Here’s the latest edition of Queen’s English that should be going out in our newsletter any time now…
The Queen’s English with Field Marshall Jackson
I wanted to talk this month about the tightrope of ordering. I’ll talk about it from the perspective of board games as that is what I know, but it applies equally to all other areas of the store too.
Have you ever been looking forward to the release of a game, and then you hear that it’s finally out so you head down to the Sentry Box only to find that we are out of stock because we only got one copy in? I’m sure it’s happened to many of you. Have you ever looked at the new release rack in disappointment because we don’t have what you want but we do seem to have 6 copies of that game nobody is going to buy?
I probably don’t need to tell you that we are as unhappy as you when that happens. In a perfect world we will order exactly the right amount of all the games that people want so that everyone leaves happy. However, it’s not a perfect world and when it comes to what games to order, and how many, we usually have to guess.
For board games, I am personally interested in, I check BoardGameGeek daily, go to Essen, talk to other gamers, etc. Even then, it’s difficult to know what to order and how many.
One of the problems is that distributors often want pre-order numbers months in advance of the release (they need to know how many to order too!!) At that time, all I usually have to go off is the amount of buzz a game is generating on BGG and whether any reviews that are out there are positive, etc. At that stage there isn’t usually a lot to go on though, so I try to factor in the reputation of the designer and publisher as to how many we should order.
Conventions and game fairs like Essen and Gencon can be great for the small publishers who do a small print run to take there, and then generate a lot of buzz and hype for their games. Unfortunately if the reprint is another 6 to 12 months after that the buzz and hype may well have died down by then. This can cause a problem when a game got hyped a lot and so we pre-order a lot, but then by the time the game arrives everyone has tired of it, already got it, is interested in the next big thing that will be coming out, or sometimes there are problems with the first print run copies that sour people on the game or company, etc.
On the other hand, there will be games with little to no buzz, from unknown publishers and designers, with no information, and so we go light on ordering, perhaps only one copy, only for there to suddenly be big demand when it finally arrives.
Usually the first time I hear about people being interested is when I announce our latest new releases, or upcoming releases that we have on the way. Of course at that point if we get a lot of interest it’s too late and we’ll have to order more next time, causing a delay of a week or two that people obviously aren’t happy about.
I don’t see a perfect solution to this problem, as you, our fine customers, often don’t know much about the games and wouldn’t want to commit to buying something with little to no information months in advance of the release. However, it would greatly help if I received more word of mouth feedback on products that you are at least interested in, as this should give a better idea of what to look out for. Also, if you know for sure that you are interested in getting a game when it comes out then please contact us and put in a special order for it. That way we will definitely secure a copy for you and you won’t be disappointed.
As mentioned this applies to all of our products and not just board games. When it comes to ordering we rely on our own staff knowledge of the product lines, but, although we all have our areas of expertise and know quite a bit, we are far from infallible. It’s you, the customers, who help improve our knowledge by telling us about new upcoming product and bringing it to our attention. I know that many of you already do this, and I’m grateful for that, but I’m putting out the call to everyone to help us help you by giving us more feedback on what you want. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk but with your help we can get it right.
Speaking of feedback, we have analyzed the results of the customer survey and are working on ways to improve. We will be putting up posters and making announcements about any changes that are coming about due to the feedback from the survey. One quick stat I’d like to share is that of all the people who said they also shop at stores other than the Sentry Box, 86% rate Sentry Box as better than the competition! So thank you for that. Hopefully we can continue to improve and make this a great store for you all.
One final and unrelated note is that we should be getting a mention on the Steve Jackson Games Daily Illuminator at around the time this article goes out (end of January). You can find the Daily Illuminator on the Steve Jackson Games website which also has lots of info on all of their products, new releases and stuff they have coming up soon: http://www.sjgames.com/
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future articles please let me know.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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