because of some silly game rules".  To me, the game was always secondary to the real reason of getting together with my friends.  I'm sad that feeling isn't more widely held.  Pathfinder, however is picking up SOME of those disaffected players who aren't interested in converting to the 4th ED rules.  In fact, i'm running games for their organized play campaign, The Pathfinder Chronicles, here at the store on the first Sunday of the month.  I'm happy that it's doing well, but that it's doing better than D&D proper, is telling.

All of that aside, these charts tell me that D&D is no longer king of the heap, and I can no longer afford to just bring in several copies of each new release as they come out, and expect them to move.  D&D will now be subject to the same scrutiny that the other RPG's get.  If I don't reasonably know of someone who will buy a copy of a particular book, I'm not likely to order it.  D&D books were usually immune to any kind of process like that, but no longer.

By looking at sales, and seeing what the trends are, I don't carry a lot of hope for RPG's in general, at least here in the store.  I love RPG's and I will continue to carry them, but it would be irresponsible of me to keep carrying them in the ways that i've done in past years.  A good business is one that's flexible enough to adapt to changing markets and make decisions based off of that.  

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Where does it all come from? Part 2

Yesterday, I posted some basic sales information concerning how the sales of IOG are divided up between the various departments.   I'd like to continue that with showing a breakdown of two of those departments.  CCG's and Accessories.

Let's go ahead and start with the CCG's.


Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows that CCG's are just something I'm not into.  With a couple of rare exceptions (Vs system, WWE Raw Deal) I've never really gotten into CCG's.  I've dabbled here and there, but i've never gotten into them to any great degree.  The last time I actually was REALLY interested in Magic, the word Ante was still in the rulebook.  My gaming interests have always leaned more towards RPG's, Mini's games and Board games, and it's really little surprise that my store would tend to reflect that. 

I've actually avoided bringing in CCG's and (until now) have only dabbled occasionally in the CCG market.   It certainly isn't because I have an active animosity towards them, it's just simple basic unfamiliarity with CCG's and their players.  I don't speak their language, and I have difficulty relating to that gaming style.  Therefore.. I've avoided it.   With all that's happening in the gaming market, and what  my predictions of what WILL be happening here in the local gaming market, i've decided I can no longer afford to have such a gaping hole in my product lines in the store.  Some other retailers I've talked to are just shocked to learn that i've lasted 11 years without Magic.   Also, there's been a local store that has pretty much been dedicated to Magic.  When I opened up, it was Jesters Court (now gone),  Beyond Gaming (now gone), Mana Werks (now gone).  So it's not too hard to see that between having a local competitor that pretty much solely dedicated themselves to Magic, and the general churn I've seen in the store that DID hit Magic pretty hard, I've never been too excited to get into Magic.

Recently, with the new 2010 Core set, and the release of the Zendikar block, i've decided that we will now be doing Magic.  I have no intention of turning the store into a Magic ONLY store or even a Magic dominated store, but we are now running regular tournaments, selling boxes, and soon will be selling singles.  It's a big step, and I'm glad that I've chosen to do it.


You've heard the BASF ads.  "We don't make a lot of the products you buy; we make a lot of the products you buy better!"    That's pretty much describes my Accessories department.   Things like Dice, Paint, Tools, Card Sleeves, Miniatures Cases all fall under that umbrella.   Here's how accessories sales break down here at IOG.

Most of these categories should be pretty self explanatory.  Gaming Aids, is mostly things like templates, tokens, counters and the such.  Mapping is for things like battlemats, or GamingPaper or the awesome Paizo Flip Mats.  The Modeling category is for things like basing materials, bases,  and plasticard.

This is one of the categories in the store that's seen more and more growth over the past few years.  Years ago, the idea of someone selling pre-sculpted bases was a novelty, and now there are several companies doing that (some better than others).    Recently, Battlefoam, has just stormed into the market selling high quality and very configurable custom foams for miniatures.  Up until they came in, Sabol Cases were considered the Cadillac of gaming cases.  With the introduction of Battlefoam, they've slipped down to Honda Civic status.  Gale  Force 9 is perhaps one of the premiere example of this emerging market.  They've made their entire business on making tokens, bases, templates for other people's games.

Now, there are a few places here where I want to do some improving.  As we get more Magic being played, we'll sell more card sleeves, that goes without saying.  One of the surprises to me was just how strong terrain REALLY is.  For years, I've dismissed it, saying 'people generally play here in the store and just use our store terrain, so there really isn't too much of a market for selling it here in store.'   As Lex Luthor so succinctly said in the recent superman movie.  WROOOOONNGG!!   It's clear that there IS a market for terrain, beyond what I was seeing (or letting myself see), and I would be remiss to ignore it longer.

That's enough for today.  Tomorrow I'll continue with a breakdown of RPG sales.   Which RPG line is the best seller here in the store?  The answer might surprise you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where does it all come from? Part 1

A while ago, I did a post where I went over all of the store expenses for a month, giving a general look at where all of the copious dollars I manage to make a month  (bwhahah) go. (You can find that post here.)  This month, I thought i'd take a different tack and go over the other end.  Where does all of it come from?  Some people might be surprised to see the breakdowns of various departments and categories in the store, especially as I've found that most people will tend to over estimate the facet of the hobby that they are actively engaged in.

This is going to be a multi part post, broken up over several days.   For the first day here, I'm just going to show the overall categories and their relation to each other vis-a-vis sales here in November.

Before I go into that I'd just like to reflect on a two different numbers.  73% and 53%.    The first number, the 73% was the increase in sales from this Black Friday to last year's Black Friday.   Now, Black Friday is generally not that huge a day for us.  For many retailers selling more conventional wares, Black Friday is the make or break day of the year.  It's called Black Friday because this is the first day of the year that many business start to show a profit, or as we say 'run in the black'.   Yes, this means that many businesses run at a loss for most of the year until the holiday sales season start.   I honestly don't know how people who are involved in these business cope with that, as it would drive me stark raving bonkers to run for a loss for SO long and then to make up for 10 months of losses with 2 months of breakneck sales.  That is FAR to topsy turvey for my tastes.

For us, Black Friday isn't too different than most other Fridays. We do see SOME Christmas sales, but the majority of people are shopping at the big box stores getting 94% off of laptops, or MP3 players for free after rebate.   Short of deciding that I wanted to go out of business in a spectacular fashion, there's nothing I could do that could even remotely compete with those sales and promotions.  So I don't bother.  It's been my general experience that people do their shopping for sister Sally and brother Billy in those first few days after Thanksgiving, mostly because what Sally and Billy are asking for are fairly common things.  Barbie, X box and "whatever the hot toy that will cause fistfights and at least 2 trampling deaths at the big box stores", are what people  are looking for.  But what about crazy little cousin Elmo who plays those funny games with the little figures and funny dice?  People tend to come in a bit later in the holiday shopping season to buy those kinds of gifts.  More often than not, they have NO idea what they're looking for, and either hand me a list with a frustrated look on their face, or they just ask for a gift certificate.

The second number I mentioned, 53% is what this November's sales are up over last November.   73% and 53%.  Those are some pretty significant increases.  In looking at things with as an objective an eye as I can muster, I have to come to 2 conclusions as to why sales are better.

1)  People feel better about spending money, regardless of how good the economy is going/isn't doing.  A LOT of my customers are out of work right now, but this time last year, most everyone was feeling shellshocked into not wanting to spend money.  There are some signs that the economy is improving, but I think people are feeling a bit better about spending.  It should be noticed that I have really noticed that people are buying things more on debit and cash than on credit.
2) The store is in better shape than it's been in for a good while.  We have better inventory, and a better 'attitude' than we've had for a long time.  I've had many customers come up to me in the past couple of months and tell me that they haven't been as excited to be here and to buy things as they have here recently.  I'm in the store a lot more, im paying attention to what's happening a lot more, and I think that's really showing.

Ok..that's over and done with, and now let me show you that little breakdown I promised WAY back at the beginning of this post.

For anyone who's really been in my store, seeing that miniatures are 50% of sales really shouldn't be too much of surprise.  CCG's while low, are still building here and we are, week by week, getting more and more people coming into play Magic.  If there is a bit of a surprise in here's it's that the number two department in the whole store is Accessories.  That includes things like, dice, paint, tools, mapping aids, game aids.   It goes back to something I said earlier, we don't need more games, we need more things to make games BETTER.

Here's a breakdown of the top 15 items overall for the month of November

1) Zendikar Boosters (WotC)
2) Skaven Army Book (GW)
3) Space Wolf Battleforce (GW)
4) Imperial Guard Chimera (GW)
5) Fortress of Redemption (GW)
6) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 3rd rd (Fantasy Flight Games)
7) Ork Battlewagon (GW)
8) Assault on Blackreach (40k starter set)(GW)
9) Hammer of Thor Boosters (heroclix)
10) 2010 MTG Booster Box (WotC)
11) Zendikar MTG Booster Box (WotC)
12) Pathfinder Bestiary (Paizo)
13) Cadian Battleforce (GW)
14) Tau Battleforce (GW)
15) Ravenwing Battleforce  (GW)

Tomorrow, I'll continue this with a break down of some of the categories, giving you all a bit more of a look at what moves here at IOG.