2012 In Review

2012 has turned into both an exciting and disappointing year for us.   There’s numerous reasons for this, ranging from a number of unexpected costs, a game industry that is changing on its head and internal process changes.

The Changing Face of the Industry

We talked about how the industry has changed in the March of last year with distributor exclusives and Kickstarter.  Since then, Queen Games and Mayfair Games have gone exclusive as well, while Tasty Minstrel briefly dabbled with exclusivity.  Kickstarter games have started arriving in droves, and the shine has begun to wear off.  Certainly, I’ve started being much more careful about which Kickstarter games to stock as we’ve been burned a number of times due to low on-going demand.

All of the above has actually driven our costs up – from direct Cost-of-Goods-Sold to inventory holding costs.  We’ve had to review pricing in some cases and are likely going to continue doing so for the next little while on a number of lines.  In addition, the plethora of games that are arriving means we are going to have to be much, much more careful about what games we stock.  This year’s 300+ games in our Boxing Day Sale was a tad much.

Site Updates

Many of you noticed the huge site redesign that appeared in the middle of November.  Frankly, the redesign was scheduled for 2013 after Christmas but a number of bugs had appeared on the site that required significant fixes.   In the end, it made more sense to upgrade and redesign the entire site rather than to do patchwork fixes.  Unfortunately, since it was budgeted for 2013 it meant that we had (have) a huge expense that was not really planned for.  Thankfully, it’s not something we will have to do again anytime soon, though we are still fixing small bugs as we find them in the new site.

In other good news, Interac Online is finally up.  We’re hoping it’ll drive our costs down; though as mentioned in my previous blog post it’s going to be a few years before it makes back our initial investment.

Video Reviews

The video reviews were a qualified success.  The reviews themselves have been a great success with the majority of comments highly complimentary.  However as an advertising / revenue generation vehicle they have not panned out to the extent that we had planned.  It’s one reason why we have to cut down to 26 videos (internally funded) and why we reached out to viewers to fund more videos in 2013.

Wider Categories

We seem to have missed the entire CCG explosion that is going on in the industry in general as we continue to develop in other categories on the site.  We’ve broadened our board game stock, added more RPGs and deepened our stock of miniatures.  We’ll be trimming some of our miniature lines in 2013 and expanding others, while RPGs are likely to hold steady as they are.

The major addition has been our launch of the Used Games category.  It’s still very much in an experimental stage, with us reviewing the cost associated (providing quotes, receiving shipments, checking contents and setting up the games on the site) and our profit margins on the category, but we’ve been generally happy with the new initiative.  The only thing we will be tweaking the sale price / quote prices to ensure we are making a sufficient amount for all the work that is put in.

2013

So what now? We’ve been talking about potentially moving locations to gain more space & windows but that’s another major expense.  With a new part-time employee and all our other expenses from last year, we don’t actually have a lot of free funds for 2013.  In addition, we’ve added a ton of new processes and it’s time that we started reviewing them to see if they are actually worth the trouble.   With a lower expectation of growth for next year considering the disappointing growth figures in 2012, it’s going to be tough to do all the things we’d like to do without some major overhauls on the backend.  Overall, 2013 is going to be a tough year of backend fixes and more rigorous review of costs.

Interac Online – New Payment Method

As you probably have noticed, we now are able to take Interac Online on the site as another payment method.  It’s something that we have actually been considering for a while; but it’s taken a bit to get the system running.  It’s taken much longer than I would have liked (as in, missing the Christmas rush) to get it up; but there are reasons for that.

Interac Online – Only Valid for 4 Banks

Before I get into that, I just wanted to clarify that Interac Online is only valid for the following banks:

  • BMO (Bank of Montreal)
  • Scotiabank
  • RBC
  • TD Canada Trust

All other banks and financial institutions do not support the system as yet.  It’s one of the reasons we hesistated on adding it for so long.  Hopefully, the other banks will integrate themselves soon.

The Process

Getting Interac set-up takes quite a bit of work when it’s an online system.  Here’s an abbreviated list of steps:

  • Apply for and be approved for an Interac account
  • Find and purchase an Interac Online Module
  • Install module on staging site
  • Test module for errors / compatibility issues and fix
  • Request Interac approval of IP address and Interac URLs on staging site
  • Check and fix errors
  • Send required documentation to Interac Online for approval
  • Fix error / requirements
  • Receive approval for staging
  • Request Interac approval for new Interac URLs on production
  • Go live, check for problems
  • Fix new problems on production site that wasn’t viable to test on staging
  • Finally go live (again) with finished product

Yup, that’s a lot of points and work.  And at least 90% of that requires development time.  Truthfully, if I had known how much time this would have taken (and cost!); I’d never have bothered to go ahead with this project.  The sheer volume of work (and most of it make work too) and the complex procedures has wiped out any potential cost savings of going live with this project (and then some!)

It’s no real wonder that most sites haven’t bothered to integrate Interac.  Between the large amount of work involved integrating an approved module into your site and the limited use, I doubt Interac Online will become a common payment method.  At least not till it gets fixed.

Ah well, it’s live now and the cost is sunk.

 

 

A Year of Missing Deadlines

With Christmas nearly here, things are beginning to slow down (the joy of delivery times).  Sadly, while business is slowing down; our arrivals of games have not.  2012 has been the worst year for missing deadlines since 2008.   I can’t think of a single game released this year that actually hit its deadline, with most coming in 2 – 3 months late with some over a year delayed.  There seems to have been a few causes for this…

Manufacturer Closing

It started from what I can tell in 2011 when a German manufacturer closed. That wiped out quite a few games, pushing them to 2012 and concentrating the manufacture of our board games into a number of other companies.  I’m sure these other companies are throwing more production into place as it goes, but not surprisingly this takes time.

The New Year That Doesn’t Happen

Then we had the non-regular Chinese New Year.  The New Year caught a ton of publishers by surprise and suddenly, items that were meant to be delivered in January – March were pushed back by another 2 – 3 months.  How a 2 week work-stoppage that happens once a year managed to evade so many people’s notice and mess with their plans, I don’t know.  Either way, it seemed to have a knock-on effect throughout the year, with publishers finally catching up around December, with most games only 1 – 2 months off their ‘expected release dates’.

 

Now, I’m getting into rank speculation since I’m not a publisher or manufacturer; but I think there’s a few other factors…

Kickstarter

There’s been an increase in the number of board games appearing on Kickstarter and being successfully funded.  Guess what – all those games have to be manufactured somewhere.  I would not be surprised if the manufacturers are finding themselves even further swamped with demand as more new publishers come to them.  I doubt it helps that many of these publishers are first-timers, with the ensuing lack of experience and thus requiring additional hand-holding to get the job done.

TableTop

TableTop’s the other major change this year and it’s introduction of board games to a whole new set of geeks seems to have increased demand.  Certainly certain games showcased on TableTop have gone into and out of stock faster than I’ve ever seen them do so, and this has pushed the games into a reprint mode that seems to have been choked up the supply side even more.

The Next Year?

Some of the one-off effects should be gone by next year.  Others, like Kickstarter and TableTop isn’t likely to change.  Hopefully the manufacturers are adding sufficient production to reduce this problem, but I really don’t know if are.  We have so little control over these aspects and the only real thing we can do is sit back and hope.