Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kickstarter no more

Yep.. I'm pissed.
Kickstarter just announced that they will no longer allow publishers to offer 'bulk or retail' discounts on their products...effectively shutting us out of the loop now.
As of this moment, I have spent over $2000 on products. I've helped support games for 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, Reaper Miniatures, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Flying Buffalo Inc. Crash Games and many MANY more.
For years, I've beat my head against the desk with the rise of PDF's. I've seen great games and gaming companies abandoning print runs for the domain of digital publishing. Looking at it objectively, who can blame them. It takes tens of thousands of dollars to bring a book to market, and then have to undergo the trial of market acceptance. It doesn't take many brain cells to figure out why publishers would rather go the route of digital pdf publishing for their RPG's, and even the occasional board game. It makes a whole bunch of financial sense for publishers to be able to eliminate that huge, up front, publishing cost, and go direct to their consumers.
However as a retailer, it chaps my ass to hear my customers talking about all of the awesome books they're getting online that I can't provide to them. Now, some people say that's just greed on my part, that I'm upset because I can't get a cut of it. The noble part of me wants to say "no...that's not it.. I like being able to present these fine things to my customers, and let them know that I care about them and what they want by having a diverse selection." However the realist part of me then says "OF COURSE IT GODDAMN IS ABOUT ME NOT GETTING A CUT!". I'm a retailer. I do this to - make money -, and when I see gaming dollars bypassing the retailer that DOES piss me off to some degree.
Or, as another man, far better with words said :
“About 50% of the human race is middlemen and they don’t take kindly to being eliminated.”
Captain Malcolm Reynolds
Now, kickstarter. It's a fairly recent comer on the scene, and I looked on with a little bit of amusement when I started seeing some projects some up on it. Then..I saw that one of them..the Far West game had a 'retailer support level' on it. At the risk of sounding crass..I touched myself when I saw that. Here was a game publisher, who was 1) overcoming the burden of initial print run costs. 2) significantly eliminating the 'well now we hope it sells now that we've spend all that money on a print run. ( now..points 1 and 2 sure do look an awful lot like the benefits of pdf...Buuuuuut...) 3) have a physical print book out there, that people can hold in their hands and flip through 4) let me as a retailer stock the product on my shelves and let me do what I do best. SELL BOOKS.
It was a glorious moment. I signed up immediately. I giggled like a schoolgirl at the thought of publishers coming BACK to the print market, confident if their project was funded that the demand WAS out there. I cavorted around the store with the thought of no longer having to wistfully look at DriveThru RPG and hope that some of the stuff there would one day make it to my shelves. I frolicked up and down the length of my RPG wall, giddy that my RPG selection (one of the best in the state, and I'd honestly put it in the top 10% in the nation) would have even MORE diversity. I needed a cigarette.
Now kickstarter comes along and tells the publisher that it can no longer offer retailer levels or 'bulk discounts'. *insert sound of a car hitting a wall at 100 mph*. Wut? All of a sudden now, I'm being cut out of the loop AGAIN. Now, with the pdf thing, there were some huge logistical hurdles there keeping retailers out of the loop, it wasn't JUST a 'money thing'
This TOTALLY is just a 'money thing'.
What was that Mal? “About 50% of the human race is middlemen and they don’t take kindly to being eliminated.” Thanks much, good buddy, glad ya got my back.
At this point I'm just reduced to an agape mouth, with a severe look of 'what the fuck' on my face. Yet again, I get to watch as a new distribution scheme manages to completely avoid me, the retailer, and in essence, take money from my pocket.
Some might say that 'just wait a little while...these products will end up in'll eventually be able to get them.' That I highly doubt. The vast majority of sales on a product will be in it's initial release. If a manufacturer makes a game, and releases it through kickstarter, then THAT's where the majority of the sales will be made. Any sales through the distributor will be afterthought sales, and likely will not amount to enough number to make it worthwhile for them to carry. Also, it's likely that the manufacturers, using the kickstarter system will be printing enough copies to be able to even stock the distributor warehouses, as making a bunch of copies that you aren't sure are going to sell is sort of at counter odds to the whole approach of a kickstarter project in the first place.
So..once again, retailers are left out in the cold. On the outside looking in. And people wonder why more and more retailers are leaving the industry for greener pastures elsewhere.
Thanks again Kickstarter. Thanks for nothing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Of Paint Racks and Planning

Interesting article on IcV2 here.

And by interesting, I mean "the first half of the article seems reasoned and well thought out, but the last half of it seems to be little more than a monkey throwing his feces at the wall."
In this article, Scott Thorne says....

"It would really have helped us out in terms of budgeting if GW had given us more information about this more than two weeks in advance. "
I was told by my rep, almost TWO MONTHS AGO, that the current line of paints were going to be phased out. We were told that instead of ordering them by the box of 6, we could order them individually, so that we could have a 'minimum stock on hand'.

Now, it doesn't take a mental titan to figure out what's going to happen.   We were also told...MONTHS prepare for a 'large financial outlay'.    Again, it sure doesn't take a mind of Mensa to figure out what's going on here.

Now here's the funny part.  Scott here is bitching about an outlay of $2000 bucks.  Now, to a game store owner, 2 large isn't a small chunk of change.  It surely isn't.  But, if a person who was watching their money couldn't set aside the sales from all of the paint on their current rack (which will NOT be restocked), then I'd suggest a serious look at the way they do their financial tracking.    
Over the past couple of months, we almost completely sold out of the paint on our soon to be replaced rack.   The money from that, under normal circumstances, would go to pay for restocks, and then other sundry items, like rent, electricity.  Instead of putting that money into restocks (or, I'm willing to bet in Scotty's case... dumping those sales into other departments....) just set it aside.  When the time comes to shell out those bucks for that rack, one should have almost half of the money already set aside.

This is what we in the industry call "financial planning".
Now, in the interests of fair argument, this scenario doesn't take into account the fact that the range expanded from 70 some odd paints to 145. This means that, depending on the previous rack's stock levels, you'll have in the neighborhood of one quarter to one half of the new rack paid for. 

Now, for myself, hearing that the line was going to be expanding to 145 paints, I was fully expecting Games Workshop to want me to buy 12 bottles of each paint, putting the cost of the new rack system at about $3600.   When they came and said that it was only going to be 6 of each paint, that actually freed up about $1800 dollars in my budget. 

Still though, the point remains that anyone who possesses even basic observational skills should have been able to adequately prepare for the new rack. 
Now, onto his comments about the rack itself.

"Unfortunately, the new rack suffers from a design flaw, at least from the retailer point of view.  Unlike GW's last two paint racks, I guess in order to fit the wider range of paints into it, the paint slots fit at a much steeper angle, only holding six paints, unlike the older ones, which held 12.  Since GW ships paints in quantities of six, the store either has to maintain extras in backstock somewhere away from the rack or wait until paint runs out before putting in a reorder."
Really?  I mean....really? This is actually worth kvetching about?   Now, I noticed the same thing too, and for the briefest of moments my brow furrowed slightly at the fact that I wouldn't be able to store more than 6 points on rack.    My marginal disappointment at that was countered by the fact that now, with the increased angle, and another changes to the rack, All of the paints in the rack would actually slide down to the front of the rack properly.   Before, the rails that the paints set between were just a hair too narrow, and since they used a flat metal pan to slide on, there was much greater friction.  The result was many times people would buy a couple of paints, and the ones behind them wouldn't slide forwards.

 Sometimes, it would look like we were out of paints, when in reality we had plenty more, just tucked up in the darkest deepest recesses of that rack, unable to slide down into the light of day.
Now, we'll have to keep a box set aside with backstock paint.  I have several things that are in my backroom as backstock (and overstock too..which is another insidious beast).   It's not going to take too much for me to tell my employees to keep an eye out, and if they see a paint low on the rack, to check the inventory in the computer, and if there's plenty of inventory left, go into the backstock and get some.

This is what we in the industry call "inventory management". 
Is it a touch more inconvenient?  Yeah, I'll grant that.  Is it over the top inconvenient?  Not in the least.   It's more than made up for with a rack that has all of the paints slid to the front, and helping to make the rack look full and stocked.  As one of my retail mentors once said "if you can't afford to keep your paint rack stocked, get out of the business."  I'll take this rack six days of the week and twice on Sunday over that last rack.  My job is inventory management, and asking me to do my job isn't a 'design flaw'. 

Some people might think I'm just being a sightless fanboy, waving the games workshop banner in utter and loyal devotion.  People who know me will know otherwise, as I'm one who point out what I perceive to be flaws, but I also feel it's proper to point out when people only feel like whining about the potential negatives of a situation, instead of at least acknowledging the positives.
There are plenty of very legitimate things to bitch about concerning Games Workshop.   The fact that a retailer can't pay attention to some very basic signals, and seemingly can't be bothered to pay a little more attention to his stock levels, doesn't count among them.