Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Lately, spot shortages have been the bane of my existence.

(The following is all my own terminology.)

In all my product lines, I have fairly extensive lists of product that I consider essential, which I dub 'Evergreen.'


For instance, in books I'd say all the Palahniuk books; On the Road, by Jack Kerouac; sufficient Vonnegut and Dick and Robbins, and so on.


Should always try to have the latest copy of Amazing Spiderman, Batman, Superman, X-Men, etc.

Graphic Novels:

Most good Vertigo lines: Preacher, Fables, Y- the Last Man, Dark Horse books like Sin City (currently out of print?), Hellboy, Serenity, Ultimate line, and so on. Plus a good selection of the classic or new Independents.

Games: The core D & D books, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassone.

Card Games: The last half dozen brands of Magic, the last Pokemon and Yugi-oh, etc.

And so on, and many, many more. In just about every one of my 8 product lines.

Minimum Orders.

The problem comes from having to make minimum orders in each of these categories.
This is usually around 300.00 in wholesale costs, in order to qualify for shipping and handling.

From about the year 2000 through last year, this usually wasn't a problem. Some categories, like Graphic Novels, every week. Others, like Games, every two weeks.
I pretty much kept to this schedule all the time, so I was never more than a couple of weeks from getting something someone requested, and or replacing an Evergreen.

If I occasionally came up a little short; say 200.00 in wholesale worth of Evergreens and special orders, it was usually no problem to add another 100.00 worth of Evergreens and or new product. Sales were always increasing, and it allowed me to try new stuff.

Also, during this time period, I was more or less quadrupling my inventory levels in most categories.

Longer time spans.

Lately, I seem to be stalling at around half the level I need in the time span, so I've stretched the ordering periods. Two weeks for Graphic Novels, three weeks for Games, etc.

Sometimes, it seems to stall even then.

Strangely, this is almost a good sign. Since I'm paying my bills with what I am actually selling, it means that the oddball or non-replaceable product is taking up a higher percentage of my sales, which is helping my margins.

Special requests haven't been so urgent that I'm letting anyone down, and when I can't make a quick order I don't try to pretend, but explain why it might take a little longer than I used to.

This represents a minuscule amount of my total product; even my total Evergreen product.

However, I don't like to be sold out of Preacher #1 for very long.

There is, actually, a fairly easy solution, one I've been following all along, which is why I'm not actually short of most good books: I have a dozen copies of Watchmen in stock, for instance, so I can wait to order more.

The solution is to weight my orders more in the direction of Evergreen products, and slowly build up the core inventory by increasing pre-orders I know I will sell.

The "Just in Time" method of ordering is great when the turnover is good; not so beneficial when you can't reach your minimums.

Nice thing about Evergreens: you'll always end up selling them, so having extra copies isn't necessarily a bad thing, just inconvenient.

Just in Time ordering was a bit of a luxury. Instead of carrying 2 or 3 copies of a thousand different Evergreens, I could have 1 or 2 copies, and buy an extra thousand of not quite Evergreens, and enough of those would sell to continue the policy.

Things Have Changed.

Well, obviously. But 'Just in Time' ordering was more helpful during the build up phase than during a maintenance phase.

I'm also not particularly worried about my store having only the same best-sellers as everyone else. New product, for one thing, will always bring in speculative material. 'Sale' product. And my own predilection to order 'cool' stuff; I can't stop myself, only moderate.

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