2015 In Review: Industry Changes

I occasionally write these posts about the year before, talking about how the year went or not. I sort of didn’t do a massive review for 2014 last year, more discussing what would happen in 2015 instead. This year, I’ll try to get back to doing my usual year in review post.

Exchange Rates

Probably the biggest thing that affected us this year was the increase in the exchange rate.  We’ve gone from around CAD$1.15 to CAD$1.40 in a year with the resulting explosion in prices. For a long-time we held our calculation on the pricing at $1.35 but we’ve had to alter that recently, with the expected resulting price increases over the next month.  Worst, it means to carry the same volume of product (i.e. same number of items); our inventory numbers have just increased by 22%. In the last 2 years, that means we’ve seen an increase of 30% in our inventory cost which as you can guess with a store like ours is a significant bump in inventory.

Out of Stocks and 3rd party sourcing

Another thing that didn’t help was the lack of product for a number of hot games. As usual, Dead of Winter was out of stock for large periods of the year. Same with a number of hot products like Codenames, Pandemic: Legacy and more.  In an attempt to keep stock in-place, we started sourcing from 3rd party websites and managed to keep some of these items in-stock, even if at a much higher price than we’d prefer.

MAP Policies & Acquisitions

Mayfair made a bit of a splash with us late last year with their sudden attempt to implement their MSP policy. Interestingly enough, they just lost their Catan license, which makes them somewhat less relevant as a business for us. Certainly, if we exclude Catan the only games that actually sell regularly for us is Caverna and Patchwork.

Of course, last year was also the year of the acquisition with Plaid Hat joining F2Z (who own Z-Man already) and just at the start of the year, the lost of Catan’s license to Asmodee North America.  I won’t reiterate my discussion about the ANA announcement either, though that obviously was an interesting addition.

Convention Coverage

Perhaps one of the newest additions for our convention coverage was the addition of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo last year. We’d have to call it a success and we’ll be back this year for sure.  In addition, we added Yukomicon to our list of conventions we do with Starlit Citadel last year and we probably will be looking at expanding our convention coverage across more countries next year.

Fortress Geek & Product Range

One thing that readers of this blog might realise is that we’ve been expanding our second business, Fortress Geek; aggressively.  It’s actually growing quite well, but for a variety of reasons (mostly backend and long-term); we’ve decided to integrate both sites.  That’s been.. a mess… but it’s mostly been taken care of, just not in-time for Christmas which was sad.  Still, we’re hoping that the introduction to the site will see a wider spread of sales for Starlit Citadel, diversifying us further.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to push Fortress Geek as a separate site.  There are a few business reasons for that, but it’s also a matter of selection. I expect we’ll be stocking some stuff in FG that just would never make it / sell well in Starlit Citadel.


2015 was a good year for many reasons. We’ve worked out some backend issues, implemented a series of procedures that have significantly expanded our ability to grow and streamlined processes while continuing to grow our business.  On the other hand, there’s been significant challenges in terms of our stock and stock management and it’s probably the biggest area that I need to work on.  Our old methods of dealing with stock just no longer work, at least at the level that we need it to with the worsening exchange rate.

Asmodee Acquires Catan rights from Mayfair

Well, Asmodee now has the English language rights for Catan.  What that means is that they now own / have acquired the vast majority of the long-lasting brands in the board gaming space.  While there are some other hot hits that aren’t part of their portfolio (yet) like Sushi Go, King of Tokyo, Coup and One Night: Ultimate Werewolf as well as the entire Z-Man Games line, most of those haven’t been around long enough to showcase if they have the staying power or not to become a long-term brand.

I’ve seen some graphs showcasing sales by publisher showing that even for non-board game specific companies, Asmodee North America has about 20 – 30% of the market space before this acquisition. Add this and they are easily in the 25-35% range.  For us since we mostly sell board games on SC, that number is likely in the 50%+ range now at a guess.

This is a major, major play and all these acquisitions put us in an interesting position.  We’re now ever more reliant on the good graces of a single company and any major changes they make is going to affect us significantly. Realistically, the only good news in this is that for the most part, FFG / Asmodee North America is an actually well run company which seems to be constantly attempting to improve.  If you don’t think that’s true, consider the fact that we actually have stock for most X-Wing craft unlike even a year ago.  While I might disagree with their policies and viewpoints, I also think that they are well run enough that they won’t cut out online retail completely. Whether that includes us (and how all this affects Canada) still remains to be seen though.