Mayfair Games Online License Policy

On September 25, 2015; we received this from our Canadian distributors:

Dear Customers
This memo is to advise you that Mayfair Games have implemented an online policy for all their games sold online.
 
This Policy is effective immediately!!
 
Any persons selling online are required to have a license to do so. This will allow the retailer to sell under the rules set forth in the MAR agreement. This license allows the seller to sell online through the internet and to utilize the Mayfair Games IP with the explicit adherence to the signed MAR agreement.
 
Since this policy is effective immediately you need to get your signed licensed agreement into your sales representative a soon as you can. Please contact them to have a copy sent to you if you have not receive one from Mayfair.
 
Until you are licensed to sell online you cannot sell Mayfair games online. You must remove any online items or you will risk Mayfair suspending your account and placing you on their banned list.
 
We ask that you act swiftly and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
We immediately stopped the sale of games on the Friday and requested the necessary agreement.  The agreement was sent to us as attached.
Feel free to read the agreement.  We didn’t sign the agreement and after 2 weeks and multiple attempts to get a new agreement sent to us, we decided that we had been more than accommodating and turned sales back on.  Yes, that  means Mayfair may ban us from selling their games, but at this point, over nearly a month of not speaking with us or sending us an agreement that we can sign, we have product that is sitting on our shelves that need to move.  It’s rather obvious that they do not care to actually get this dealt with as it’s now over a month since this initial e-mail was sent out, so we might as well go ahead and sell whatever stock we have. I hate to cut-off such a popular line, but what else can we do?

Issues with the Agreement

Why didn’t we sign the agreement?  Quite a few reasons.  Here’s a game – read over the the fg_Mar_K_130401-tt.pdf and work out what issues you would have with the agreement.  Here’s the one’s I caught:
  •  MSRP of products are to be via printed price on the box (which is in US$) and/or sent to us if not printed.  No indication of what the exchange rate is to be used or how we can get the exchange rate so that we can comply with the policy. So, without designating that information, we could inadvertently break the agreement without realising it.  In addition, no list was included so again, we are left floundering.
  • We are not allowed to purchase products except from authorised Mayfair Dealers. Note that there are NO authorised Mayfair dealers listed in the Appendix.
  • There is supposed to be an active list of products that the MAP policy and sale policy applies to. None are listed.
  • Appendix B talks of ‘Mayfair Terms’ and the agreement is subject to it, but since it’s completely blank, who knows what it is?
That’s just the issues with the agreement as written. Basically, if we signed this agreement, we couldn’t purchase games from our distributors anyway because they aren’t listed on the agreement.  It’s great that none of Mayfair’s products are actually subject to the 90% sale rule (see the part where they don’t list any products as active?) but it does mean that we still can’t buy their products.

 

In Praise of Distributors

I’ve written before about my issues with purchasing direct from publishers and my thoughts on publishers moving outside the distribution model.  I’ve even discussed the effects exclusive agreements have on my business and why I don’t like them.  While I dislike the consolidation of power in a few distributors and there are issues with direct sales by / from publishers, there often isn’t enough discussion about why distributors are good.

Consolidation of Orders

Shipping cost is a given.  Often you can get free shipping offers if you purchase at a certain level (often $400 – 500).  However, as you can probably see – there are a lot of games we only ever sell 1 copy in a year.   Unless you are talking about a very large publisher with an extensive catalog, you can’t get that free shipping threshold by purchasing a single game.  The ability to consolidate orders is a major boon especially for small publishers.

Better Tools

Almost every distributor we work with has an online sales portal.  Often those portals give us an idea of their stock and their prcies as well as our past order history and outstanding invoices.  Those are all great tools to have, and the ability to place orders online is a major boon.   Most publishers just don’t have the skills, knowledge and funds to devote to creating such a website.  As such, you find yourself sending e-mails, calling or heck, faxing orders in.  And never mind having to ask for information on previous orders or getting tracking information – often, you don’t even get that.

Greater Choice

I’m not talking about catalog choice (i.e. having more games to sell); I’m talking about choice between distributors.   There have been numerous times when a publisher is out of stock but distributors still have them.  Having multiple accounts with multiple distributors can often mean the difference between completing a sale or not.

Better Service (Mostly)

Good tools are nice, good service is better.  Now, there’s no guarantee you’ll get better service (and in some cases you don’t); but I’ve yet to get as truly horrible and unprofessional service from a distributor as I have with publishers.  A distributor’s focus is selling you games; while a publisher’s focus is publishing games.  Sales is but one part of the many balls they must handle.

Consolidated Industry Knowledge

Of all those who have a view of the industry, distributors probably have the clearest.  Their ability to see sales across multiple stores gives them an idea about movements in the industry, which can be of great benefit to a retailer who is placing pre-orders.  Sometimes this benefit happens inadvertently – like a pre-order you placed for a game never being filled because the distributor didn’t reach their order threshold; other times it’s deliberate as when a distributor informs you of a best-selling game.  In both cases, as a retailer you are greatly benefitted.

Gatekeeping

While I’m probably  not going to make any friends with publishers, the fact is that sometimes some games should be kept off the shelves.  Whether they just aren’t that interesting or they are badly designed or have horrible artwork, there are numerous games which are published that just won’t sell on a retail level.  Distributors help keep these games out of circulation and thus reduce the amount of time retailers have to spend researching games.  And when you have over 50+ new games / expansion / components arriving each week that need to be researched, any time savings in that regard are a boon.

Mitigation of Risk

Lastly, there’s the matter of risk mitigation.  If you have a game that you’re iffy about, you could pre-order 1 copy.  Now, you know the distributor is likely to order a few more copies than their pre-order amounts, so if you suddenly sell that 1 copy you can always get more.  The fact that you don’t need to purchase those copies beforehand but have them easily available places the risk of the purchase on the distributor, not yourself.   That mitigation of risk is very important for your profits.

 

European Distributor

Well, I’ve put in an initial pro-forma order in to both European Board Game Distributors to get an idea of shipping cost.  The estimated shipping cost so far is staggering – it’s 30% of the actual cost of the games.  And that’s without adding any brokerage charges in on this.

This is probably the largest risk we’ve taken in a while.  While it’s not likely to break us, it won’t make us happy if it doesn’t go well.   Obviously, some games we’re having to source from the German distributor (who we are finishing up the details of the order now).

Our initial order from the UK distributor is:

Ars Mysteriorum
Big Manitou
Blackmail
City and Guilds
Fagin’s Gang
Indonesia (2nd ed)
Kamisado
League of Six: Loyal
Opus-Dei: Existence After Religoin
Origins
Origins: The Age of Reason
Retinue (expansion)
Scepter of Zavandor
Tempus
Walhalla

What do you think?