Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Without great fanfare or to-do (unless you consider this blog fanfare and to-do) I am going to start carrying Warhammer 40,000.
As anyone who has been reading my Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Ever Had blog knows, I've been struggling with this choice for a couple of years now, or at least since Gambit Games went out of business.
This is one of those times when all the roadblocks that once seemed so insurmountable have suddenly disappeared.
The time is right.
5th Edition is being released this Saturday. I can simply pick up each new release as they come out, instead of trying to go backward, trying to figure out what to buy and what not to buy. Money is no longer a huge problem; and space has been created by the reorganization.
The biggest change in my thinking has come from my experience with sports cards. I've made it no secret that 5 or 6 years ago, I was pretty much disgusted with cards. I was barely supporting them, hardly paying attention.
What caught my attention was when Fleer, which had been one of the three big companies when I started (Donruss and Topps being the others) joined Donruss and Pinnacle and many other companies on the scrap heap; to remain as a brand, only. I figured it was the bottom of the market: I could come in and set my own terms.
I also got the sense that the consumer had finally come to realize the difference between the junk they were selling at the chain stores, and the more premium product I could offer. That the price shock had already driven everyone out of the hobby that was going to be driven.
And finally, I thought that if I just concentrated on buying new boxes of cards, putting a reasonable retail markup, and stacking them, (with a sampling of packs, available) that I might have a viable product without having to go through all the gyrations I used to; without taking up too much of a footprint; and without the huge risky expense. (Not trying to carry singles, sets, and packs as well.)
And it's worked out.
Basically, I started carrying the product on MY terms; and if the customer hadn't accepted that, then I would've stopped carrying it.
I'm comfortable with carrying the boxed Warhammer sets, which I can stack, and the new hardcover books, which I can slot into my shelves. If it's a huge success, I'll revisit the idea of carrying blister packs later. I'm buying through a middle man, and I'm just going to carry one of most items. (Some of the armies are 240.00 retail! So I'll find out pretty quickly if I spent money for nothing...)
I am going against almost all the advice I've heard. I'm not buying direct, I'm not stocking deeply, I'm not playing or demoing the game, I'm not carrying paints and accessories, I'm not carrying the blister packs. But I am experienced at selling similar product, and I'm going with my instincts this time. I went with the experts last time, and felt I was duped; that it was overpriced, overblown and over hyped.
My store is different now; much less dependent on the 'fanboy' and much more open to off the street business. I figure I'll get the occasional sale this way. If a couple of the locals check other venues first and can't find it, they may come in and buy from me. They may even buy from me first, if I prove I'm dependable. And once I have a viable product in the store, I'm very good at keeping it in stock.
The customer is going to have to accept the fact that -- just like anime and manga, most boardgames and role-playing games, sports cards -- my expertise is limited. I'm just the bartender, and I'm selling you a product, and I don't pretend otherwise. I won't be able to chat you up, I won't be able to host games or demo them. I'll have them for sale, and in stock, at regular retail and that will have to be enough.
If it isn't enough...well, I figure the upside potential is much higher than the risk to me right now. I can take it slow and easy, instead of trying to dive into the huge Warhammer world. I calculate there is enough demand in Central Oregon, that -- just like sports cards -- I'll be able to sell enough to make it worthwhile.