Bahr: 3 Keys to Managing Magic Inventory
By Michael Bahr, managing partner of Desert Sky Games and Comics
Four, five, even six times a year, game stores roll out a Magic booster release and everything's great.
The big weekend arrives and it seems like you can do no wrong. For Standard sets, you've got Prerelease—a wonderful double-tap of attendance and revenue. For ancillary SKUs like Iconic Masters, players buy boxes and the cash register sings.
But slowdown will always happen. The heat will cool on every release, even the best of sets. Go all in on set releases and you may find yourself in a boom-bust cycle, where there's a deep trough between major releases.
How can you keep the party going? By managing inventory so that booster sets are earning every sale they can, then filling in the gaps with sales you wouldn't otherwise get.
Here are three keys to managing inventory between major releases:
1. Enable all possible sales of what's readily available in distribution.
A player should be able to buy any configuration of an in-print booster product from you. If you aren’t stocking enough to allow that, there is some number of sales you aren't converting on.
Have enough stock on hand to sell a booster pack, a bundle, a box, or even a case—some players do buy entire cases, and they tend to want sealed, untouched cases when they do.
2. Fill in the gaps with non-Standard product that is still available.
At my store, once Hour of Devastation cooled off, it was the perfect chance to reload on Conspiracy, Archenemy, and Duel Decks.
Not every player coming in the door was asking for those specifically, but some were, and some bought. Especially for products like Archenemy—if a customer's asking for a recommendation, they're most likely a casual fan looking for "Magic in a box" for them and friends to play.
3. Replenish TCG accessories.
There's no format rotation on black sleeves.
Accessories—particularly sleeves, playmats, and storage—are evergreen products and often remain front-list for months or even years.
Veterans tend to like premium storage solutions like high-end deck boxes; new players need the gamut and will try a little of everything. Carry both generic version and Magic-branded versions—many players like to keep accessories on-theme with the deck they use them for.
How does it all tie together?
Whether your store is small or large, your purchases for a Magic booster release are likely much larger than your typical volume. This means financial planning. Either you purchase for cash up front and make sure you're ready, or you purchase on net terms and make sure you can cover.
One guaranteed wrench in the works when that big autumn set invoice shows up is realizing you ran out of a few crucial colors of sleeves ahead of Prerelease. If you buy deep a month in advance, you're free to lean on those sales throughout the new release cycle and cushion the impact of big invoices.
Or when the customer with birthday money walks in the door and wants to host a bunch of Conspiracy drafts for their friends. But you’re dry on ancillary sets, and now you’ll miss that sale. You get the picture.
We live in a pretty amazing time for Magic. There's always something in print for every type of player. But you can’t sell what you don’t have, so make sure you’re stocking enough of each.
And when you do have the goods, remember that smile and customer service so that the customer you just made happy will look forward to coming back.
Michael Bahr is the managing partner of Desert Sky Games, with two store locations near Phoenix. He served four years as a Level 3 Judge, holds a law degree from Arizona State, and spent seven years in government health care administration.