"What, Us Worry?" - Navigating 2020
Image: The Mad Magazine Board Game, circa 1988
I was trying to think of a phrase or an image that kind of summed up my thoughts on how 2020 has gone for our little operation so far. Alfred E. Newman, Mad Magazine spokesman came up in my search results. His "What, me worry?" demeanor while chaos typically ensues kind of hit the mark. Let's back up a bit...
In early 2020, January/February time frame, I and my wife as store owners were stressing. Faced with an ever burgeoning release schedule, slumping event attendance and the ever present operating expense, genuine concern about the future of our store took hold. Then March arrived and the threat of this new virus loomed. Would it hit the US as fierce as overseas? What does that look like for our corner of the world? Late March, the answer arrived. Non essential businesses were to close down for a time. I was certain this would be it for us. With no events or even walk in traffic, it looked bleak.
April, 2020. It was clear that we needed to make a shift. We'd always had an (albeit minuscule) online presence, but now it was time to ramp that up. I brought home a few boxes of games and items to list on eBay, began hosting regular Facebook live sales for Magic singles, D&D related products, even Wild West Exodus that hadn't done anything for us in over a year! We learned about Zoom and Roll20, signed up for monthly service to host D&D games. We even made Roll20 work for some Heroclix matches. We put more effort and focus into our website to drive online sales. Even with all of this, we had a 96% drop in overall sales.
In early May, we were able to re-open retail sales on a limited basis. This is when things really started to take a turn. In this April to May timeframe, we had several major releases for Pokemon and Magic. Thanks to a generous grant and a successful GoFundMe campaign, we were able to order a little heavier than normal. Our community rallied in astounding way! Not only was May a successful month considering all of the outside factors, it was pretty on par with the previous year! Everyone who came in made similar type comments; "We want you guys around when this pandemic is over." These sentiments warmed my heart and helped keep the momentum.
The summer months brought more big releases and more support! Forget meeting previous years sales numbers, we were shattering them! Each week I had to double check to make sure those reports were accurate. Our community came through huge for us! This allowed us to expand the product lines just a bit further and we plan to continue that as far as we're able while still remaining financially responsible.
As we enter the fall, we continue to look at ways to improve our business.
- New Website: CHECK - It was a tough decision but one we made as a team. Even though we'd only been on our previous platform for a year, the shopping experience for the customer was clunky and difficult to manage. We really hope you like this one!
- Trimming hours. Typically the hours between 10 and noon were dead, dead, dead. Let's face it, gamers by and large are not up and ready to shop at 10 a.m.
- Continued use of online sales platforms. Facebook Live sales have taken a break while we get our inventory re-entered and get our bearings again, but they'll return. Along with a renewed listing presence on eBay.
- The return of small events. With case numbers either dropping or at the very least holding steady, we have reintroduced limited in store play. With required masks of course.
Looking back at March, which feels like a lifetime ago now, I never would have pictured being here today. Not only safely navigating the pandemic but somehow coming out the other side in a better position!
Why am I sharing all of this? Posterity. Perhaps a form of therapy. Just putting my thoughts on "paper" to fully appreciate the journey. Whatever the reason, I'm incredibly grateful, thankful, appreciative, (insert more adjectives here) of our community and supporters! You've stuck with us through it all and I couldn't possibly convey enough to you how much it means. You are the reason we do this.
Here's to a prosperous remainder of 2020 and looking ahead to '21.