Thursday, March 6, 2014

Vending Victory from the Jaws of Vending Defeat

I had a mentor who told me a story which changed the way I approach almost every challenging situation. At the time of the story, he owned a store that sold collectible card games like Magic, Pokemon, and Yu Gi Oh!, and he was going to GenCon, one of the biggest non-electronic gaming conventions in the world. He had spend thousands of dollars to be there, and had brought a fantastic selection of all the card games he carried. Everything was set up and ready, but as the first day progressed, sales were terrible. No one was buying. Few people were even looking at his booth.

Vending with Worlds Apart Games at
Arisia in 2010
(That's Dan in the hat)
If you are a vendor reading this, you may have been in this situation before. What did you do? If you have never experienced this, ask yourself, what would you do? For many, including myself before hearing this story, I would have tried to make the best of the weekend, sell as much as we can, maybe slash some prices to move some stock, then limp home, lick our wounds and try to figure out what happened so we could do better at the next event... if we could even afford to attend the next event.

Our hero could not afford to fail this weekend. He had invested more than he could afford to lose, and he wasn't ready to lose. During the course of the first day, someone had come by with a large trash bag full of Heroclix and offered to sell it to him for $20. He'd never heard of Heroclix, but it looked like a lot of whatever it was for little money, so he bought it.

Having an already disastrous weekend, and having bought this bag. What would you do? Some would just throw the bag in the back of the booth to take home and figure out what it is next week. After all, this weekend is a disaster, who needs another thing to deal with. Others would see the bag differently...

He didn't know anything about Heroclix, but he knew that he had just bought over 100 of them for $20, so he grabbed an empty bin, dumped the figures into it, and put a sign on the front that said "$1". Within an hour, the bin was empty.
Heroclix Superman figure
For more information on Heroclix,
visit the Wizkids Website.

He proceeded to go around the convention, looking for other people unloading their bulk Heroclix collections, and by the middle of the second day, his original stock was pushed to the side to make room for an entire table of Heroclix figures. The event was more than profitable for him.

This story teaches a very important lesson. As long as there is still time on the clock, there is still time to play and win, but not by pressing a losing strategy. The more important part of this lessons is to realize is to think about how long your decision cycle is. When I was vending at conventions, I would think during the week prior as to what I would bring, how I would display it, and what the strategy would be. By the time I arrived at the convention and set up Friday, the die was cast. I was committed to that strategy, win or lose. No matter how Friday went, I stuck to it all weekend. My decision cycle was a week long.

His decision cycle is hours, sometimes minutes. You can always reevaluate your strategy on an ongoing basis, not just when the event is over, but a few hours in. When you get home on Monday, it is too late. When you walk out of that sales presentation, it is too late. When you lock up the shop at night, it is too late.

Don't wait until the game is over to tally your score and figure out why you lost. Figure out while the game is still going how you can win.

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