Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Could be taken wrong...."

I think I'll put out a few of my "could be misinterpreted" entries.

For instance.

I want everyone to know what I say in the following post isn't meant to slam the customer. It's just human nature. I try not to take it personal. It's just business.

I've always hated the question, "Is this all you got?" Especially in my first few years in business. It was like a dagger in the heart. I'd hurry and order whatever was asked for and didn't have, and then hope the person came back.

Finally, I realized I could have a city block, hell, the whole downtown full of stuff, and I'd still occasionally get that question.

Here's what I've finally realized happens, though.

People ask for stuff. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I have a pretty good selection of stuff, if not everything in that category.

What happens is, if the person asks for a 'type' of thing, and I show him an assortment, and he walks away because I didn't have exactly what he wants; my impulse used to be to order more of it until I got what he said he wanted...

On the other hand, sometimes a person comes in and I have very limited quantities of it, and yet they still buy. They want it. It's very clear they want more of it.

Which of those two things do I support?

I support what sells. And if that sells, I get more, and if that sells, then I get more and so on....

Whereas the guy who won't buy from my assortment; sometimes having double or triple or quadruple the amount won't satisfy them.

(I want to make an important distinction here: sometimes you don't have something and the customer makes it very clear what they want and that they will buy it. I'm talking about the person who says he has an interest in something, turns up their nose at your selection, won't be more specific about what they want (implying that I should somehow know) and won't promise to come back if you order it....)

It really turns into a standoff. The customer is saying, carry more of this before I buy. I'm saying, I will not be carrying more of this, until you buy something.

Thing is, in the end, I'm making the choice to support what sells. There is no real standoff. There is only that customer walking away (probably to buy online, that is if he actually buys anything at all.)

And there is me selling what sells.

So I always want to say, "You want me to carry that? Buy something"

Or..."Gee, you say you want this stuff, but you're walking away...."

So here's what happens in the end.

It's a self-correcting problem. As a mature business, I have a pretty good record of what's selling and what isn't.

At the same time, I have a budget.

So I go down the list of things I KNOW will sell, because they keep SELLING, and then the next thing on the list and then the next.

Until the budget is depleted.

It's a self-perpetuating thing.

Sometimes I even have money left over. Now I could use that money to build up the section of stuff that people are always asking for but never buying.

Or I can try something else.

I usually try something else, until I find another thing that people actually buy (Not ask for, but actually BUY) and I start using my budget for that.

So after awhile, you get more and more people in the door (after all, by buying what sells you have a store full of stuff that sells) but -- ironically --you also get more and more people asking for what you don't have.

So the standoff continues. And as long as the customer can find it online or in the mass market, they just think you aren't doing a very good job. Until they can't find it anymore. Then they come to the store again, and the whole process starts over, and I'm looking at my clipboard and wishing I had enough money to get everything I just sold, and some guy I haven't seen in three years is bugging me to get him something he wouldn't buy before....

And I always want to say, "Buy it and I'll get more. Don't buy it, and I won't get more."

I don't say that, of course.

But it's the de facto result. It doesn't, in the end, matter what doesn't sell.

It matters what does sell.

(Take everything I said above, and multiply it for monopolies....If I'm the only guy selling a product, I generally get lots and lots, and carry the full line, and give a good price, and all the accoutrement....

Of course, this never lasts. As sales drop, I drop each little extra, and stay with the main product, and raise the price to full retail, or drop it completely.

No other choice.

The opposite of what everyone thinks. More choice just dilutes the power of the almighty buck.)


Duncan McGeary said...

I also find it interesting that I get these guys in every few years who act mystified that I'm still in business, since I never have what they want.

Whereas the guys they used to go to are out of business.

I sort of have a three strikes rule.

If you ask for something, and I show you something that is 'close enough' and you turn it down, fine.

Do it again, again O.K.

Do it a third time, and you get the "Smile politely, and I'm moving on to the next customer" response from me.

I'm talking about having 15 Gundam toys, and the customer not liking any of them.

I'm talking about stocking a t-shirt in red, green, and blue....but him wanting yellow.

I'm talking about, "Why does your Captain Kirk toy have the wrong boots on...?"

Like I said, contrast that to the guy who asks for a specific graphic novel, you don't have it, but show him others 'like' it, and he buys three or four of them.

I tell you what, I guarantee you the next week I'm ordering all three that he bought, plus the one he asked for.

It just takes care of itself.

This is also a reason to have a great diversity, because it gives you that much more of a chance of discovering the better sellers in each category.

Duncan McGeary said...

I have entire categories where I've more of less thrown in the towel.

Warhammer -- first question I got after spending 5k on figures -- "When are you getting the new ones..."

Star Trek -- got a large assortment of communicators and phasers and toys in, most having to do with the old show. Have sold a only a couple.

Have had half a dozen requests for the NEW Star Trek toys. Add this to past history of Star Trek buyers, and it doesn't bode well.

I'm finding the Dr. Who customers to be overly choosy, as are the regular requests for "Wonder Woman" and so on and so on.

Contrast to Star Wars where anything 'cool' is likely to sell.

It's actually easy. Buy what sells, not what people think sells.

Duncan McGeary said...

Another great example: Board Games.

I could easily have ordered a selection of board games and had them sit there. Indeed I get constant requests for cribbage, chess, playing cards, and so on.....and never any sales. (I've experimented enough to know that I don't want to go there....)

On the other hand, Settlers of Catan started selling right away, as did Carcassone and Ticket to Ride, which emboldened me to buy Puerto Rico and Arkham Asylum and El Grande and so on and so on.

The more I get, the more sells.

The section starts to get bigger and bigger, pushing aside the stuff that doesn't sell.

Like I said, easy. But you have to have the toughness to follow through and not constantly get caught up trying to satisfy people who can't be satisfied.

It's ridiculous to me, for instance, for someone to say that can't find "ANYTHING" worth reading in both mine and Linda's store.

We get hundreds of books a day in the door, representing by natural means what is actually being bought and read in Bend.

Tomorrow's entry will be about this....

tim said...

Why do they even make Captain Kirk toys with the wrong boots?

Duncan McGeary said...

Oh, you know, they're just making a toy. Never occurs to them.

Duncan McGeary said...

Actually, this relates to an incident where I got about 10 different badges, and a couple of them had a wrong shape or a wrong design.

Not enough for a normal person to balk but....

Duncan McGeary said...

Sometimes I'll override the choosyness factor, if I have a reason to.

For instance, I stayed in sports cards because I had so many 'legacy' assets left. (Toxic). That it paid to bring in a bit of new stuff here and there just to keep up enough interest to sell an occasional leftover card.

I found out, that even though 9 out of 10 sports card customers won't buy from me, that the one out of 10 was just enough to justify the small footprint (boxes stack nicely) and to keep the legacy assets selling. After all, I already paid for the cards and fixtures, and so its like pure profit when I do sell a 'legacy' asset.

So I can safely ignore that people who are unhappy that I only carry say 10 brands of cards per sport per year instead of 50 brands of cards per sport per year.

tim said...

>>Actually, this relates to an incident where I got about 10 different badges, and a couple of them had a wrong shape or a wrong design.

A normal person wouldn't be buying it.

Duncan McGeary said...

Hey, I love Star Trek. But the fans have almost killed all the toy, card, game, t.v. and comic series that have come out. You know, they're just never good enough....

I'm pretty sure that this new movie will be a hit, (I'm looking forward to it) thus reviving the Star Trek license for the next decade...or at least the illusion of Star Trek as a profitable license.

Still....I won't buy Star Trek anything unless they are at greatly reduced prices and or on consignment.

Just had a guy in announcing that he buys Star Trek off Amazon. I showed him my graphic novels and toys, but he wanted to know what his 'chrome plated' toy was worth...

I shrugged.

Duncan McGeary said...

I googled Star Trek license failure, and apparently there have been successive failures in online games and video games.

Always the games fault, of course.

Just as it was the fault of the T.V. shows.

And the toys.

And the comics.

And the last couple of movies....

Oh,well. It has to be the content, not the fans, right? Everyone knows Star Trek is huge, right?

tim said...

I'm proud that Trekkers won't buy crap. Those Star Wars fans will buy any piece of shit.