On Consistency

I recall reading from a sales book very early on in my career that one of the most important aspects of running a business is consistency.  I sadly can’t recall the book name itself anymore, but the basic idea was that customers want / need a consistency of experience to feel ‘comfortable’ and thus become repeat customers.

It’s something I know for myself, as a consumer, it definitely helps.  If you know what you can expect, it makes life a lot easier. It holds very true for our distributors as well – I have a few distributors who, if I place an order today, I know it will ship the same-day.  Another couple I know will ship the order the next day.  Unfortunately, I also have distributors who are all over the map – some orders will be shipped immediately, others might take up to a week to ship. I might have to call them to get the order dealt with, or just send an e-mail and expect it to happen.  Some orders get an invoice sent within 24 hours, other won’t have any invoices sent till I ask them.

As a business, inconsistent suppliers make our ability to be consistent for our customers difficult. If we tell a customer ‘it should arrive within a week’ on a back-ordered item, it’s based on a best guess estimate on when a product will arrive.  Being unable to meet that ‘promise’ can cause trouble for us.

It also translates to our website – we want to keep the functions of the website generally consistent across devices. Of course, this is much more difficult with the numerous devices out there, and it’s what probably drives our development cost up.

As an example, over the weekend Canada Post stopped working. It wasn’t our site but Canada post. What it meant was that we were no longer receiving rates directly from Canada Post and were thus using our ‘failover’ rate.  It unfortunately meant that no one was getting a ‘free shipping’ option either, which almost immediately resulted in complaints.   A quick ‘hodgepodge’ fix was thrown into place till Canada Post came back online, but it’s a great example of inconsistency causing problems.  I’ll never know how many customers who built up a $175 cart on the weekend just left and never came back because of the outage…

New Board Games: March 27 2015

Star Wars: Armada Core Set
Arboretum
Bohnanza: Ladies & Gangsters (Stand-alone)
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia (Restock)
Fief: France 1429
Konito?
Lords & Ladies: Not So Polite Society
Lords of War: Elves versus Lizardmen
Lords of War: Orcs Vs Dwarves
Lords of War: Templars vs Undead
Lords of War: Weather & Terrain Pack
Magic the Gathering: Dragons of Tarkir Fat Pack
Magic the Gathering: Dragons of Tarkir Intro Pack – Set of Five (Theme Decks)
Magic the Gathering: Dragons of Tarkir Event Deck – Landslide Charge
March of the Ants
Mille Bornes (Restock)
Musee: Collect and Curate Classic Art
Pathfinder Player Companion: Melee Tactics Toolbox
Savage Worlds: Science Fiction Companion (Second Edition) Hardcover
Steam Torpedo: First Contact
Steam Torpedo: R&D
Spurs: Gambler Expansion

New Board Games: March 20th 2015

Dungeons and Gradons Attack Wing: Tyranny of Tiamat Premium Figure
Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing: Template Set
Mutant: Year Zero Core Rulebook
Evil Baby Orphanage: Fate Deck
Love Letter: Batman (Clamshell Edition)
Smash Monster Rampage! Mega Box
Smash Monster Rampage!
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – General Weiss Villain Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Royal Guard Champion Villain Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – IG-88 Villain Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Han Solo Ally Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Chewbacca Ally Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Rebel Troopers Ally Pack
Star Wars: Imperial Assault – Rebel Saboteurs Ally Pack
Star Wars LCG: Ready for Takeoff Force Pack
Star Wars X-Wing: Starfield Playmat
Star Wars X-Wing: Death Star Assault Playmat

New Board Games: March 17th 2015

Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Scum & Villiany Foam Tray (Large)
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Scum & Villiany Foam Tray (Medium)
Battle Foam: Star Wars X-Wing Large Ship Foam Tray
Clue: Firefly Collectors Edition
Dominion (French Edition)
Dungeons and Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerun Starter Set
Dungeons and Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerun Foil Pack
Eight Minute Empire: Lost Lands
Hordes: Skorne – All in One Army Box
Love Letter: The Hobbit
Nintendo Monopoly Collector’s Edition
Pretty, Pretty Smash Up Expansion
R, The Original Braverats Card Game
Star Wars X-Wing: Millennium Falcon (Restock)
Star Wars X-Wing: TIE Interceptor (Restock)
Star Wars X-Wing: A-Wing (Restock)
Star Wars X-Wing: Slave 1 (Restock)
Supernatural Ouija Board
Tons of New Dice Sets!

Deep thoughts and infrequent posting

I’ve not done a lot of posting recently. Between the various conventions and the lack of staff, it’s been pretty hectic at the store.  At the same time, there are a few things that I have been thinking about that I want to post; but each time I start writing them I hesitate.

Not Enough Data

There’s a post about warehouse shelving and design that I’m working on, which discusses various warehousing methods that I know of. Problem is, writing that post properly requires a lot of time. It’s a data driven post, and one that really I can’t justify dedicating time to when things are so busy.

Too Much Information

For various reasons, we don’t discuss a lot of the minutia of running an online store. It’s either too boring or just information that we don’t necessarily want to share with our competitors.  While each store is unique in its own sense, sometimes giving away data (like our total inventory cost) would give people more information about our total business than I’d like.

Too Sensitive

Then there are the rants / industry issues. I could go on and on about industry (or distributor / publisher / etc) specific problems.  It doesn’t matter really, any of those things are ‘bad’ topics to handle in many ways. I have and do on occasion write about things like that, but it requires time to word posts like that properly.

I’ve covered it already

Yeah, after writing for nearly 7 years about the business and the last 3 years almost every week; there’s only so many topics to cover. I sometimes start a post and then do some research and realise I’ve covered that topic already.

In Conclusion

I’m still writing posts, but with so many posts already written, I expect the frequency to reduce significantly. If there are topics you’d like me to tackle, shoot a comment on here.

Now Hiring – Logistics Assistant (Expired)

Starlit Citadel / Fortress Geek is hiring again in Vancouver, BC!

This is a year-round part-time position that works in our warehouse and conventions as needed. We are an e-commerce business that sells directly to consumers and offers both shipping and in-person pickup of customer orders.

The Logistics Assistant’s main role will be shipping and receiving, and they will also be expected to assist with basic warehouse organization and customer service. In their primary role, they will be responsible for processing and invoicing customer orders, and picking and packing them in preparation for shipping. We receive new stock weekly, and they will be expected to assist with the restock process, unpacking, inspecting and shelving all new items, as well as confirming the accuracy of the received shipment and updating store inventory as needed.

In addition to these regular duties, the Logistics Assistant will undertake general administrative tasks in the warehouse including cleaning, sorting and inventory counts. They will also be required to provide basic customer service to Local Pickup customers. Additional projects and one-off tasks will also be assigned from time to time, according to the needs of the company.

The Logistics Assistant will be provided hands-on training and written procedure guides for all of the above tasks, and will be expected to follow them in order to reduce errors and ensure consistency of service in the company.

Requirements:

  • Part-time availability on Weekdays
  • Occasionally on weekends
  • Familiarity and comfort with computers and data entry
  • Valid class 5 driver’s license

Nice to Haves:

  • Gaming knowledge (specifically board games) and general geek culture knowledge
  • Previous pick-and-pack and/or warehouse experience
  • Knowledge of Magento backend

If you are interested, please send your resume to trwong@starlitcitadel.com with your hours of availability.

 

Gottacon, conventions and recovery

Finally all caught up after Gottacon with all the work that was backlogged as we went to the convention and came back finally caught up. Well, most of it – we still have to log a bunch of a dice we brought in just for the convention. And of course, just as we are getting back on track, we’re back onto the grind to another convention – Terminal City Tabletop this weekend in Burnaby.

The truth is, most conventions don’t generate a lot of profit. When you add in all the travel time, the staffing hours, the packing time before the event and the unpacking after, you need to generate a ton of revenue just to break even.  That’s not even counting the emotional and physical wear & tear these conventions have – I know I was feeling Gottacon for days afterwards.

Gottacon was interesting for us as it has probably the largest number of direct competitors in-play at any one convention. It’s a microcosm of the industry and it tells us a lot about how things are going – and what we are failing at.

For one thing, in general, we have a wider range of stock than most stores. We certainly carry more esoteric games and from a wider series of sources than most game stores. We concentrate on the long tail a lot more than your ‘average’ game store – many focus on the bestsellers.

Another thing that came to light (and always does) is that no matter how many games you have, there’s always going to be something that someone wants that you don’t carry. We brought 50% more games this year than any other year, but we still forgot / weren’t able to bring quite a few.

On the other hand, we are also missing / not able to tap into one of the major sources of revenue / profit in gaming – Magic. As an online store, without a physical location to do casual gameplay / etc., unless we wanted to ‘churn’ boxes, it’s really hard to generate any real revenue. It certainly is the cash cow of cash cow’s in the gaming industry right now.

Overall, conventions continue to be fun to do, if draining.  This year I won’t be at TCTC myself, but the staff should be able to handle it.  We won’t know till we try it.

New & Restocked Board Games: March 5, 2015

Alien Frontiers
Alien Frontiers: Expansion Pack #1
Alien Frontiers: Faction Pack #1
Alien Frontiers Faction Pack #2
Alien Frontiers: Outer Belt
Tiny Epic Kingdom
Tiny Epic Defenders
Yomi: Round 1
Yomi: Round 2
Morels
Marrying Mr. Darcy
27th Passenger: A Hunt on Rails
Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice 2nd Edition
Princes of the Dragon Throne
Puzzle Strike (3rd Edition)
Puzzle Strike: Shadows
Shadowrift
Seven Swords
Savage Worlds: East Texas University Limited Edition Hardcover
Savage Worlds: East Texas University: Degrees of Horror LE(Hardcover)
Heat
Doomtown Reloaded – Saddlebag Expansion 3: Election Day Slaughter
Rise to Power
Arcadia Quest: Beyond the Grave Campaign
Arcadie Quest: Nibbles
Arcadia Quest: Zahra
Wakanda
Shadows of Brimstone: Heroes of the Old West Paint Set
Shadows of Brimstone: Creatures of the Void Paint Set
Fleets: The Pleiad Conflict
Historia
Super Fantasy – Ugly Snouts Assault (2nd Edition)
Oddball Aeronauts
Shadowthrone

New Board Games: March 4, 2015

New Board Games: March 4, 2015

Ab In Die Tonne
Cacao
DC Comics Deck Building Game: Crisis Expansion Pack 2
Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing: Wave Four Stone Giant Elder Expansion Pack
Coal Baron (Gluck Auf Import) – Dinged (Grade B)
Grog Island
Heroes of Normandie: Gazette #1
Hospital Rush
Korrigans
Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG: Forgive Us
Magic the Gathering CCG: Duel Decks Elspeth Vs. Kiora Display
Munchkin: Love Shark Baby
Numenera RPG – Technology Compendium
Qwixx
Rattus: Mercantus Expansion
Royals
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG – Fly Casual Rules Supplement
Super Motherload
The Harbour
Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture
Witness