Tuesday, March 2

Promotion Response

Three weeks ago I mentioned that I was trying to set up a promotion to encourage US shops to stock my games, and to help those that already stock my games to sell more.

The deal was that Alliance one of my US distributors, who have my games on consignment would offer my games at a discount price to their retailers. The games would be offered at 25% of US MSRP to shops that buy from Alliance. The restriction was that each shop could only buy at most one copy of each game, for demo purposes only - this wasn't a way for the shops to get cheap copies for resale.

The way my consignment deal works with Alliance is that at the beginning of each month they email me purchase orders for all the copies they've sold during the previous month, and then I invoice them for those sales.

This means I've got a very good idea of how well the deal is going, since I'm told at the end of the month how many copies they've sold. Sales last month were up on January's sales, and I know that in the first two and a half weeks of the deal they've sold 28 copies of It's Alive!, 32 copies of Carpe Astra and 25 copies of Sumeria through the deal. Since I know that each shop can only buy a single copy of each game I know that at least 32 shops have taken advantage of the offer already.

I arranged to offer the promotion for a month, and then we'd check how it was going and work out whether it was worth continuing it. I'll be checking in with my buyer at Alliance in a week or so to work out whether it's worth continuing the promotion.

In the meantime, I'll be able to track over the coming months whether sales seem to have increased (remembering the seasonal dip in sales at this time of year).

One thing I'm still not sure about. Why the differences in sales of the promotional copies? Why has Carpe Astra sold more than the others (considering it's my slowest selling game overall). I'm also wondering whether the total is more than 32 (i.e. did every retailer than bought a cheap copy of It's Alive! and Sumeria also buy Carpe Astra, or are there more than 32 takers?

6 comments:

truekid said...

The only flaw I see with the demo copy plan is that, in my experience, less than 10% of shops will actively demo games... unless an external person is there to do it for them.

they'll host game nights, they might open up a copy on hand for people to look at the bits, but it's pretty rare that store personel will actually show someone how to play something that isn't a CCG or miniatures game.

moreover, most stores only stock one copy of any particular game at a time (the only exceptions being very hyped new releases, or things they had to buy as a case, like card games). this means that my guess is your demo copies end up being their for-sale copy in most stores anyway (which is probably still "ok", but not nearly as good as a true demo copy is).

honestly, i'd recommend sending out "brown box" copies as demo copies... plain boxes clearly marked as "demo" with just the game title on the front... and a "demo" inkstamp on all the components as well. if they really plan on using it to demonstrate the game, they would be fine with that.

Jack said...

Hiya Truekid,

I'm guessing the stores that have taken me up on the offer are the bigger ones, though I don't really know.

I'd love to have a team of demoers (like Steve Jackson Games' Men in Black), but my efforts in this direction haven't been very successful.

As for the obviously not for sale demo copies, this gets back to the original problem - I could send demo copies from here, either ordinary or special demo copies, but the postage is prohibitive. Sending copies from a distributor effectively negates the postage cost (since it's folded in with the store's order) but they've only got ordinary copies.

Cheers,

Jack

nycgameguy said...

Dear Jack:

The way I handle demo copies is that I will give out exhibit samples (to save on shipping them out after the show is over) to foreign accounts (because of shipping costs), big accounts (because they have so many people that have to okay the buy), and existing accounts (as a benefit for taking the risk on Strategic Space previously). I used to sticker or write on the demo game to keep stores from reselling them, which one, Rainy Day Games in Aloha, Oregon, did and thereby earned a spot on my no-call list. Now I usually send out demo copies with an order only, and I don't mark them, so it is possible that a demo copy may get sold. They only get one demo of each game, so it's not that big of a deal, and if some stores do bring out the demo when a customer wants to see inside the box or read the rules or set up a display in their window or anything in between, I'm happy. For me, it's worth it to ship only carton quantities, so I just bill for 5 instead of 6 when they request a demo copy.

I refuse to do consignment shipping. I'd rather build the popularity of my games elsewhere than loan so much inventory to someone with so little invested in selling them.

I don't even do drop shipping much any more, but I'll reconsider if and when we hire a fulfillment center (and I don't have to do all the shipping any more).

I wouldn't invest a lot into the Men in Black model of Steve Jackson Games. It is a good way to hire a bunch of nice guys without a lot of sales motivation. I know one who is very conscientious and active, but I suspect he is the exception. I noticed Bucephalus Games was using this model too and at a recent fair saw their volunteer reps selling pretty close to zero of their games.

Email me if you want to bat some other ideas back and forth.

Mark Salzwedel
Strategic Space
http://strategic-space.com

Jack said...

Hiya Mark,

Good to hear from you again. I also sell only in case quantities to shops, but in the states it's not worth even doing that - my distributors handle all my sales stateside for me.

Regarding consignment sales, Alliance (who have my games on consignment) have recently become my largest customer worldwide, so despite the perceived lack of motivation to sell they are doing very well.

Cheers,

Jack

nycgameguy said...

Dear Jack:

Your main market is hobby game stores; it is only a secondary market for us. So, for you, it is more important to get into distributors like Alliance. Perhaps at some point when you have sold enough through Alliance, you can renegotiate so that they buy inventory. It is especially onerous to have to take back unsold games when you're across the ocean. Perhaps if you got a few more U.S. distributors (ACD, ant, Alladin) and/or maybe a few web sites (Funagain, Boards & Bits, Fair Play, ThoughtHammer, Boulder), it might give you more leverage with Alliance. You might also want to look into Publishers Services (pubservinc.com), who might be able to get you some chain store placement.

Jack said...

Hiya Mark,

I'm already in with ACD and the websites you mention :)

I think Alliance are very happy with the consignment deal, and it's working out fine for me (they are my only US distributor (out of five) that have stock on consignment.

Cheers,

Jack