Jul 26, 2019

Gary Ray: New Magic Products Are Coming. How Much Should You Order?

How do you prep for unfamiliar products from a proven manufacturer? Here's how Gary does it at Black Diamond Games.

Jul 26, 2019

Gary Ray: New Magic Products Are Coming. How Much Should You Order?

How do you prep for unfamiliar products from a proven manufacturer? Here's how Gary does it at Black Diamond Games.

Eighty percent of my sales come from thirty game companies.

There are hundreds of others, but when those thirty companies solicit a new product, the question is not whether I’ll carry it, but how much. That’s certainly true with new Magic product, like Collectors Boosters. How much to carry is the question.

But I don’t play Magic. There, I said it.

My skill in making money with Magic is looking at what everyone around me is saying, knowing their reputation for reliable predictions, using my tools to shoehorn their prediction into an order, establishing the finances to buy a Toyota Corolla's worth of product, and having staff in place to sell it.

Let’s go over each of these steps.


Step 1: Ask My SMEs


There is no bad Magic set, only sets that sell slower than others. Over the last fifteen years, when I’ve lost my nerve because I’ve overstocked a set, I’ve always been proven wrong in time. Still, I don’t want to overbuy, so my first step is to ask my SMEs.

SME (pronounced "smee") is a project management term meaning Subject Matter Expert. There is no shame in not being an expert when your job is to manage people and processes. Most store owners want to be the SME. I want to acquire SMEs.

Collector Boosters, just announced at San Diego Comic Con, are designed to be the best value for fans looking to collect hard-to-find cards. Get details from Magic’s head designer here.

The SME is linked with the community. They read discussion boards, listen to customers. They watch for reactions to card previews, and they begin matching faces with future product. Mine are good at predicting initial (but not long term—we'll get to that) demand. So I start with them.


Step 2: Is it Bigger Than a Breadbox?


The number I’m looking for from my SME is demand for a thirty-day supply. I have thirty-day terms with all my distributors. I want all that first wave of Magic sold within that period.

But my SMEs really have no idea how many widgets I’ll sell in a thirty-day period—they have no knowledge of how demand curves play out over time. So we play Twenty Questions.

Is it bigger than a breadbox? Are we talking big-initial-Magic-set demand or specialty-Magic-set demand? Is it bigger, smaller, or the same size as my closest reference point? Once I can establish that, I can look at sales history in my POS and gauge a thirty-day sales pattern.


Step 3: A Corolla Worth of Product


My SMEs can tell me general size of demand, but they're not the experts on how demand curves play out over time. My assistant manager regularly gives me a number that I end up doubling, because initial demand is what that sticks with him—those busy weekend release periods.

How accurate am I on this? If the set is hot, I might sell out in a week. If it’s cold, it often takes forty-five days or more.

It’s hard to be perfect. Deep pocket stores might have no problem going deep on supply. They might buy an extra six cases. They might be happy to be the “last man standing” with cases to trade when the set is gone.

If you're one of those stores, going deep on Magic is low-risk. That’s not me and if you’re reading this, it’s probably not you. I just want enough product to maximize sales without running out.


Step 4: Sell the Heck Out of It


Product doesn’t sell itself, at least not very well. New Magic product usually results in new Magic events. Events drive product sales and part of the equation of how much to buy will include event sales.

The new Brawl Decks will have a new, supported format, plus an event specifically for them, so I’ll include organized play in my calculation.

Brawl Decks are 60-card ready-to-play decks, all Standard-legal, and designed specifically for the Brawl format. Find out more in this article.

The reason why Magic is the number one game in the trade is not just because the game is great, but it’s just so easy to sell. Create a sales machine that uses best practices: events that fire every time, Welcome Decks on hand, and staff available to teach a new player.

This is not just the foundation of selling Magic, but it’s the foundation for the rest of my store.

How will you prepare for the new products coming with Throne of Eldraine? Try Gary's method as we get closer to Brawl Decks and Collector Boosters.

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