Thursday, December 23, 2010

Biz thots

And interesting thing about inflation.

Every time I replace a classic book, it seems like the cover price of the newest printing is at least 1.00 over the last time I ordered. I mean, this can be in a period of just months, usually not much more than a year.

I'm talking about trade paperbacks, mostly -- which are the oversized paperbacks. So they'll run 12.00 one day, 14.00 the next quarter. 16.00 the next year.

Mass market paperbacks are trending to 8.99 on the regular size, and 9.99 on the tall books (I hate the tall books -- so unnecessary.)

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With major comic shops folding all over the U.S.A. there is a lot of talk about 'Diversity.'

But, methinks they don't really understand diversity. Diversity in comic shops doesn't mean adding a couple of Dark Horse or Image titles to your Marvel/DC mix. It means carrying every type of comic you can possibly afford, in every format.

Diversity in game stores doesn't mean adding a couple of Settlers of Catan boardgames to your Magic and Warhammer inventory. It means carrying R.P.G.'s, and most of the major boardgames. (Games may not be the best example for me -- because of space and time concerns, I sort of limit my reach.)

Diversity to new book stores, doesn't mean adding another line of coffee, and another couch. It means going outside the best-sellers and looking for idiosyncratic books that no one else has.

But most of all, DIVERSITY means -- carrying all of the above, plus toys and anime and t-shirts and art books. You know, being me. Anyway, I find that it's working.

To me diversity means carrying all kinds of product that doesn't immediately sell. It's the mix that counts; sometimes the non-sellers are what makes the seller sell.

I see advice columns all the time telling small business owners to be ruthlessly efficient in their inventory.

Wrong. Doubly wrong for smaller stores. That may work for Target or Walmart, but it's not what people expect from you. Customers want to see the unusual, the strange, the new, the old, the offbeat, the best-sellers, and they want to browse around your store and not see exactly the same ten best-sellers they just saw at Fred Meyer.

But I know that I set out on this course a full 20 years ago, when sports cards collapsed and then comics collapsed. I swore I would never let one or two product lines dictate my very existence ever again.

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This may slightly contradict what I just said, but I've been thinking something this Christmas that seems to be more true than ever.

There is more material for sale in the world than ever before, but at the same time --- there is less ready availability.

Now, many of you internet buyers will dispute this, but to me, having to get on the internet and search for the product and order it and give them my credit card number and wait for the product to ship -- is NOT "ready availability."

Ready availability is being able to call a store, find that they have it in stock, and go get it.

Anyway, this is the very essence of the "Long Tail Theory" of merchandising. Just about everything your little heart desires is available somewhere. But most every thing your little heart desires isn't available most everywhere. If you get the distinction.

When the mass market started killing me with their prices, my response was to carry the same stuff, perhaps higher priced but as close as I could get, plus I'd order the stuff the big guys didn't have. In other words, I had to do both. The way I did this, was to carry small amounts of everything and depend on my ability to order more and get it in quickly.

My response to the internets vast ability to carry everything, is not to specialize even more, but to try to carry as many different kinds of things as possible.

I guess I'm trying to have something customers want, even if I don't have everything customers want.

4 comments:

electricboots said...

I agree about the interest conudrum. People will walk in to our store, Platt Electrical Supply, ask for something; we tell them the price; they respond with I can get it for "X" price on ebay or "at cost" with some internet site; like 20 times a day. We fight the internet daily with pricing but luckly our stock is large enough to carry everything you will 'resonably' need and if we don't have it onsite, our company can get most things next day (even that is not fast enough for some customers.) The last thing I will say when I have a customer resisting to buy product they want or need that is present in the store is "do you wanna pay to wait or pay to have it now?" That usually gets them to buy.

Duncan McGeary said...

For me, its a matter of paying attention to the customers I can have, not the ones I can't have.

In theory, there are many more possible customers out there I can get, than I could lose.

This Christmas I've had many people --local people -- who didn't seem to know what we carried, and now they do.

blackdog said...

I'm willing to pay a modest premium to get what I want when I want it. That, and the desire to keep money within the local economy, is what principally motivates me to buy local. But the selection of so many things is so limited in Bend that often I'm forced to shop the Web. It's a lot better than it was when I moved here 25 years ago, but still limited.

Anyway ...

Merry Christmas, Duncan, and I hope your holiday shopping season was a successful one.

Duncan McGeary said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family, Bruce.

Yeah, I think that's just the way it is. The internet is a fact of life.