Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chainstores and me.

First incident.

Before Christmas, I decided to carry about the same number of Euro boardgames as last year. I figured it would be a slower Holiday, but I also saw signs that the Big Guys were noticing these games; last year Barnes and Noble had Settlers of Catan, though they did sell out and sent people our way.

Sold out of Carcassone early, but too late to reorder. Sold out of Tickets to Ride 10 days early, mostly because people who bought them bought two at time. Sold my last Settlers of Catan a day before Christmas.

Not great, but acceptable for me.

Then had at least 10 people call AFTER Christmas looking for Settlers of Catan. Because of the way the holiday shipping happened, the earliest convenient time to reorder would be this week.

Interesting, and makes me wonder if B & N had them through the holidays.

Second incident.

Couldn't get any of the Twilight books through the Christmas season, despite putting back orders with my wholesaler in late Oct., and then again in the middle of Nov.

But I had three copies of the third book, Eclipse. Everyone, but everyone turned their nose up at it. They wanted the first book, the second book, the fourth book, but not the third book.

"Buy it," I'd say. "You're going to need it later."

So I finally sold two copies, and had one left. Tuesday I got a call from a woman who wanted me to set it aside. "Sure," I said.

Then another call.

Then someone coming in the door looking for it.

Then another call.

Finally, when the woman who had set aside my copy came in, she said, "Barnes and Noble had stacks and stacks of them last weekend, and now they're out."

Third incident.

I have gotten three separate e-mails asking if I had Twilight cards. Since they were phrased very similarly, I suspect I might just be dealing with an over-zealous intern at InkWorks, but still.

There were the two possible outcomes of me carrying Twilight (my experience after 20 such movie hits and cards):

I get a couple of boxes in a month before the movie comes out. They sit there for a couple of more months, and then.....I finally get someone in. They look at my price, and wince, and say, "How come so much?" and I know they got their cards at a chain store, and then they want to know if I have any singles, and then....since I don't....they might -- or might not -- buy a couple of packs.

Or the second scenario; I get a couple of boxes in a month before the movie come out. The movie is a flop. No one ever buys them.

Here's the thing: I don't much enjoy being your second choice. I really hate being your third choice. And I refuse to be your last resort.

I certainly understand why Inkworks wants to sell their cards at Walmart, but they need to understand why I don't want to try to sell their cards at my store.

The Point?

RDC was laughing about today's earlier post about my ranting about the chain stores.

But what's funny to me is, that I don't really care that much about the chain stores, anymore.

I went from being afraid of them, to being indifferent, to being somewhat amused by them.

I think they're big old dinosaurs, doomed eventually to extinction.

They aren't too bright, they have no ability to think beyond the short term, and they certainly aren't efficient.

What they are is BIG: and if you get in their way, they are dangerous.

Lumbering Beasts.

Fortunately they are easy to avoid.

Just stay away from the swamp.

Don't try to carry Twilight cards, or the new best-selling fad book, or any boardgame they start to carry.

Don't carry G.I. Joe toys, or Transformer toys.

Don't carry most brands of sports cards.

And so on and so on.

Just stay out of the swamp.


tykle said...

Speaking of Settlers of Catan, Amazon has them for $19.99 w/free shipping (if you order a couple). That's less than we can get them through distribution channels. Turns out they over-ordered for the holidays, panicked, and have tried to dump them below-cost since early December.

RDC said...

It is actually pretty simple. The big box model is one based upon inventory turns. They don't try and stock everything, but they do try and stock products that have a high velocity. That is why they can offer the prices that they do. A big box store turns over the store every month.

The business model works and will continue to work. Just as Duncan talks about them being lumbering dinosaurs (not quite sure who is the dinosaur here because they change the offerings of a high percentage of the store on a monthly basis. Whereas a store like Duncan's probably changes less then 5% of its product mix each month), they probably shake there heads at the concept of someone getting only 2-3 inventory turns per year.

The way one competes with them is to find a niche where there is a much wider breadth of product then the big box store would carry and where customers spend a good percentage of their money in that category outside of the big box selection. That is why auto parts stores still do nicely, even though a lot of money is spent in the auto section of Walmart for example.

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

I wish you would write more about the cat you have. That's interesting, an interesting topic.