It's so interesting to me that even though I'm not interested in "speculation" anymore, I still know how to do it. And nobody else in town does. Nobody else who sells this stuff has been through this before.
Pokemon is hot again. Okay, that's fine. I love seeing the kids get into it, to play the game; at least, I hope that is at the base of what is happening.
But seeing twenty-something old guys coming in and pretending to be interested when what they really want to do is buy me out and sell everything on ebaby--that's a big warning.
Here's the thing about speculation. It's gambling, which is bad enough. But worse, at it's core, a winning speculator is taking advantage of someone. It's almost the definition of a winning speculative strategy.
So obviously, I don't want to be the fool that gets taken advantage of...but neither do I want to be the guy who takes advantage of other people.
How do I sell the product and not get taken advantage of and still sell at a reasonable price to those who deserve it? That's the trick.
When a fad comes along, it's not hard to sell the product. Any moron can do that. No, the real trick is to somehow have the product to sell when everyone is scrambling to get there before you. Over the years I learned how to do it. I still have those chops.
Basically, the trick is to have the product and sell it too. To discourage or thwart the speculators but have the product for sale to those who deserve it.
1.) The minute you see the fad setting in, you buy whatever available product you can. Then, every time it is offered, you buy as much as you can.
2.) You don't put it all out on sale at the same time. You put enough out to keep people interested. You don't let customers buy everything you have. It's tricky, because if you set a limit, they'll buy the limit which just means you sell out even quicker. So you don't tell people the "limit" but wait until they ask for more than the limit.
3.) When the speculators come in, play dumb. "Oh, is this hot? I didn't know that. No, I don't know when I'm getting more. Gosh, I only have a little bit." and so on. Speculators aren't return customers. They are just trying to take advantage. Not to contradict myself, if playing dumb doesn't work, you look the speculator in the face and say, "I'm not going to do that. I want to sell this to the young kids who are actually playing." I tell you, every time you do that, the speculator will look down and say, "Oh, I want that too." Right.
4.) In every speculative bubble, there is the moment when you can still buy the product but you have to pay more than wholesale. If it turns out that I can still sell the product at (maybe with a smaller margin) SRP, or close to SRP, then I buy all I can. This is not something that a corporate store is going to do, nor is it something that most small businesses will haven't experienced this before do. Paying more than wholesale in order to have the product is just not normal. But in a fad, it's the only way to have it.
I currently have Pokemon at $5.00 a pack. That is slightly higher than the original SRP, though not by much since we were already selling the packs at cheaper than the chain stores, (3.99 versus 4.59) so it really only puts us closer to what most people were selling it for.
The small bit of extra also is a disincentive for speculators to buy from me, but doesn't dissuade the kids and parents who have searched all over town for it and can't find it anywhere. (I can't tell you the number of times parents have told me, "You're the only place in town who has it.")
What I learned back in the old days was that "It is better to have the product at a slightly higher price, than to not have the product at all."
What's fair and makes sense is instinctive. I'm not interested in gouging. The extra .50 or a 1.00 is not about the extra money (indeed, my margins are probably even smaller than normal) but keeping the demand down enough to have the product and yet continue to sell it. Meanwhile, I was constantly told that the stuff I was selling was four times that price online.
Every single customer who came in to buy Pokemon yesterday also bought something else.
We'll still sell out--mostly because I'm not going to follow the prices up the ladder like I used to do 20 years ago (I didn't know any better.) When it starts getting crazy expensive, I'll let it go.
But in the meantime, I'm trying to try to be the "go to" place and still keep the prices reasonable.