Building promotions

We have a promotional package page on Starlit Citadel.  It doesn’t get a lot of sales throughout the year, with the end of the year being the best time for our promotional packages.  In fact, overall; that page gets very little attention from both customers and ourselves.  There are a few reasons for that, from the way customers navigate the site to what they are looking for, but let’s talk about how promotions are actually built and used.

On a business side, promotions are built for:

 

What the customer wants

We used to do surveys, and one of the questions we asked was what a customer wanted from a game store / why they bought from any single store. We had a range of questions and a range of answers, yet over 50% of customers mentioned price being the number one reason why they purchased from us. Over 50% of customers didn’t care about anything else other than price…

One of the major things we wanted to do as a business was / is find a ground and a group that cared about more than price. It’s something that brick & mortar stores are able to do.  They are able to differentiate themselves by finding a group of customers who are willing to pay a premium by offering more than just a basic website.  We paid for and produced the video reviews.  We spent money on developing the GameFinder App and the Game Buyer Flowcharts. We spend a significant amount of our marketing budget sponsoring various conventions and social events.

Yet, that number never did change. It just hasn’t changed.  What’s more, we’ve been introduced to an interesting side of the world where of free products – where, if you provide something for free, people demand more. It’s never good enough, no mater what you do.

 

 

 

A Journey in Pictures

This isn’t going to be a text heavy post – that’ll come later.  However, we seem to have a few photos of the place in the before and after, so I thought it might be amusing to showcase how far we’ve come.

Before We Moved In

 

 

About Halfway There

 

The Soft Open

Kickstarter’s & The Retail Channel

We constantly get e-mailed to request our backing of a Kickstarter game.  Without fail, 100% of the time, we turn them all down.  It’s not personal, there’s just no economic reason as a business to back a Kickstarter game.  Let’s go through the reasons why:

Sunk Capital

It can take anywhere from 6 months (fast!) to a year (on average) or more (potentially never!) for a game to arrive.

Minimum Order Quantities

 

 

 

 

That’s all folks and thanks for the fish!

As you probably realised, we’ve closed the store for general retail purchasing. While we’ll still be selling & shipping a few items online till Jan 31, 2019, that number is going to drop continuously as we move products to Amazon for final sale. We’ll probably stop even that by the middle of this week or so, depending on orders / quantities / etc.

Any products that we haven’t sold / been able to ship by Jan 31 will likely be donated to a local charity.

We’re also going to be getting rid of all our shelving & other assorted items, so if you know anyone who wants a billion warehouse shelves, do let us know. We’ve also got some old Ikea square shelves that are perfect for board games too.

I did want to clarify something for those who are curious. The main reason for closing the store has been due to a loss of passion on my part for the business. While I’ve tried to reduce the ‘burden’ of work of running the store on me, it’s not really worked out as well as I’d hoped. Considering the significant amount of work I still had to do and the overall headache of keeping the business running along with low interest on my part to deal with the increasing complexity, I decided to take the opportunity of our lease running out to shut the store down. I’d hoped someone would purchase the store since it was profitable, but due to the sheer value (of inventory if nothing else) of what we’d built up, it was, eventually not viable.

The Kickstarter Fulfillment side of the business will continue to exist. That requires minimal work and we should – hopefully – have reached a methodology that will see me with very low total involvement over the next few years. In either case, that will not affect customers.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone for their patronage over the years. It’s been an interesting experience running this business, but all good things have to come to an end. After 12 years, running Starlit Citadel has been the longest running job I’ve ever had. I’ve made some great friends and learnt a lot and it wouldn’t have been possible without you. Hopefully we’ve also added a little fun for all of you over the years too.

Business For Sale – PDB Sales Inc.

Big news!

PDB Sales Inc. which includes Starlit Citadel, the Starlit Logistics (our Kickstarter fulfillment brand) and our other online websites is up for sale. After consideration, after over 11 years in this industry, I (Tao) desire to pursue some other projects. As such, rather than just shut down the business entirely, I’d like to see if there is anyone who is willing and able to purchase the business. I’d prefer to sell the entire business (i.e. PDB Sales Inc. corporation) rather than piecemeal, though dependingo n the offer, that might be viable.

What is included in the sale:

  • Websites and backend for online shipping
  • Over 200k of Inventory (book cost)
  • Youtube videos and other graphics
  • Well-trained staff who deal with 95% of everything
  • Documentation on the majority of processes for shipping, kickstarters and more
  • Current lease (expires February 2019 with renewal option for another 2 years)

I believe Starlit Citadel can continue to grow with a passionate owner. Unfortunately, that owner is no longer me. The Kickstarter logistics business continues to grow every year with 0 marketing effort, the retail store does extremely well even in its basement location.

 

Quick FAQs

Are you closing down?

No. The business is going to be open until Feb 2019 at the least. The business is overall profitable, so there’s no reason to shut it down.

What kind of owner is this suitable for?

Realistically, this is a business that works well for those who want to own and run it themselves. While it’s viable to have the professional manager (Paden who is doing a great job) manage it, there is still roughly 10-20 hours worth of backend work that is required a week. In addition, there’s a lot of work that can be done to expand into markets we don’t touch really well (Magic, etc.).

How much do you want?

… as much as possible? Realistically, I’d be happy to discuss with people directly but at a minimum I’d be looking at the cost of the inventory. Most of the inventory is ‘good’ stock and can be liquidated at either cost to customers and the remainder sent for slow resale with a 3rd party business.

If you are interested or know someone who is willing and able to purchase the business, please e-mail me directly at trwong @ starlitcitadel.com.

 

Kickstarters in 2017

As many of you know, we help publishers ship items within Canada. Last year, we did a total of 45 Kickstarters in Canada, more than we’ve ever done. Here’s the list:

 

01.04.17 Santorini
01.19.17 BrilliAnts
01.24.17 Ghostel
01.28.17 Siege of Dragonspear(video Game)
02.2.17 Vampire Hunter D(Comic)
02.9.17 Battleborn Legacy
02.15.17 Dresden Files Card Game
02.16.17 Rare is Everything(Book)
03.02.17 Flying Pig Redux
03.02.17 Unfair
03.09.17 DVP -Shadows
03.14.17 Rare is Blah Redux
03.15.17 GameFolio
03.17.17 Too Many Bones
03.20.17 Gnomi
03.24.17 Betabotz
04.04.17 Pirate Nation
04.7.17 DicenStein
04.11.17 Scurry
05.02.17 Flying Tents
05.04.17 Dark Blades RPG
05.18.17 Cthulhu Wars
05.26.17 Dark Blades 2 RPG
06.1.17 Xia
06.5.17 Cthulhu Wars 2
06.29.17 7th Seas Theaoth
07.13.17 Summit
07.24.17 Star Traders
07.26.17 Shadows over Brimstone
07.27.17  Roswell 51
08.14.17 Brides and Bribes
08.18.17 RDI6
08.25.17 TMB2
09.10.17 GloomHaven!!!!
09.15.17 Stop Thief
09.29.17 Monsoon
10.13.17 Flying Pigs
10.20.19 Caledonia
11.10.17 Mistborn
11.24.17 Bluebeard
12.07.17 Watches
12.18.17 Bullets
12.19.17 BlueBeard
12.29.17 Destiny Aurora
12.29.17 Get off my lawn

Discounting, MAPs and distribution

I was recently at a distributor’s event and was chatting with a few retailers as you do. As always, the talk returned to things like MAP, discounting and sales. Not surprisingly, most retailers are against discounting from MAP (whatever that is in Canada) for any reason.  Since we started as an online retailer, we’ve got a bit more of a nuanced view on this.

Let’s be clear here:

  • Many of our customers purchase from us without ever using our available game space and/or game library
  • A small percentage of customers use our game space, but most do so to play RPGs (our smallest ‘main’ category, even including miniatures)
  • In terms of revenue per square foot, board games are horrible.  We make more sales per sq foot in terms of dice or sleeves or (nearly) CCGs.  The only product line we hold that does worst for us is clothing (and we’re slowly getting out of that line).
  • MAP programs are a one-size fits all solution. What is a ‘good’ price for one market might not be great for another (see different costs for different cities).
  • Retail space is expensive. Especially in Vancouver.  A nearby location on Main & 12th on the corner is currently asking for $60 per sq ft per annum.  If we paid that, we’d be looking at over $16,500 per month.  At our current 50% markup, we’d need to make CAD$50,000 a month just to cover rent.  If we did a 25% markup (what the US does for many online stores), we’d need to be doing $66,000 a month to cover rent. If you assume rent is 1/3 of your expenses, you’re looking at needing to do nearly CAD$2 million annually to just breakeven at 25% markup.

These numbers are why most retailers balk at the idea of ‘discounting’ to match US online store pricing. To just make a little bit of money, you’d need to work incredibly hard.  Now I’ll admit, our numbers are high because we’re in Vancouver, but when the generic call is to ‘discount or we won’t buy from you’, you can see why retailers get upset.

It’s also why many retailers switch focus to CCGs. Margins might not be great (at least in terms of booster boxes) but regular sales of booster packs and great margins on singles mean that it’s significantly better for them to concentrate there.  It’s why we’ve focused development of our sales / events to CCGs in-store at this time (it’s easy to grow from $0…).

However, MAPs also create their own problems (outside of their legality in Canada). If we want to sell / discard old stock (like Android Netrunner’s chapter packs that are no longer going to be in rotation), we can’t.  So we’re stuck with dead stock which any good retailer would want to get rid but can’t.  Worse, it hits online & hybrid stores significantly more – after all, if we just kept the sales in-store, it’s not as if most publishers would ever know.

On the other hand, without MAPs, businesses like Amazon who sell the D&D Core Books for cents over our cost can destroy entire product lines.

If we do have to have MAPs (and it seems like the way this is going), it’d be nice to have them on a rotating basis.  Since the entire industry is front-list driven anyway, keep the MAPs up for the first 3 months or so. After that, games should be taken off it.  This breaks up purchasing by customers who want / need it now and allows businesses to dump bad / old stock without issue.

 

Retail Store Manager

Starlit Citadel is looking for a full-time retail store manager that will drive sales and attendance at the retail store while keeping expenses in-check.  Store manager responsibilities will include supervising assistant store managers, purchasing, merchandising and some customer service.  As a small business, we require a high degree of flexibility in all applicants.

Responsibilities

  • Develop business strategies to raise our customers’ pool, expand store traffic and optimize profitability
  • Meet sales goals by hiring, training, motivating, mentoring and providing feedback to employees
  • Conduct personnel performance appraisals to assess training needs and build career paths
  • Ensure high levels of customers satisfaction through excellent service
  • Work with Warehouse Manager to ensure timely and satisfactory fulfillment of all online orders and inquiries
  • Complete store administration and ensure compliance with policies and procedures
  • Contribute to Social Media presence and building the company brand
  • Weekly purchasing of products from distributors and communication with distributors and publishers
  • Maintain outstanding store condition and visual merchandising standards
  • Report on buying trends, customer needs, profits, etc.
  • Deal with all issues that arise from staff or customers (complaints, grievances, etc)
  • Be a shining example of well behavior and high performance
  • Prepare, pack equipment, travel to and set up material at various conventions in Western Canada
  • Additional store manager duties as needed

Requirements

  • Prior experience as a retail manager
  • Budgeting
  • Customer management skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills

 

Nice to have

  • Knowledge of Board Games and Board Game industry an asset
  • Knowledge of Magic the Gathering an asset
  • Valid Driver’s License an asset

Contact us at logistics@starlitcitadel.com with why you’d like to work for Starlit Citadel and your resume.  Salary is dependent on experience.

Retail Store Move FAQ

There have been a few questions recently about our move to a retail store, so in an effort to reduce repetition on Elise’s part, I thought we’d just write this post.

What’s your address?

187 East 11th Ave., Vancouver.  Yes, it’s changed slightly as Vancouver City Hall decided to change it.

When is this move happening?

In late-February with our goal of having a soft-opening early March. We are planning on much of the move happening in the week of Feb 20th, though we are hoping to do it in parts to reduce disruption.

Do you need help with the move?

Yes! If you would like to help us move and are free that week, e-mail us at support@starlitcitadel.com.

Are you going to raise prices at the retail store / have 2 tiers of pricing?

No. There is no plans to raise our prices or charge more at the online store / B&M store.  Our prices will stay the same.

Why are you turning off the reward points program?

The short answer is that we are facing issues with integration of the reward points system with the POS software that we intend to use.   In addition, it creates a 2 tier system where customer’s who order online gain the benefit of the reward points while customers who order in-store don’t.   As such, we’ve decided it makes more sense to just remove the entire system and eventually turn it off entirely.

Can I still order online and do Local Pickup?

Yes! We are not turning off this option.  Of course, if you are swinging by, you might as well just order in-store, customers are more than welcome to decide how they’d like to purchase products.

What is another customer picks up the game I ordered? Who has precedence?

In-store customers will generally have precedence over online orders (i.e. if a customer is holding a game in his hand, we aren’t going to tear it out of their hands just because another customer ordered the copy online).  However, we intend to do periodic processing in-store to ensure that products ordered in-store is removed from inventory, reducing issues like this.

Will Gift Cards continue to work?

Yes. We’ll even be looking at creating physical gift cards that customers can purchase and give to others, though that might take a little longer.

What are your hours?

Currently the plan is to be open 10am to 9/10pm Mondays to Sundays.  We’ll adjust as we see how traffic develops and cut / reduce hours for days when things are particularly quiet.

Will you be running events?

Uncertain at this time but unlikely.  We will only know when we have completed the move, but currently, it looks like we will not be able to fit sufficient tables to host events.