Or, The Great RPG Department re-merchandising project of 2016.
So it’s come to this.
Make no mistake, Pathfinder is still the #2 RPG at Games and Stuff by an easy margin, although Star Wars occasionally barks at its heels. But more and more it’s becoming apparent that the sales volume generated by the game is from hardback books and new releases, with current and fully in-print Adventure Paths holding their own. But the four linear feet I have dedicated to back catalog Pathfinder books is no longer earning its keep.
It’s the Pathfinder brand loyalists driving the line now, and it has been for a while. I’ve sold a grand total of seven core rulebooks and two Beginner Boxes in 2016. Those are not the numbers of a healthy and growing player base for a game of this size. One has to wonder how much the recent announcement of a stand-alone and fully compatible Starfinder RPG was a direct result of this trend.
Meanwhile, my “Other” category is doing an increasingly large amount of heavy lifting for my RPG department’s bottom line. For regular readers of this blog or attendees of any of my RPG Evolution presentations, this should not come as a surprise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you can double or triple your overall RPG sales by having a robust selection of RPGs that aren’t the default “Big Four” : D&D, Pathfinder, Star Wars, and Shadowrun.
So for a while now, as I’ve been crunching numbers, I’ve been debating shrinking down the shelf space dedicated to Pathfinder in order to spread out my Other stuff. The puzzle becomes about how much can I afford to chop? Can I seriously reduce my Pathfinder product mix without impacting Pathfinder sales? Or at the very least, can I increase my Other RPG dollars by a greater amount than any lost from Pathfinder? Well, we’re gonna find out. Take a look at this chart, and pay close attention to the orange (Pathfinder) and green (Other) lines.
Since the release of D&D 5E, Pathfinder has been on a slow decline, but as April of 2016 shows (with Ultimate Intrigue) it still sees nice spikes when new hardbacks are released. Meanwhile, that green Other line frequently outperforms D&D!
So last week, I started tearing apart my Pathfinder fixture and crunching numbers on specific SKUs. To my surprise, even the hardcovers, which sell well enough, don’t sell well enough to keep two in stock at all times, so chop! chop! Down to one unit of of all the hardbacks except the Advanced Race and Class Guides.
I also cut out all Adventure Path product for paths which no longer have availability for all six parts. Gone too are back-catalog books older than six months since release. I did keep the single volume modules, because they continue to sell well as a whole, so as long as I’ve got a nice selection I’m pretty good there.
What I did not do, by the way, is put the cut stuff in clearance, seriously marking it down. Instead, I knocked a few bucks off most items, and moved it in with our Used RPG racks. I still want to protect the brand as much as possible and not further undermine the community by throwing a metric pile of Pathfinder books into markdown. Indeed my staff has been instructed to make sure that we communicate the reduction in space to our Pathfinder customers. “We’ve streamlined our Pathfinder product selection, but we have increased our commitment to stocking used Pathfinder product. Be sure to check out the Used shelves if you’re looking for specific title you can’t find.”
While I was at it, I also removed the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games from the endcap that they’ve occupied for about a year. I would have thought the games’ sales would have died many months ago, what with not a single release announced for any of the five game lines. But my proximity to the former HQ of Games Workshop and the long regional legacy of people very invested in the 40K universe has created a sales tail much longer than I ever anticipated. Collectively, the games still sometimes crack the Top 10, and as recently as April they were #5 on my Quarterly rankings. Still, the writing is on the wall, and many of the titles have completely disappeared from distributor shelves. So while I’m certainly not cutting the line, I’m pulling it from prime real estate. I’ve put The One Ring in its place. The Lord of the Rings roleplaying game from Cubicle 7 has been trying its hardest to claim a spot as our #5 top selling game, so it’s time to give it a shot at making #5 its permanent home.
So where’s that leave us? In addition to swapping out 40K for The One Ring, I eliminated a full four linear feet of Pathfinder and spread out all the other stuff. Better real estate, or at least more room to breathe has been given to Mutants & Masterminds, Dresden Files, Doctor Who, Through the Breach, Fantasy Age, Night’s Black Agents, and Iron Kingdoms, which is to say nothing of all the other stuff that’s now slightly less packed. I’m excited about what this shift might do for our bottom line, and how it might shake up our Top 20 Quarterly list come the end of September.
We shall see.