It is time to talk about something very important. That giant faceless corporation is not your friend. It does not care if you succeed. It does not care if your store remains in business. It does not care if you order their product. People inside the Faceless Corporation MAY care if you succeed or fail. You may have friends who are in customer service, marketing, or even product design, and THOSE people want you to succeed, but Faceless Corporation doesn't care.
Giant Faceless Corporation has shareholders, a board of directors, and some C-Suite executives. The shareholders want profit. The board of directors want to avoid company-based scandal, and the C-Suite folks get seven figure bonuses for showing more profit. They don't care about you. They care about profit. If they release Product A and know exactly how much Product A they sell, and how much of Product B, Product C, and so on, they will sell, they will continue to push the envelope all the way to Product Z to see if sales curtail. They have a far greater understanding of their sales pace than you do. You have information from your store, where you may see variations between Product A and Product Q, and you may have some friends who also share sales figures with you and as a group you all get a little more information. Well, Faceless Corporation has ALL the sales information. They know how much they sold to Faceless Distributor A and Faceless Distributor G, and all of them in between. They know how many they sold to GOMBFC (Global Online Monopoly Bad For Consumers), and mass market stores that are largely just places where this shit gets shoplifted from. They know how much it cost them to design the product, market the product, produce and ship the product, and they know how much they've sold of similar products in the past. Most importantly, they know who bought the product, and have decades of knowledge about the growth of certain segments of their customer base. They've long known how to market and sell to Timmy and Jenny, and used various competitive events to keep Spike engaged. They understand Mel and Vorthos and how to appeal to each. They have decades of market research and sales data that tells them they can release a new product every two weeks and charge $100.00 for it, and the consumer it is marketed to will go get it. They just may not get it from you. AND THAT IS OKAY. I've been in this industry now since 2012. I ran a store through some terribly slim early years. I begged Cole to help me get terms set up so I could sell my Prerelease product and then pay for it, because I didn't have the cash flow. I've literally sat in front of a Faceless Distributor C order that was $1500.00 and cut lines until it got to $1200.00 because cash flow was that tight. I've been forced to make choices about which customers would be happy and which customers would be disappointed because I chose a certain new product over another new product. It's a skill everyone should work on, because it is okay to not make every dollar. Seriously, read that again. It's okay to not make every dollar. In poker we talk about a concept called "pot odds" (you can click the link, I won't explain it here). The same holds true in retail, think of every new product as a hand of Hold'em and understand your pot odds. In this case of that new set from Faceless Corporation, the pot odds will change each time you increase your bet (which equals buy-in). Your pot odds might be spectacular on one case, good on two cases, and mediocre on three. So make the good bet, and if it pays off, maybe stretch it on a reorder. If you can't get a reorder...it's okay. You already made and won a bet on that product, and you can find the next good bet to make.
For many years the only correct bet was 'take my full allotment' or 'take what I can afford.' After many years 'take what I can afford' would be a terrible bet, because I have no interest in 1,700 boxes of the same set. Even 'take my full allotment' is a mediocre bet sometimes. While Faceless Corp has numbers that say it's worth them developing and selling SKU G for Set F, I have numbers that say SKU G didn't sell for sets A through D, so I'll pass.
This concept of pot odds extends into every buying decision you make, be it TCG, miniatures game, board games, or what have you. Some things have phenomenal pot odds; like a new paint line (I think those are the best pot odds I get), and some things have terrible pot odds (like 99% of board games released), but on every buying choice we make I'm always thinking about the pot odds. I also think you have to understand that the pot odds in my store are different than the pot odds in any other store in the industry. Seriously. No store shares identical pot odds. Again, this is a thing worth repeating - NO STORE SHARES IDENTICAL POT ODDS. Our stores can be remarkably similar in board game sales, but our pot odds on a board game will still be affected by multiple things; staff excitement about the title, customer base, location, etc. A game about hiking might do really well in Colorado and fall flat in Wisconsin. A game about oil spills might do really well in a coastal California town and fail in a Canadian village in oil country. A game about forest fires may fail in that same California town. Local markets affect pot odds on every product. The climate of society and the happenings of the news also affect local pot odds, so add that to the list of things you need to understand and keep track of if you're in business for yourself. So, as well as all the other things that you need to keep track of, you better make time to read two newspapers a day, one local and one national. I'm being serious here. I have numbers to back it up.
Every two years, October is worse, and the beginning of November is slow. Depending on the results of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the month may pick up, and it may stay stagnant. Your store in Wyoming may experience a different reaction than my store in a left-leaning and wealthy part of the Denver metro area, because our customer bases reacted different to the happenings on that Tuesday. Your store, which does well in a town of 50,000 people, may be in for a rude downturn if the manufacturing company that employed 2,000 of those people closes, or if an oil field runs dry and 2,000 people lose their jobs. These local things affect your economy and are worth following and understanding. But they don't affect Faceless Corporation. Faceless Corporation is always finding and losing customers. They're playing the percentages game with nearly perfect information and a MASSIVE bankroll, so even if they think they made a mistake they can afford to repeat the mistake JUST to get better information for the future. You can't do that. (Or you can, and good for you.) You're a small business owner. The shareholders are you and your family. The board of directors might include some management employees. The C-Suite is your partner and family members. My one overwhelming loyalty, the thing that drives my decision-making, is that I want to pay my employees a fair wage and treat them with respect and dignity. To do these things we MUST be profitable, so decisions are made based on profits. If Option A and Option B are equally profitable and I can only make one option, I go with the Option that also makes money for my friend, because I can. So, let's end with some advice. Faceless Corporation isn't going to change their release schedule or lower their SKU count because you ask. They have more information, and better information, than you do. While your local player base might complain about too many products, Faceless Corporation knows exactly how many of that product they will sell. You have to make the decisions you need to make to be profitable. This means if your player base doesn't want it, don't order it, or order in minuscule quantities. There is a product Faceless Corporation recently released that I wanted exactly one box of. Not one case. One display box. It's okay to be done. This isn't said enough, and I think it's absolutely worth saying. It's okay to be done. You can get out of bed tomorrow and decide that the decision-making process, the hoops, the Faceless Corporation, aren't worth dealing with. You can sell your fixtures and close. It's not failure (in my opinion) to remind yourself that you're smart enough to make more money doing pretty much anything else. If you wake up still excited to do this, then keep working to get better. Know that you may have some allies in retail friendships, or in a distributor rep, or even in a customer service agent at Faceless Corporation C, but Faceless Corporation (a legal person under terrible US law) doesn't give a shit about you. You have to do it without them. *Disclaimer - The author of this blog post only believes there are about half a dozen Faceless Corporations in his industry. He will let you decide who they are.