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

Asmodee to acquire F2Z Entertainment

The Great AcquirerSo it looks like F2Z Entertainment is about to be purchased by Asmodee.   For those of you who don’t know, F2Z owns Z-Man Games & Plaid Hat Games, which means they own the IP for Pandemic, Mice and Mystics and Dead of Winter.  In addition, they have the rights for Carcassonne in English & French and the french Catan as well as distributing a ton of Asmodee games in Canada as well a a bunch of other things.

As many of you know, I’ve written about the exclusive arrangement with F2Z that came into play a few years ago. Let’s be clear, distribution in Canada in general is significantly more expensive than the US. Our costs of FFG games from Lion Rampant is at least 15 – 20% higher than it was when we purchased from the US directly so it’s not just a case of F2Z. It’s a systemic problem.

With the acquisition, I don’t know if it will improve.  There are a few scenarios that are likely to play out, in order of short to long-term:

  • Once the acquisition is completed, I don’t expect any major changes for a few months.
  • At some point in the 6 months after the acquisition, I expect there to be a MAP program to be put into place just like the FFG program.
  • I also expect a number of new reprints of good selling games will begin production, so expect there to be a significant increase in-stock for these items in 6 – 9 months.
  • Distribution via F2Z might actually shut down in the next few years as contracts expire and Asmodee moves to using distributors completely, reducing their repetitive cost of managing both a distribution and retail arm at the same time.  This might bring actually have the advantage of providing more funds/ need for opening a 2nd warehouse in the West which would lower our costs.

Outside of that, I expect everything else to be business as usual.  It’s unlikely Asmodee will try to undertake the same kinds of policies that they’ve taken in the US (i.e. restricting sales of products to only a few online retailers) due to our differing laws, but you never know.

Overall, I’m actually cautiously optimistic that this might be good for us in Canada.  In the long, long term there’s some concern that Asmodee will use it’s new leadership position to drive margins even further down, but I do not expect that to happen anytime soon.

 

Summer Promo: $100 Free Shipping Treshold

Free Shipping at $100!Now that Summer’s pretty much here, we’ve decided to lower our free shipping threshold in Canada from $175 to $100. Yes, that’s right. $100.

What’s the catch? Our usual free shipping policies apply.  The $100 threshold is per order and is calculated after discounts but before taxes and shipping is calculated.  Furthermore, if your order has pre-order / backorder items on it, we will hold the entire order till all items in the order are ready for shipping.

Of course, at the new $100 level, you should be able to split your orders quite easily to ensure everything that everything that is in-stock is in one order and everything that is a backorder on another.

Once again, this promotion is running for all of Summer and is scheduled to end August 31, 2016.

Happy Ordering!

 

 

Marketing – Targeting Makes a Difference

Marketing is a strange thing where what might look like a highly successful marketing program is actually a poor campaign. At the end of the day, Marketing is meant to drive revenue for the vast majority of businesses.  Yet, some highly successful marketing campaigns like the Old Spice advertorial fail to generate increases in revenue.

On our side, we see the same thing with some of our marketing programs. The webpage with the highest number of visitors (not including our homepage) is our Top 10 Fantasy Games list.  Total number of sales that we have generated from that page – 0.

On the opposite end, we have our Game Buyer’s Guide Flowchart that we created a few years ago and later updated to our Game Wizard Application. We do not get as many visitors to each of those pages (about a quarter); yet we generate a consistent number of sales from visitors those pages.

Why the difference? It’s a matter of targetting and the right markets.  Individuals who find our guides actually are interested in purchasing, while those looking to read our Top 10 list are likely just browsing. Even the terminology used ‘Fantasy Games’ could evoke a wide range of fans – from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter to actual boardgamers.

At the end of the day, traffic and word of mouth might seem nice; but if it doesn’t actually drive sales, it’s a waste of time and effort

Our new Affiliate Program

Starlit Affiliate Program DetailsWe have decided to launch an affiliate program for Starlit Citadel.   We’re letting Clixgalore run our affiliate program because really, we’re not that interested in running our own program and dealing with the necessary software that would require; so we’re letting them deal with it. Sure, they get a bit of a cut but it does mean that we can set it up and ignore it (sort of).

What’s an Affiliate Program?

Basically, it’s like a referral program that uses money instead of reward points to reward people. It’s mostly geared towards people who have a website and/or e-mail list and really isn’t meant to focus on individual referrals like our customer reward referral program.

How much do you earn?

We currently provide 5% of the product cost (i.e. sub-total) of all products for each referral item that is purchased (and confirmed shipped).  The system is set-up such that anyone who clicks through from an affiliate link you provide is cookied for 90 days – so any purchase(s) he makes during that period will be automatically designated to your account. It works really well for blogs because these blogs can continually push out new posts and thus continually ‘re-cookie’ these customers.

Why only 5%?

Due to the low margins that we have, we can’t really afford to offer more than 5% without reducing the margin that we make to unacceptable levels. It’s also the reason for a long-time we haven’t had an affiliate program.  Truthfully, we’re still not sure if it’ll work out well, but it’s worth a shot to see if we can generate further revenue this way.

5% is better than nothing

That’s what we think. So, join away!

 

Top 10 Bestsellers of May 2015

1 Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
2 Mysterium (Tajemnicze Domostwo Polish Version)
3 King of Tokyo
4 Star Wars: Armada – Gladiator-class Star Destroyer Expansion Pack
5 Star Wars: Armada Core Set
6 Sushi Go!
7 Specter Ops
8 Star Wars: Armada – Assault Frigate Mark II Expansion Pack
9 Imperial Settlers
10 Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

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.

The difference $20 makes

One thing that’s particularly interesting for us is the way sales on Fortress Geek and Starlit Citadel differ, particularly in terms of the average item ordered.  On Starlit, quite a few products used to sell in the $30 – 40 range.  On Fortress Geek, that price drops significantly and most products that sell are in the $12 – 25 range.  So, a $20 difference.

What does that mean?

We do 5 orders a day on Fortress Geek, each at say $15 on average.  Revenue = $75

We do 5 orders a day on Starlit Citadel, each at $35 range.  Revenue = $175

Assuming we make 40% margin on both, gross profit fir FG – $30 and SC – $70.  If our margin on SC is only 20%, the gross profit is still $35.  Same number of orders, but higher revenue and even with a lower margin, we still make more gross profit.

Of course, cost of goods isn’t the only thing that counts towards gross profit, but it illustrates the point effectively.  On the other hand, it’s easier (in some ways) to sell a product for $15 rather than one for $35 – but online, the difference is marginal.

Changing Marketplace

Why bring this up? Well, partly because of the changing marketplace we see in board games too. We’re seeing a giant split in games, with some of the most popular games in the $10 – 20 range (Sushi Go, Love Letter, the Android: Netrunner Packs, etc.) and a gulf till we hit a lot of the more popular ‘big’ games (Imperial Assault, Mage Knight, Caverna).

Interestingly, the games in-the-middle have stalled for the most part, the one’s in the $40 – 50 range have stopped selling as often – Ticket to Ride, DominionSmall World .  There’s not been a breakout hit in that price category in the last 2 years for the most part unlike previous years, which has meant that we are often processing more orders than ever (for the smaller games) and yet not really making that much more.

It’s a weird thing, and just an artifact of the industry which has been gearing towards ‘bigger’ games or ‘micro’ games.  Of course, this could change very easily with the next set of releases.

Putting together the Boxing Day Sale List

Just some general musings while I create the list of items that are going on-sale for Boxing Day.   The process is rather simple – I download everything that we have in-stock on a certain date then filter items for those products that have been on sale before.  I look these overs to see why they’ve been on sale (over-stock or non-sellers) and deal with them individually.  That creates the ‘core’ of the list.

The second portion is finding items that were good sellers that don’t sell anymore.  This is more of an ‘eyeball’ situation, where I scan down the remainder of the list looking for items that I don’t recall selling recently.  If I hesistate on the answer, I check against our records.  It’s not scientific but considering the sheer volume of SKUs involved, it is faster than checking each item individually.

Of course, on top of that there are numerous items that are given a pass for one reason or the other.  These include:

  • newly released items (obviously)
  • items going out of / already out-of-print (on a case-by-case basis)
  • dice (the more the merrier)!
  • Bones figurines (again, these sell occasionally and cost us so little to keep in-stock it’s worth keeping. Till we run out of space anyway).
  • ‘classic’ games that make sense to keep. While we don’t sell a lot of these, it helps give us a legitimacy to have stock of things like ‘Sorry’ and ‘Taboo’ and the like.
  • Expansions of a good selling game (e.g. The A Touch of Evil: Something Wicked Expansion sells slow for us, but the base game is good; so we keep the expansion around).

Next step of course is figuring out what kind of discount we should provide. This is much simpler – we’ve got a little chart that indicates how often a game hs been discounted and what the last discount amount was along withwhat the next discount should be. So that’s all plug-and-play.

And that’s it, create the full file and then upload to the site. Generally, we’re hoping to see some items we won’t ever bring back in go out the door. It’s really nice to see ‘dead’ stock disappear because it’s ‘found’ money, money we can now use for other, better selling games in the future.