Community Newsletter June 2021

What’s happening in the Gamers@Hart community at the end of May, and what do we have to look forward to in June?

Here’s a glimpse!

Plans to Reopen

At the end of January we explained our plans to reopen in summer, with the ending of social distancing restrictions.

We’re selling games with one aim – to raise the money we need to pay for our first set of running costs when we reopen. We’ve written a little bit about what it’s like selling games at such a large discount.

We’d aimed to sell 1500 by the end of May – we didn’t quite get there, but at the time of writing we’ve just topped that, just a little behind schedule.

But we’re not worried! We’re not worried for 3 reasons:

  1. We need to sell 3000 items – if it takes us a little longer, it just means we open a little later.
  2. Past-us lost sales to future-us. Like many online companies, we used to take payment for preorders upfront. Now we don’t – we charge a card about a week before a release when our stock is confirmed. We also have our subscription service – if everyone who is currently subscribing had preordered their game instead, we’d have smashed our 1500 target.
  3. Counting games is just a proxy for raising money. Just because of the kind of things people were buying in May, we may have sold slightly fewer items than we’d aimed for but we’ve increased our turnover by 20%.

So we feel on target!

Any news on a new building?

Nothing concrete. For people who know Hartlepool, we’re considering a serviced building so we can focus on what we love – playing games. With out last building, just keeping it from falling down took so much energy away from our mission. We’ve checked out Advance House (not really suitable – too officey), and approached Bovis House (which, given some similar and like-minded businesses, might be a great idea) and the Enterprise Centre. But good quality, well decorated, clean properties are hard to find in Hartlepool (if you know of any please do get in touch!). So we’re thinking we might need a stepping stone to a new town-centre shop – perhaps something not so great, but you could could still visit to buy games, and we’ll run events (or People’s Meeples will run events) in community venues.

Lockdown Family Support

With People’s Meeples we’re continuing to find funding for literacy boxes – thanks to Thirteen and the Hadrian Trust we’re going to have another set of boxes to give out very soon. This will probably be our last set of boxes, as we look instead towards restarting gaming in community venues when restrictions lift.

Top Selling Items of April

So what’s been selling well for us this month?

Our top 5 look like this:

Pokemon 25th Anniversary Boosters Packs – these oversized collectors cards are going down a storm! We have four different types in stock, with Kalos being the biggest seller. Also going with them (though not quite as quickly) are special edition binders.

Marvel Champions: Gamora Hero Pack. In our top 5 for the second month in a row, Gamora is still more popular than Star Lord (released at the same time). And every single mail-order sale asked for our plastic-free option! This is the perfect way to reduce shipping costs, as we remove the hard outer shell and send it as a ‘large letter’ rather than a parcel.

New York Zoo. This game has recently had a reprint, and a whole load of buzz. A tile laying game – collect animals and build up your zoo!

MicroMacro: Crime City: A giant (and I mean HUGGGEEEE) map, turning Where’s Wally into an actual game, where you hunt for clues and uncover what happened. With about 16 scenarios, this has loads of replayability!

Wingspan. This seems like it’s perennially on our top sellers – and no wonder. It’s a fantastic game for a gentle evening’s bird watching and passive-aggressive dice stealing. We’ve just restocked the European and Oceania expansions too!

What’s New?

So much is new!

It’s no surprise that we’re increasing our online activity, and while we’re passionate about gaming within and around Hartlepool, we believe we can become a serious online retailer too, able to rival some of the larger companies (in time – it takes a while to build up our stock!). This is partly because we’ve noticed that there’s not much that differentiates online-majority retailers except price. The service they offer is almost identical. Here’s where we’re different:

Subscription service – we’re offering a new service where you only need to sign up once and then you can automatically receive every update of your favourite game. So Marvel Champions and Marvel Crisis Protocol are our most popular, but Arkham Horror: The Card Game has had a sudden burst of interest after information about the new expansions were released.

A new approach to preorders. We used to rely on preorders as a kind of short-term, interest-free loan to help us pay our bills. Most online companies do this (your FLGS probably doesn’t though!). As our number of preorders grew we thought we should make sure we don’t rely on prepayment before it was too late – so although it’s been a little uncomfortable to start off with, we now take all your payment details but we don’t charge your card until you can be guaranteed you’ll shortly receive your product – usually about a week before release. As consumers, we think this has various benefits:

  1. You keep your money for longer.
  2. You don’t prepay for something you might never receive – sometimes things go wrong. Games get canned, products are in short supply, and release dates are delayed. You’re not handing over money for an unspecified amount of time, possibly to receive nothing at all.
  3. The apparent financial struggles of an online retailer brought home how fragile this whole sector is (see our reflections on this here) – if a business folds with your preorder you’re unlikely to get the money back. That won’t happen with us – plus, because our cashflow isn’t relying on your preorder, it’s less likely we’ll ever go under 🙂

This means our website looks a little different. We clearly list something as a preorder, and it’ll either have a specific date which we have good reason to think it’ll definitely arrive by. Or it’ll say ‘expected in the future’ – this means the preorder is expected, the game isn’t out of print, we just don’t have an exact date. This is true for restocks as well as preorders. It also means you need to ‘check out’ once for each different preorder, and you can’t mix and match preorders with in stock items – sorry!

We’re also taking part in the Totally Locally Fiver Fest! Find some excellent family games we’re reduced to £5 to take part in this amazing venture to support local businesses!

What have we been playing in April?

What’s hit the Hart family table this month?

Not as much as we’d like! But we finally got round to trying our Railroad Ink – just the yellow version for now. We’re loving the simplicity of it so far – roll dice, create a network on your player board with wipe-clean pens, build in particular features to score points. We’ve also played Llama’s Unleashed for the first time – we were already fans of Unstable Unicorns (and this is virtually the same game), we keep returning to Wingspan, and Overboss as a gentle tile-laying game (if you ever buy Overboss, you need to play with the ‘advanced’ rules at the back. They’re not really that complicated, and they turn an ok game into a great game!)

And now Covid restrictions have eased we’re able to play Lord of the Rings: Journey’s Through Middle Earth again! Getting through a few of those scenarios was an amazing feeling!

Kickstarter Update

We regularly look for the next big thing on Kickstarter. In May we saw Bristol 1350 come in – and almost sell out already. A little quieter on what we backed this month, but we did go in hard for the new Isle of Cats expansion – plus a ton of exclusives (including enamel pins). You can still back it here – or we’ll be taking preorders later in the year.