Yesterday, I had a perfectly reasonable request for a type of sport card holder that I don't carry. I'll be telling the guy to go online to buy it.
I carry a set number of sports supplies: 3000, 800, 660, 400 count boxes, shoe boxes, 9-pocket sheets, soft sleeves and hard sleeves.
I've simplified the supply chain -- I'm not sure I even have accounts with suppliers of anything else.
See, once upon a time I carried probably 10 times that number of ancillary products. I carried them because I was selling a lot of the primary product; sports cards.
It's been 20 years now since that dynamic changed. I slowly but surely extricated myself from the trap, simplifying, carrying only the product that had reasonable margins, and so on.
Nowadays, I think maybe cards are earning 1.5% of my sales.
I really should shed them completely, but I haven't quite gotten around to it.
I do not have the time, space, energy to carry the odd sizes of supplies -- nor is there any profit in it.
See, the customer can't buy all the easy stuff from the mass market, and then turn around and try to buy what's left over from the specialty stores. Because the specialty stores won't be there -- or if they somehow manage to survive, they will only be carrying the product that makes sense.
I'm going to make a bold declaration -- one that no one will agree with, that everyone will think is hyperbole -- in 20 years or so, everyone will be running around looking for things, trying to sell and trade things, and missing things they can't even think of yet -- but the book, game, toy, comic, record, card, etc. etc. stores will be gone.
O.K. Gone is hyperbole. But there will be less of them, and they'll probably being even higher priced for the hard to get product, and it will just be all around harder.
Sometimes, it's the ancillary product that make your hobby worth doing. A stack of sports cards is just a stack of sports cards. You need plastic sleeves, and stands, and display racks, etc. etc. You need informational guides. You need lots of things to really make it work.
But you can't expect shoe stores to survive if all they can sell are shoe laces, you know?
Linda and I have a friend who needs a certain type of shoe that only one of the shoes stores in Bend used to carry.
"The online place I was buying from doesn't have them anymore," she said. "So I went back to the retail store, but it was gone!"
It's the stuff you're not thinking about that will be much harder to find-- the stuff you won't miss until you miss it.
I had a blog awhile back where I said how useless it is to say, "You'll miss us when we're gone," but I'll say it nevertheless. (I know in your heart you don't believe it.)
But, fortunately for me at least, I only have to worry about the next few years -- not 20 years down the road.
4 days ago