Why e-commerce isn’t a cake walk

I’ll put up a longer post soonish, but I figured I’d link to this rather interesting article about how Amazon is screwing their business customers over.

Quick summary – Amazon tracks all the data and information that you use when you use their store, and eventually when it is worthwhile to do so, they undercut you and sell your product lower and better.

It’s part of the reason why we have our own website and stopped with Ebay after a while.  It’s much better to have your own site, whateve rthe cost, if you intend to do this as a long-term business.  More control, more options and the ability to really ‘hold’ onto customers.

Availability function and pre-orders

So, as requested and discussed in our previous post; we have launched the ‘Availability’ feature on the site. It’s now part of the main search functions and can be sorted / searched using just that feature.

Note that orders will ship only when it is complete – that is, it will be held till all items of an order are put together.  If you wish to have an order ship before that, you would need to contact us and inform us of that, and we would then charge additional shipping for the second part of the order.

Expect to see a change in the way the individual product pages look relatively soon too as we update it to make the ‘Availability’ information more prominent.

Lastly, over the next couple of weeks we’ll be verifying the information on the availability we put up.  To make it easier, we did mass updates so some might be off.  Do tell us if you see something obviously wrong.

New and restocked board games

New Board Games
Chicago Express
Shazamm!
Zooloretto Gorilla Expansion
Zooloretto Polar Bear Expansion

Back in-stock
1870 rail game
Acquire
Alhambra
Aquaretto
Carcassonne
Carcassonne Princess & Dragon
Fluxx 4.0
Guillotine
Ilium
Killer Bunnies Blue Starter
Killer Bunnies Orange Booster
Killer Bunnies Pink Booster
Killer Bunnies Red Booster
Killer Bunnies Steel Booster
Killer Bunnies Violet Booster
Killer Bunnies White Booster
Monty Python Fluxx
Railroad Tycoon
Rails of Europe
San Juan
Settlers of Catan

Valentine with Chibthulhu – 10 things it says about your relationship

This Valentine, why not give the Chibthulhu Plush to your loved one? After all, giving the plush says many things about you, your loved one and the special relationship that you have.

Here’s 10 things that it might say:

  1. I’ll wait millennia for the right moment with you
  2. Let’s go sacrifice some virgins together tonight
  3. You’re my high-priestess of terror and destruction
  4. I worship you, for your strength, beauty and brain eating abilities
  5. Love is never having to say “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh Wgah’nagl fhtan.”
  6. Your cute, cuddly exterior has me – and the UN – completely fooled.
  7. Come, let’s set the world on fire. Then eat it. [Warning: Plush toy is fire-retardent and inedible]
  8. It’s not love without a little terror
  9. Our love is eternal. According to prophecy.
  10. It’ll be a glorious return, one of insanity and mindless violence and just a little awwww…

Got your own? Why don’t you mention them in the comments.

Launching a Board Games Store Part IV

So, a question raised on BGG about how much it’d cost to launch a board games store online came up.  I was going to answer it there, then realised I might as well just answer it on the blog and point him in this direction since I’ve written a few articles on this already.

There are a few major costs associated with any online business that needs to be taken into account when considering adequate capitalisation.  Note that the normal; the more the better, for capitilisation holds true.  I am also not including operating costs (I.e. salary and hosting and the like) in this post.

So, major costs associated are:
– Incorporation, business license and other related costs
– Website Design and Set-up
– Payment Gateway
– Inventory
– Capital Equipment

Incorporation and other legal fees
The cost on this one varies, depending on whether you are incorporating or just going it alone as a sole-proprietor or partnership.  If incorporating (our suggested venue) it’ll cost you at least $500 after taxes; and this is if you do it yourself.  If you go through a lawyer (e.g. you need changes to the Articles of Incorporation or need a rock-solid shareholder agreement) it’ll go up from there.  Figure all in with good solid  legal representation (definitely a good idea if more than 1 person is involved in ownership); about $2,000.  This includes your business license which is generally pretty cheap and easy to get.

Range: $500 to $2000

Website Design and Set-Up
Asking how much this costs is sort of like asking how long is a piece of string.  It really, really depends on what your site specifications are.  For something as sophisticated as Amazon – think hundreds of thousands.  I’ve also seen quotes for as little as $1,500.  You could, using  Yahoo! Merchant Accounts probably get a site running for about $750; using pre-designed themes and editing it slightly to fit what you want.

For something more professional and serious, you will likely get quotes between $7,500 – $15,000 for full design, backend set-up and some customisation to what you wish.  You might be able to get it cheaper if you have contacts and/or are able to do your own design.  And obviously, you could go much higher.

Range: $750 to $15,000.  Middle range – $7,500 – $10,000

Payment Gateways
We’ve mentioned them before.  These are the guys who actually charge the credit cards put through the site (or for that mater, at a normal retail store).  Moneris is the larges, most sophisticated payment gateway in Canada.  Their set-up cost is $500 but generally charge a much lower % of the orders.  PayPal is free to set-up.  Generally, you can get quotes from other 3rd party gateways for between $250 – 500.

Range: $250 to 500

Inventory

There are two sections to this – firstly your various stock inventory and secondly, the packaging materials.  Figure at least $250-500 for packaging materials (different size cardboard boxes, a weighing scale, tape gun and tape, printer paper, etc.).

Inventory really depends on the strategy that you are taking, from being a one-stop shop for all customers to only picking out the best-selling board games and charging a higher premium.  Obviously, the sky’s the limit for the amount of inventory you would need for the first option (e.g. Funagain games stocks according to their site over 4,000 board and card games.  At $20 cost per game, that’s $80,000 at the minimum in inventory).

The other side of the spectrum would require you to have a minimum of 200 board games.  Even at $20 per game and holding only 1 copy (highly unrealistic since these are the games you are expecting to sell consistently like Settlers, Blokus, Ticket to Ride, etc.); you are looking at a minimum of $4,000.  I would say you would need at least $6,000 to give a proper go at this, probably more like $10,000.

Now, note that this does not include funds for new games that are coming in (e.g. say Age of Steam or the next print run of Dominion).  To be safe you would like to have at least $1000 or so free to buy these games and any additional games special ordered by customers.

There is another wrinkle to this – how fast can you get games from your distributors.  The faster the transit time between when you place an order with a distributor and your receipt will dictate how deep you will need to carry popular board games (if it takes a week to arrive, you will need at least 2 weeks worth of stock to be safe).

Last note, this is specifically the amount for board games.  Role-playing games and miniatures and varius game accessories could easily increase the cost here.

Range: $6,000 – 80,000.  Mid-range – $10,000 – 20,000

Capital Equipment

This category covers everything else you will need to run the business including a computer, a printer, a dolly and shelving for your games.  Again, cost varies depending on what you want and if you already have equipment you could use (e.g. a personal computer and printer).  Shelving costs varies from $35 IKEA shelves to $90 metal shelves. Dollies are cheap – figure about $50 – 100 depending on make and brand.

Range: $300 – $3000

Conclusion

So, to do an online game store, with a minimum of investment – $7,800.  A more reasonable capitalisation amount would be around $20,000.  I’m certain I’ve forgotten some other expenses here and this obviously does not include any on-going fees you will have to pay – this is just start-up costs.

I would also add that most stores end up stocking between 400-500 games at the least.  Figure your inventory costs to that amount with reasonable depth (i.e. 4 to 5 copies) for the more popular games.

New and restocked board games

New Board Games
Alhambra : Power of the Sultan
Carcassonne : the Catapult Expansion
Master of Rules

Back in-stock
Alchemist
Arkham Horror
Australia
Babel
Barbarossa
Basari
BattleLore
Blokus
Bohnanza
Camelot Legends Card Game
Citadels Card Game
Dracula
Dvonn
A Game of Thrones: Storm of Swords
GiftTrap
Kung Fu Samurai on Giant Robot Island
Munchkin 2 Unnatural Axe
Munchkin 4 Need for Steed
Munchkin 6 Demented Dungeons
Munchkin Card Game
Munchkin Quest
Nippon Rails
Oregon
Puerto Rico
Reiner Knizia’s Poison
RISK Reinvention
Saboteur
Saint Petersburg Expansion
Samurai
Say Anything
Senji
Shadow Hunters
Shogun
Ticket to Ride Dice Expansion
Ticket to Ride Europe
Tikal
Times Square
Tomb
Vexation
Wooden Farm Animal Set (60pcs)
Yinsh

Pre-orders & a new feature option?

We recently added a ton of new pre-orders to the site and will be adding more very soon.   Along with this, we have also turned on the ability for customers to make pre-orders of these products.  Our usual rule about  pre-orders hold – orders will ship only when the complete order is available (or we’ll hold your pre-order awaiting payment of a second shipping expense).

Lastly, we are looking at adding a new information section to our site for ‘Availability’ to replace the current ‘In Stock’ and ‘Out of Stock’ options shown on the site.   The main reason for this is to allow us to keep more stock of games that really sell well (e.g. Dominion or Agricola) while lowering our stock  of other less popular games (e.g Catz, Ratz and Batz, Heroes  Incorporated) that occasionally, customers do want.  Most of these games would be games that are normally stocked at our distributors anyway so receiving them is just a matter of placing an order and  getting the games in.

It would look very similar to the feature available on Chapters for finding books.  Specifically, it would say:

Availability

  • Normally ships within 48 hours
  • Normally ships within 4 weeks
  • Pre-order

As usual, we would only ship an order once everything in the order was ready to ship.  Would you prefer an option to order games in this way and does it make sense to you?

New and restocked board games

New Board Games
En Garde!
Fluxx (version 4)
Living Labyrinth
Space Beans
StarCraft : Brood War Expansion
Sudoku the Card Game

Back in-stock

Age of Empires III
Agricola
Alhambra : City Gates

Android
Apples to Apples Crate Edition
Apples to Apples Party Box
Arkadia
Arkham Horror
Arkham Horror : Dunwich Horror Expansion
Arkham Horror: Kingsport Horror
Battlestar Galactica
Blokus
Carcassonne
Carcassonne : Hunters and Gatherers
Carcassonne : the City
Carcassonne Cult, Siege and Creativity
Carcassonne Princess & Dragon
Card Protectors – Red
Catan Card Game
Catan Card Game : Barbarians and Traders Upgrade
Chrononauts
Cities and Knights of Catan 4th Edition
Coloretto
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-1942
Cosmic Encounter
Crystal Counters – Black
Crystal Counters – Yellow
Deck Box – Solid Black
Deck Box – Solid Red
Deck Box – Solid White
Descent : Tomb of Ice Expansion
Die Macher
El Grande Decennial Edition
Fire and Axe : A Viking Saga
Formula De
Galaxy Trucker
Ghost Stories
Guillotine
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Hive – the Mosquito Expansion
Imperial
Ingenious
Killer Bunnies Blue Starter
Killer Bunnies Steel Booster
Killer Bunnies White Booster
Kinder Bunnies: Their First Adventure
La Citta
Large Dice Bag – Black
Large Dice Bag – Gray
Large Dice Bag – Red
Lost Cities
Memoir ’44
Memoir ’44 – Mediterranean Theater
Memoir ’44 : Eastern Front
Memoir ’44: Pacific Theater Expansion
Memoir ’44: Winter/Desert Board Map
Monty Python Fluxx Card Game
Mr. Jack
Munchkin Booty
Nefertiti
Neuroshima Hex
Once Upon a Time Card Game
Pandemic
Power Grid
Power Grid : Benelux / Central Europe
Power Grid : Card Expansion
Power Grid Italy / France
Power Grid Korea / China
Princes of Florence
Puerto Rico
Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm Expansion
Reef Encounter
Saboteur
San Juan
Settlers of Catan 4th Edition
StarCraft : the Board Game
The Battle for Hill 218
The Red Dragon Inn
Thebes
Thurn and Taxis
Ticket to Ride
Ticket To Ride: Europe
Ticket to Ride Marklin
Ticket to Ride USA 1910
Tigris & Euphrates Deluxe
Titan
Traders and Barbarians of Catan
War of the Ring
Warrior Knights
Warrior Knights: Crown and Glory Expansion
Wasabi
Zooloretto Expansions

Logical logistics problems

Well, the first 3 days of taking back logistics and shipping out is over.  With us going down to the States personally once more and shipping ourselves, we have gone full circle to where we started.  The only major difference is who is doing it (me instead of Alison) and where (an office instead of out of her apartment).

The trip down to the US was a nightmare once more- 3 hours in line waiting to get through the commercial border.  Thankfully, the Canadian Border Service was efficient – it took less than 20 minutes including completing and submitting the paperwork to get out.  After that, we had to unload and start shipping.

We finished today, with every game owed now in the post except for 2 final orders that are pre-orders on unreleased games.  So if you have an order that should be shipping but you haven’t received a confirmation, bug us! There shouldn’t be, but you never know…

One thing I do regret was not getting a bigger office – we forgot to take into account one minor fact.  While we have more than enough room to work with for shipping, storing, editing the site, what we don’t have is space to unpack new product.  Eh, live and learn.  I’ll probably start using the hallway briefly when we do runs.