An Open Letter to Publishers


Let us begin this letter with some things that are facts, before I begin the open letter. Prelude: We like buying products. We like selling products. By and large I like most of my publishing partners as people, and as companies. Dear Publishers, Right now, as I type this, our LightSpeed Cloud POS lists more than one hundred active suppliers and 383 brands in our database. We stopped sourcing exclusively from distribution years ago, not because distribution did anything wrong, but because there is so much product out there from so many different companies that no distributor can keep up with it all. We buy lots of things from lots of people, which is what I'm going to write about, because one of the things I do in the business these days is create every new product card (having one person manage the database insures consistency) and create the invoices (because then I can make sure they're all paid correctly, and keep notes in LS about those payments). When you deal with this many companies for this many things the one thing that you find yourself irritated with more and more is the lack of consistency in the invoices you receive. I'm very intentionally not going to point fingers here, because I don't want to shame anyone, I want to help everyone, and I invite retailers to add comments to anywhere this is posted to help our publishing partners improve. When I set up a product card in LightSpeed it gives me TONS of spaces:

Let's talk about these fields. Description - This is really what the product is called. What you call the product and what we call the product may be different things. A board game title like Tsuro fits nicely, but Dungeons & Dragons: Nolzur's Marvelous Miniatures: Wave 12: Dude Who Does Something, doesn't fit, so we use standardized abbreviations and maintain a giant document of them. UPC - You know what this is. Custom SKU - This is what we call your product. Manufact. SKU - This is what you call your product. Games Workshop might call their product 102-30, but we call it GAW 102-30. Asmodee might call a product SWL90, but we call it ASM SWL90. Some products are available in a variety of different places, and the product codes may not match. Renegade, Thames & Kosmos, Spinmaster, and Rio Grande Games, are just a few examples of companies that have different abbreviations from different suppliers, so there is a massive Family Grid in Google Docs that says what we use (and shows anyone who looks what the codes are at the various distributors). Category - We make this up. It could be Board & Card Games, or Miniatures Games, or Roleplaying Games, etc., and each of them has MANY sub-categories. You can follow the Miniatures Games category down to the Warhammer 40k subcategory, and then into further subcats that are each different faction, and each faction into subcats like Book, Dice, Data Cards...I went nuts, but this isn't your problem. Brand - This is your company name. Price - Default and MSRP These are mostly the same for us, we like profits. It would be terrible to close the store three months after opening because we did it for community. If the Default Price is different than the MSRP, it's because we're selling it for more. Some publishers have criminally lowered their standard discount and tried to eat out the middle tier. We raised prices to protect margins, thanks. Default Cost - This is what we pay you. Vendor - This is where we buy the widget from. So, what does all of this have to do with our publishing partners? Some of these things are VITALLY important, and NEED to be on the invoice you send me. Description UPC SKU MSRP Wholesale Despite my love for you, you're actually all numbers to me. When it comes time to reorder something, I do that by numbers, I think of products as SKUs, not as titles, so please include SKU on your invoices. I added UPC to my "vital" list here because it saves my STAFF time, and STAFF time is money. If you include the UPC in an easy to find spot (like ACD, which literally puts it on the invoice as numbers) I can copy and paste or type it into each new product. This means that when staff receives the product they can just scan it into the invoice instead of having to open a product card and teach it the invoice. Alliance put the UPC on their invoices as well, as a barcode, so I can use a barcode scanner while I do the invoice to fill in information. You don't need to be this fancy, just please include the UPC on the invoice. MSRP and Wholesale tell me how much I should sell the item for, and how much I am buying the item for. If you've decided to further erode my margins, two things could happen. First, we could stop selling your product, or second, we'll sell it for more than your MSRP. You sell a luxury product, and if you can't give us 48% or more, then your retail price is too low, but that's a conversation for another time. But please, fix your invoices so that the vital information needed to run a business is on the invoices. Thanks, John

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