Friday, September 17, 2010
TIME TO SELL SOMETHING
The crunch of bills to pay every month is what keeps most business marketers occupied. Even though I am a one man operation it is no different here at G&L CHESS. I have a stack of ideas, plans and purposes to employ that would be much easier if I had at least one more person here but at the moment it is hard to afford myself.
But, less than ten years ago I had staff and I could spend 75% of my time putting together catalogs, creating events, working on books, and the rest of my time traveling to tournament sites to sell. Rita and Nate handled stocking shelves, packing, going to the post office and answering the phone and web orders. Now I do all of that except for the traveling to events part. People have asked why I don't do that any more and the answer is simple: It's hard to make any impportant money and at the same time give up the weekend where I can work on something more meaningful and profitable.
In the late eighties and mid 90s people were thirsty for chess stuff. I could outsell any competitor if they were in the same room with me (or even in another room). It was variety and product knowledge. I still have that but the customers are not as plentiful and I don't do those gigs very much. What a drain hauling stuff around, then schlepping them back and restocking the shelves (in a way this is a joke because some stuff will sit around in piles until I get around to it).
So I am working on a new David and Goliath catalog. The last one did well because there was no profit for me to make! That is, that extra money needed to restock, buy new things, and pay for my expenses. But books sitting on the shelves don't make any money either. So that's in the pipeline to reduce some of the stuff I would ordinarily bring with me to a festive event such as the Chess Clinic. When sales of something drastically slows, it is time to get it out of here. That one sale in 12 months isn't worth hanging onto. That's why stores like Borders are basically selling on consignment. If it sits there they eventually send it back and nowadays sooner than ever.
WORD TO THE WISE
Seldom does a month go by where someone wants something and the publisher no longer has it. It wasn't bought when it was available and now some clown is trying to take an "ordinary" book and quintuple the price on eBay or Amazon and hope you are dumb enough to go for it. What many "buyers" don't realize is that those books seldom GO FOR $150, they are just asking for that much and often do not get it. Only that rare collector who has to have everything will go looking for it and knows enough to not pay $150 for it.
Years ago Drueke had their famous Players Choice sets, which over the years, I had sold a lot of. One thing I never liked that much about that set is that the weights in the bigger pieces often became "loose." But I had talked to one of the agents at Drueke and he told me they had 40 sets left and then there would be no more. I bought them all (this was not the first time Chessco did something like this). I think I sold them for $40 a set. Some people bought two. They all disappeared in that little tan colored box. A week later they were being listed on eBay for $160-180! As snow must fall in winter, I knew some of my buyers were trying to profit from their purchase in a big way. Yes, I never ran into even ONE person who paid that much for an attractive looking but flawed set. Someone told me that someone is still manufacturing a set like that for Drueke (or someone else, I would put nothing past "made in China" people). But I haven't seen them advertised and Drueke no longer sends their catalogs to me. I am too busy to ask for one.
I've started stocking the 107th issue and am willing to sell to those who want one at an attractive price. I also sell New in Chess Yearbooks (#96 will be here in a month or so). Unfortunately, as they got better in production quality, sales didn't increase for me and probably not for much anyone else but they were once a staple, a cash cow for those publishers. The material these days is better, more varied, and useful but people just don't want to pay high prices for a book that looks just like the last one. With a few exceptions, the thrill is not as present as it once was. However, a word to you that watch your money, my prices are quite reasonable and delivery is very good too. I no longer stock 2,500 different (yes, that's what I used to do) like I used to. It's less than 300 but it is a good three hundred. If you want to be put on my autoship lists for the newest Informants, I can do that for you. The price of each issue has a retail of $36 but to my regular buyers it has been dropped to $30.50. To Gold Card buyers it is even lower, $26.95, that's almost $10 off, making it more affordable.
If you want back issues let me know. I still like New in Chess Yearbooks better. The newest Informant has a Best Games section for Magnus Carlsen. Best games always have value and eye-opening surprise, so that's what's new here.
When to email, when to mail, what time of day or night? What about weekends? There are supposed to be immutable "laws" for all these things but I have found that is quite doubtful. Some don't act right away anyhow and that's why for certain product announcements I have to place deadlines because in a week or two something else will be here demanding attention. The chess world doesn't have a "My System" every year, we have to sell staples in the meantime.
I have an idea for a chess scorebook that, based on past "performance" of prototypes, would sell in piles (No it is not a Monroi), and make everyone some extra cash (and not any 1-4% like these picayunish banks offer). I am looking for those who might be interested in backing such a venture with a much better than average return on their "investment" (ROI). It would be a relatively quick launch and sale. After that it would just be "business as usual" and probably sell for a long, long time. I'm not pushing this really hard since I had this idea 5-6 years ago! Sometimes they are the most "obvious" ideas born of necessity in a very practical way. I even have a tantalizing NAME for the product (this is something lots of "inventors" never come up with and are too cheap to pay someone who can do this to increase awareness). So if being involved in jazz like this is on your "event horizon," let me know. After all, the chess world isn't just about books or DVDs or chess sets. Drop me an email.