Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Too many board games?

I have to believe that board games will soon be facing a reckoning. 

There are far too many games being released for the number of games we actually sell. Every day I get someone in asking for a game I've never heard of--and it is never the same game. Many are Kickstarters, even more are exclusive to some distributor or website or another. Far too many aren't available when we try to get them.

Meanwhile, the games that originally enticed us into the market, games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne, are being offered in every big chain store, thus no longer unique to us. 

Thing is: even the old standbys weren't a sure thing. They'd sell in waves, but many sold for a short time and then stopped. Some never sold. 

The old rule of thumb is that 20% of your product will make 80% of your profits. When you are no longer selling as many of the twenty-%ers, it's nearly impossible to make up for it in increasing variety. You'll be told that "You should carry the stuff that Target doesn't," which begs the question: "Why aren't they carrying it?" Well, because they can't make money off it and neither can we.

My experience in the past is that this is a no-win situation.

The only bright? side is that it is also unsustainable. Too many people jumped into the pool at the same time and there needs to be some clearance. Either that or it will become an online thing. Or perhaps, like sports cards, it will take 30 years to make a comeback.

I'm carrying the old standbys and whatever I can get of the rarer games that actually sell. But I'm not going to chase after every new game in hopes that I can sell one copy. I'll maintain my inventory and wait and hope that things change. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the store is booming.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Interesting news day.

Barnes and Noble has announced that they are cutting back on new hardcover books. Instead, they will concentrate on "frontlist with proven track records."

Excuse me. Isn't that just an Orwellian way to say "backlist?"
So the publishers are all concerned about Amazon and Barnes & Noble cutting back. Karma's a bitch, ain't it?  "The cuts highlight the importance of independent bookstores as showcases for new books of all kinds." (Shelf Awareness). Well,duh.
"If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem." (J. Paul Getty). Kind of a problem with near monopolies, innut?
Amazon "began cutting back buying in the past several months, and in at least one case is negative for August." Which means, I guess, they sent back more books than they bought. 
Actually, I'm not surprised. I've always gone with the books with "proven track records." It just made sense instead of gambling with each new hardcover book that came out. I can afford to wait for books to make an impact, except for the top of the tippimost books.  

Meanwhile, in his column for "The Beat," prominent comic retailer Brian Hibbs talks about the constant lowering of discount for comics from our wholesalers. It's making it very hard to earn an income from comics alone. Weirdly enough, we may have had an advantage early on because I never could make enough money from comics alone and therefore always had to try other things. 

We transitioned to a pop culture bookstore a few years back. We still carry comics, but all I could see in the future was a continual uphill battle. We’re in a heavily touristy downtown core and we’re currently making 5 times more on books than comics. I'm actually kind of shocked by that. The turn in the market toward, as Hibbs put it, a "strong lean-in to “collectibles”, the variant cover and other stunts where they can increase margin in that fashion" was a major factor in my decision. Been down that road before and it didn't end well.
All I could see was heavy lifting. Transitioning to a bookstore relieved the pressure, ironically, so that we can still do the job with comics. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The final piece of the store.

It's weird how I continue to improve the store when all I'm going to do at the end is sell it to Sabrina. But I can't help it. The store is a work of art, as far as I'm concerned. 

In some ways, the lack of space has required that I be very ingenious about how and where I display things. One of the reasons I never even considered trying to be a full bookstore until--well, at least until I was already almost there--was because of space. But I kept squeezing an inch here and an inch there, adding elements slowly, and one day I looked around and realized I'd done it. Frankly, it was the reaction of new customers and tourists that clued me to the fact that Pegasus was, indeed, a bookstore. Selective, to be sure, but it has all the pieces. 

So as all the parts fall into place, I have time to turn my attention to things I've let slide. Most of it is done. I feel like the selection of books can always be slowly improved, I'm trying to keep up on card games, specializing in variety, I'm trying to keep the inventory graphic novels up to snuff. Over the last year, I've concentrated on increasing the quantity and quality of our toys. Games, I'm trying to maintain at current levels--frankly, waiting for the the market to settle down.

So, in some ways, the last thing that needs to be done is back-issue comics. I saved this for last because, though it can generate revenue, the lack of cost-effectiveness, the amount of work needed to be done, has always been a little intimidating.  

I was never been opposed to the general idea of buying collections, but I hated the process so much (sports card collectors were rather aggressive at the end), that I simply quit doing it. This current collection came because I knew the owner and what he collected, the price had already been established that was more than reasonable, and...most important of all...I finally have the time and energy to deal with it. 

The final piece. 

I'd forgotten how much time and effort goes into organizing comics. It used to be, I'd never have enough of the essentials to do the job right: I'd either be short of boxes, or bags, or boards, or price tags, or tape, or something that would stop me half way through the process. 

Once again, space is at a premium, but my brain is working on solutions as I bag and board. If nothing else, I'll have premium material for sale at the end. It'll be clean and nice looking and complete. 

Weirdly, I'm enjoying it. I like the challenge, the game of trying to figure out what comics will sell, in what format, at what price. It used to be, we had price guides. There are way too many titles and comics overall for anyone to be able to put together a usable, up-to-date price guide, so basically pricing is up to me. I can look online for prices to sets, but the average comic is going to have an average price. If there are "key" issues in the run, well...I'm pretty clueless about which ones they might be. 

Some comic dealers are very up to date on which comics are currently hot--first appearances, major changes, etc. But my eyes glaze over when I start reading how such and such a comic is suddenly "hot" because some character got a new costume or something equally inane. So I'm well aware that the back issues will probably be cherry picked. Thus, the average comic will need to be priced at least at cover price, an probably more often a dollar or two more. The first five issues of every series are going to priced so that they cover the cost of the next twenty or so issues. Seems fair to me. It will be up to the collector to decide if that is worth it. I'm in no hurry to sell. I'm creating art here. Heh.

Every Stars Wars, Alien and Predator comic from the 1980s on.

Working my way through the 8000 comics I bought. There is every Alien and Predator and Star Wars comic from 1985 on. Boy, howdy. I had no idea there were so many series, so many comics over all. I'm starting to realize that bagging and boarding every comic is going to take up considerably more room than I got.

I keep reminding myself that the price was right.

I would love to be able to put them all out, but I'm probably going to only have room for a couple of the Star Wars series--at least until they are winnowed down. Same with most of the rest. I originally wasn't going to try to do any sets, but the only way I can really put out a significant number of books is to have places in the store to sell sets. These are primo sets, too.

I've decided to organize the Marvel and DC comics under family groups: Batman/Superman Titles; Avengers Titles; X-Men Titles: Spider-man Titles. This will allow me to put all the best selling titles in places were people can easily find them, rather than, for instance, having the X-Men and Wolverine way down below and at the end of the alphabet.

Even without trying, comics proliferate. I recently sold 40,000 comics from the basement, leaving roughly 8000 comics upstairs. Even without this new collection, I'd already doubled the number of back issues since then.

I'm giving myself four months to completely finish the comics. I originally was going to finish off organizing all the comics before putting them out, but now that I'm making sets, I can put them out first. 

If you're looking for early Star Wars, Aliens, and Predator sets, I'm going to start putting them out today.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Life is what happens while you're organizing.

I'm working through the 8000 comic collection I just purchased.

I forgot how addicting organizing things can be. You want it all in order, nicely bagged and boarded, in fresh clean boxes, priced and ready to go. 

But I spent years doing that, and at the end, I didn't feel like most of it was worth it. I had an epiphany one day as I was carefully organizing my sports cards. No one really cared. They only wanted the superstars, the rest was useless. 

I had the image of my kids finding me slumped over the table, sport cards in hand. Of them hauling me off to the mortuary and all the sports cards and comics I'd carefully organized off to the dump.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. 

And I am.

Friday, August 12, 2022

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..."

I spent the first half of my career, about 20 years, buying and trading product. It's what a store like mine was supposed to do. 

But in the end, it was such a miserable experience that I decided I had to quit--either that, or give up all together. I won't go into the particulars, just that I became so stressed by the process that I got a bit of PTSD out of it. (Not to minimize the real PTSD that people feel, but my feelings are so strong that it's got to be some minor form of it.)

So I took a chance and stopped buying and trading product off the street.

I was immediately less stressed and I found ways to make the store work without it. I had about forty thousands comics in the basement for years and never had the energy or the urge to really deal with them. In the end, I sold them all to another dealer for pennies on the dollar. My sports cards I simply gave away to another dealer.

I've spent most of the last 20 years buying only from wholesalers. Without meaning to, I indoctrinated Sabrina about it, too, even though I've often told her that trading and buying from collectors can be a very profitable business--IF you can stand to do it. I can't stand to do it, but she'd have a fresh slate. 

Ironically, over the last few years, people have flat out given us boxes of comics, among other things. 

Recently, someone gave us a couple of long boxes of comics which I just plopped downstairs and didn't think anything more of it. But I had a guy ask about a title and I remember seeing it in those boxes, so I let him go downstairs and rummage through them.

To my surprise, he came upstairs with some pretty damn good titles. I charged him far below what they worth, but decided I wouldn't let anyone else get in there before I checked them out myself. 

In the end, I spent a few minutes pulling out some old series and as an experiment, put them out for sale. Bamm! They sold right away.

Hmmmm...I thought.

Here's the thing. I know I still can't do the process of dealing with collectors without getting upset. So I again mentioned to Sabrina that she might want to develop a process to trade and buy material from collectors when it came time to her taking over the store. 

All of this is a long prologue to my buying a rather large collection of comics last night. 

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

About 9:00 last night I saw a posting on Facebook from a longterm customer. This is a fellow I also consider to be a good friend. To my great surprise, he was planning to sell his collection at a weekend garage sale. Based on the picture, it looked to be about 5000 comics.

Something about that idea hurt my heart. I hated the idea of that magnificent collection being ransacked. I knew that my friend had good taste and that there were some great titles in that collection. The price he was quoting was more than fair.

I called him up, I offered to buy the entire collection for the price he was asking and he immediately agreed. No fuss, no muss. None of the dickering that I so hate.

So now I have 5000 comics to deal with.

I'm thinking it will be fun.