New board games and games back in-stock

New Board Games
Ave Caesar
Age of Gods
Comuni
Galactic Emperor

Back in-stock
Battlestar Galactica
Call of Cthulhu LCG Horror beneath the Surface
Call of Cthulhu LCG Spawn of the Sleeper
Carcassonne
Conflict of Heroes Exp The Swamp
Illuminati Bavarian Fire Drill
Illuminati Y2K
Lost Cities
Power Grid : Card Expansion
Saboteur
Settlers of Catan 4th Edition
Settlers of Catan 5&6 Exp (07)
SPQR Deluxe
Shadow Hunters
Tide of Iron
Tigris & Euphrates Deluxe

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition
Twilight Imp 3E Shattered Empire
Wasabi
Wooden Farm Animal Set (60pcs)
Yinsh

Operating Expenses – or that hole at the bottom of the bucket

As briefly mentioned in our previous capitilisation post, we are going to go into some detail about operating costs.  After working through the post, we realised it was getting rather long, so it’s now broken into two parts.   This is the first part, arbitrarily named the hard costs.
Operating expenses for an online board games store comes in a variety of ways, most of them pretty common to most businesses but some that are specifically unique to the industry.  I’ll cover most of the big ticket expenses here.  All the figures provided here are figures based on professional quotes, but with some personal connections and favors, could potentially be lowered.

The Hard Costs
All these costs are fixed costs and are related to physical aspects of the business, whether it is your rental space or storage boxes or server bandwidth.

Rent
Rental cost is obviously going to be dependent on the size of your business and how much stock you carry.  Currently, warehouse space in Vancouver is about $1.50 per square foot and office space between $1.50 to $5.  As a comparison, retail space can go from $3 to $10.  Above estimates all include taxes and other gross expenses such as heating and electricity.

However, it is quite unlikely that you would find a warehouse for less than 1,000 sq ft, while you could easily find office space of 300 to 500 sq ft.

Hosting & Domain Name Purchase
This is another form of rent for an online business, in this case for your site.  Purchasing a domain name is really cheap, as GoDaddy has happily advertised – as low as $2.00.  Of course, the better domain names are already taken, and you probably don’t want a .biz or .net domain name, so you are looking at about $20 a year for domain name purchase.  Minimal.

Hosting varies, with starter hosting packages from $5 to 20.  For a more dedicated site, you are looking at about $50 – 100 which is what you will need for a site of any size.  Again, this can also depend on how you code the site – heavy database and image based sites will require more dedicated hosting than others.

Shipping & Packaging
Firstly, there is the cost of shipping games to your customers which can be a significant cost due to reshipments for missed games, mistakes on the costing of shipping during order processing and free shipping costs.  If you are wondering, no, we don’t actually make any money on shipping -the cost quoted on the site is our cost (plus box cost), give or take a dollar or so.  Sometimes we lose, sometimes we gain as the software isn’t 100% accurate.

On top of the actual shipping cost with your carrier; you have the cost of boxes, packing materials and tape.  Most cardboard boxes will cost you between $1 to 3 depending on size and stock, while packing materials can generally be purchased on the cheap.  In fact, if you save up the packing material you get sent yourself and all your junk mail, packing material costs can be negligible.

In addition, you have shipping costs to you from your distributor.  Unlike the US where some of the distributors will provide shipping for free after a certain order size, Canadian distributors do not offer this.  Generally, shipping cost from distributors within Canada is about 4 – 7% of the cost of goods.  Note that due to our location in Vancouver we mostly have orders shipped across the country so Eastern stores are actually better off.

If you are shipping up from the US, which is a possibility as not all the Canadian distributors will have what you want, shipping cost is much more significant and can be from 8 – 12%.  This does not include brokerage costs, which is another 1 to 2% generally speaking.

You can see why we prefer to just pick up our games ourselves from the US rather than pay all the shipping costs.  Admittedly, there is a hidden time cost here, but one of the advantages of an online business is that you can work at 2am and still get sales.

Social marketing and interacting with customers

Perhaps one of the most interesting and terrifying aspects of the web is social marketing.  As a company, we’ve dabbled in it including having a Facebook page and Twitter account.  Obviously, the blog is here as well and we’ve been commenting and submitting to BoardGameGeek and other forums as we go along.  And along the way, three aspects jumped out at us:

 – Time cost

Creating blog posts, updating the Facebook page and Twitter, reviewing forums and replying, all of it eats up a lot of time.   We’ve not even dabbled in video posts or podcasts at all, mostly because the amount of time it would take to do so on an on-going basis is way too high.  As it stands, we do our best, but sometimes, the blog doesn’t get replied to nor forums visited because we’re busy with all the other aspects of running a business.

 – The line between personal and professional

Especially with the new social media applications (Facebook and Twitter), its really easy for the line between personal and professional to blur.  While we would like to be transparent,  there are opinions and issues that; while they affect the business, might not be suitable for personal consumption.  An example would be the problems we had during 2008 that we never really detailed.  Most of them were personal, but it would help explain things to customers more – how far and where do we draw the line?

There are numerous, more directly related frustrations that occur for us as a business.  Discussing them in detail, on one hand, gives our customers an interesting view of our business.  On the other, it can be viewed as direct attacks on other competitors, organisations and individuals (beliefs  and otherwise).

Where is the line?  Mostly, we’ve been erring on the side of caution.

– Invasiveness

This relates to the above point, both for our own lives (how much do we want to link our personal blogs / profiles / etc to the company?) and for customers.  We get good reviews, we get bad reviews on other sites like BGG.  Sometimes, the reviews are very fair (yes, we did screw up that order); other times, the reviews are 90% correct but that 10% loss shines a bad light on us.  Well, when do we step in? Do customers who post these threads have a right to some privacy from us interjecting?  Would it be better to leave those 90% correct posts up as is – after all, to really ‘correct’ a post, we would have to C&P private e-mail exchanges.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the line for social mediaa is rather interesting.  We’ve decided, for the most part, to try to keep things as professional as possible on these terms.  Sometimes that means leaving the egg on our face, sometimes it means not explaining things as much as we’d like if we were discussing it with a customer in-perso.  The fact is, anything written / posted / mailed online is subject to replication to infinity, so if we’re even slightly unsure, its probably best to not say anything.

Board Games for the Community

Starlit Citadel; a board games store in Vancouver, Canada; has launched its Board Games for the Community program after the successful Games Night at Lumby, BC held by the JW Inglis Parents Advisory Committee.  The program provides an exciting new way for libraries, schools and parent advisory committees to introduce board games to their local community and potentially raise additional funds for programs and services.

“Board games emphasize social interaction, analytical ability and mathematical skills in a fun environment that encourages learning;” said Tao Wong, CEO of Starlit Citadel. “Over the years, board games have continued to develop in sophistication, originality and playability and have come to be awarded prizes from organizations like Mensa and GAMES Magazine.”

“Our Board Games for the Community program aims to bring these games to the wider community.  After the successful Game Night event at the JW Inglis Elementary School, we realised that this was a great way for schools, Parent Advisory Committees (PAC) and other community organisations to raise funds during this troubled economic times.”

In the Board Games for the Community program, Starlit Citadel will significantly discount all games purchased by a registered school, PAC or community institution looking to use the games as an educational tool, fundraising venture or other community outreach programs.

Additional details about the Fundraising through Board Games initiative may be found on Starlit Citadel’s website.

Starlit Citadel is a board games and role-playing games store based in Vancouver, BC.  It was incorporated in 2007 and provides over 900 board games across Canada.   The Board Games for the Community program is its first initiative focusing on the development of gaming in the community.

New board games and games back in-stock

New Board Games

A Castle For All Seasons
Call of Cthulhu LCG Core Set
Call of Cthulhu LCG Horror beneath the Surface
Call of Cthulhu LCG Spawn of the Sleeper
Combat Commander Vol 2: Mediteranean
Conflict of Heroes Exp The Swamp
Heads of State
Hidden Conflict
Princes of Machu Picchu
Runebound 2nd – Runemaster Class Deck
Runebound 2nd Battlemage Class Deck
Runebound 2nd Blade Dancer Class Deck
Runebound 2nd Wildlander Class Deck
Runebound Weapons of Legend
Pit Deluxe
SPANC Rev Ed
Start Player
SuperNova

Back in-stock
Battlestar Galactica
Carcassonne Inns & Cathedrals
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-1942
Command & Colors Ancients #3:
Descent Journeys in the Dark
Killer Bunnies Orange Booster
Killer Bunnies Red Booster
Killer Bunnies Violet Booster
Kinder Bunnies: Their First Adventure
Lost Cities
Nippon Rails
Pit
Power Grid : Card Expansion
Runebound 2E Avatars of Kelsnov Adv Pk
Runebound 2E Champions/Kellos Adv Pk
Runebound 2E Cult of the Rune Adv Pk
Runebound 2E Drake/Dragonspawn Adv Pk
Runebound 2E Shadow of Margath Adv Pk
Runebound 2E Walkers/Wild Adv Pk
Runebound Beasts & Bandits
Runebound Curse/Cataclysm
Runebound Quest of the Seven Scions
Runebound Traps & Terrors
Runebound: Frozen Wastes
Runebound: Isle of Dread
Saint Petersburg Expansion
Station Master
Ticket To Ride: Europe
Underground
Vampire Prince o/t City Board Game
Zooloretto

US board game sales up 6% last year

An interesting snippet of information about how board games sales have gone up 6%. I am guessing this is based on Hasbro and Mattel numbers, not so much our niche hobby numbers. And of course, this isn’t Canadian numbers.

I’d love to see what the numbers are like for Canada and our own hobby, but I doubt it’d drill down that far. Heck, I’d love to see more games like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride but at least both Blokus and Apples to Apples are on Mattel’s print list.