Friday, March 23, 2007

2nd post today. Instead of running out of things to say, I seem to be accelerating. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to spin out theories.

Over the last 5 years, as soon as I realized that game sales were on the decline (I usually tell my customers that sales are heading into a 'valley' from a very high 'peak'; sounds much more innocous) I've talked to hundreds of game customers, not one who thought that games were on any kind of decline.

See, human psychology being what it is, the customers think that because they are still interested, it must be that everyone else is too. (It also works in reverse -- former customers will come in and say, "People still buy that?" And I always want to answer, "Yeah, imagine that. They dared to go on without you....")

I usually don't argue with them. I just know that asking your customers how a product line is selling is useless, just like it's useless -- usually -- to ask a seller if something is selling well. Anecdotal evidence is all but pointless.

One of the reasons it's so hard to get a reading on things like the real estate market, for instance, is that both the sellers and the buyers are very unreliable indicators, on an anecdotal basis.

Back to games: Game customers are certain that I must be selling tons of games, even though their local game store has closed, it was because the owner wanted to play poker, or something. The evidence is right there in front of them, but they refuse to see it.

The latest Comics and Games Retailer Trade Magazine, had the following statement:

"We lost anywhere up to 2/3 of our fellow retailers, several distributors, and more publishers than you could shake a stick at (yes, even you can't hold that many grudges), and all too many consumers. And most of you who are still here can look around your store today and barely recognize.

Pretty damning evidence. I still ask my customers from other towns how their local store is doing, even though I know that it's competely useless information. I try to glean from it what I can.

If I was a stockbroker, or a real estate agent, I'd be watching the old hands. The ones who have been through the cycle before. The ones who I know think for themselves. I'd assemble a group of half a dozen or so, because one or two could be wrong, and I watch what they were doing. I might not watch them on the way up, but if I had the slightest doubts, I'd be watching them on the way down. And I would listen to my own instincts, no matter how much everyone else was gung ho. Same thing, if I ran a company that produced product: I'd have a council of a dozen retailers, who I thought were independent minded, and I'd LISTEN to them.

The reality gap can sometimes become ridiculous. When the sports card market fell into a death spiral, (and I don't mean a decline, I mean screaming off a cliff) the card customers stayed arrogant and demanding for years. I basically wrote them off, and went on to other things. The consequence is, ironically, that most card customers now OVERESTIMATE the decline in cards. The industry still exists, after all, It just won't ever be at those Mt. Everest proportions again.

Just by way of saying how hard it is to get accurate information. I usually find that if I have a slowdown, no one, and I mean NO ONE will admit they are suffering the same, but that 6 months later it will turn out that I was not the only one. I trust what is actually happening to my store; not what I hear elsewhere.

I should probably add: my store is doing very well. I'd tell you if it wasn't, or at least wouldn't tell you that it was doing great. The downtown activity has really helped my foot traffic, as much as I hate to admit it.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Dunc,

To turn off italics for some text, use your cursor to select the sentence, paragraph, or whatever, then click the italicized "I" icon. It's a toggle, so clicking it again will turn italics back on.

By the way, I came downtown to get a haircut today. Naturally, since I was just around the corner, I dropped in to say hi, didn't see you, but picked up a copy of Cancer Vixen anyway. Location always matters.


Duncan McGeary said...

thank you, sir.