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Made in us
Dakka Veteran





Over the past few years many companies have been reducing the number of skus they offer by taking products that were previously offered for sale individually and now only selling them as a bundle. Corvus Belli and Wyrd have been very aggressive in this. For all intents and purposes some units have even been squated.

My understanding of the rational to reduce the number of skus in the general business sector is that fewer skus result in a situation in which products that a company makes no longer compete with other products the company makes, thus increasing sales numbers, and reducing time that stock sits on a shelf. This may be true for Proctor and Gamble.

This being said, as a consumer it can suck. You are basically shoe horned into buying something that is not the best fit for you. It reminds me of the pinnicle of capitalism. In such a world we could be playing checkers with pieces made out of crp. They could sell tons of it. It would be easy to find a game, etc. However, it would have little variety in models or gameplay.

I am not at all certain that reducing the number of skus is the right move for the miniature industry. People can now print models with their own 3d printer. This allows them to create models inexpensively and also have a large amount of variety in the sculpts. Reducing the number of skus reduces variety, which makes it more difficult to compete with the 3d printers.

I can see this type of thinking being extended into game design. Having fewer units, and trying to get everyone to buy all of those units. Examples of this are Titanicus and Aeronautica. I think that it works slightly better in Titanicus than in Aeronatica, as there are more weapon options that allow for unit differentiation, even though most people purchase the same kit. This being said, I have heard from countless people that they do not want to purchase either of the games as there are too few different factions and models.

If we look at Star Wars Legion, we see a game that used to only have two factions. It was selling ok ish. Then they released two more factions. Now, the game has really taken off in my area. One could argue that even this game has reduced sku numbers. However, they do sell individual commanders and operatives (they are not bundled) and they also have unit upgrade packs which are not bundled with their units. Thus, the game does not feel like they are limiting skus. (The game still lacks a variety of units for the two new factions, but that will change in time.)

   
Made in ie
Longtime Dakkanaut




I disagree. It's not about 'buying more of a smaller range of products'. More sku's simply leads to the 'privateer press problem'.


more sku's equals more shelf space requirement. Most game shops are limited in the space they can offer for each game.

Too many sku's means retail businesses can't stock or display all of your product. If you can't stock a full range, it ultimately makes it less attractive to the customers.

Reduced sku's is a more business friendly approach. And regardless of internet boutiques, you still wants to keep brick and mortar retail happy.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/02/23 14:35:41


greatest band in the universe: machine supremacy

"Punch your fist in the air and hold your Gameboy aloft like the warrior you are" 
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran





I see your point. However, for instance in the case of maulifaux, many of the new bundled products take up more space on the shelf than the individual items they replaced. With Infinity, the bundles replaced blister packs. The packs can be stacked deep on pegs. The boxes take shelf space, and the shelves have to be a certain height, etc.

Then there is the stuff that is discontinued. This is where things get really bad.

Very few stores stock a full range of products from a company, even with companies that have fewer skus.
   
Made in gb
[DCM]
Decrepit Dakkanaut




UK

Even if a store doesn't stock the full range for a game it's still negetivly impacted when somebody asks for something they don't have (as the consumer goes somewhere else and often decides not to bother next time they need something)

so for example stocking 50 SKUs (the most popular ones) out of 100 gives a store a fighting chance,

stocking 50 SKUs out of 500 not so much

and there also the issue of keeping on top of the stock you've got, and that needs reordering etc (not so much of an issue with a skilled business team and a just in time ordering system, but lots of gaming stores are not really up on the business side of things and the more complex it gets the harder it is for them)

 
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran





I agree about being negatively impacted when a store does not have a product that a consumer wants. However, the number of skus that are stocked depend on the space that each sku takes, as well as the complexity of ordering etc. You could have more than twice the number of the the old malifaux skus on the shelf as their boxes were smaller than the new ones. I do not think this is a situation in which a store stocks 50 of 500.

In general, most game stores deal in magic the gathering. That has lots of different cards. However, they do not take much space. Many stores also carry the pre primed DnD minis. Again lots of skus. If they do not want to carry them or many of them, then they will not serve the customer well.

I think it would be bad for both game stores and game companies to reduce the number of skus.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2020/02/24 21:51:19


 
   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut





Magic has a bunch of different cards, but essentially only 3 or so SKUs at any one time. It's a big part of their success. It's actually why Wal-mart carries Magic. It's why blind purchase exists. It's kind of the ultimate in SKU consolidation strategies.

There's a lot going on here at a lot of different levels, but it really helps to understand that a consumer is NOT the customer of a game company. Game companies sell to distributors, who sell to retailers, who sell to consumers. At each of those levels you're dealing with issues of balancing the capital you invest into supply with the actual sales demanded and each tier is trying not to end up with too much sitting on the shelf not being turned back into cash to invest in future supply.

The two big factors at the moment are online stores replacing retail for anything "on the shelf" with retailers really only able to compete within the first week or two of new releases. The flip side is simply the raw volume of new content being released providing very little incentive for the chain to keep anything in stock. Back stock is risk, particularly when your customers always have something new to buy instead. For the game, sure, its more convenient to have bespoke purchases to get just what you want and leave the rest on the shelf, but for the people actually taking the risk of stocking these games, there's absolutely no incentive in the system to deal with the hassle of managing huge volumes of SKUs; particularly in a genre where repeat purchases are incredibly rare outside of very large communities.
   
Made in us
Owns Whole Set of Skullz Techpriests






Right behind you.

Corvus Belli's problem is their own fault. They refuse to expand box sizes for 'units' to more than 4 models(they claim that "they'd have to bump the prices to exorbitant levels") or to include alternate arm/head options...and they also just release things with no real rhyme or reason.
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran





I agree with you LunarSol. There is a lot going on on different levels. The differentiation between manufacturers, wholesalers, online, and retail is important.

I think that there is economic pressure to have fewer SKUs. It would in theory reduce the time that product sat in the suppy chain / in the store. However, I think it makes for sad hobbyists.

There could be a single game with a single sku (or of course a few such games). Everybody could buy it. It would be cheap as the sales volume would be high and it would not sit around long (at least initially until everyone had one). It would be easy to find a game as everyone would have it (at least initially until everyone got bored). What it would lack is variety, both in sculpts and on the table top. This is of course an extreme example, but you get the idea.

Old hats like myself remember the wide variety of sculpts that GW had. A given thing, like an orc would have dozens of sculpts. Today, as things have gone the way of fewer skus, we have a box of eldar guiardians. It does not begin to encompass the myriad sculpts that used to exist.

(The games have also gone this way. From the plethora of options in second edition, to the minimal ones in 8th.)

I think that some of the core of the miniature hobby bucks this few sku trend. Old units can still sell. They retain their value in the game. They do not spoil like produce. They of course do not sell that fast.

However, we pay a premium price for minis. For me part of that price is to account for the slow sales. The product itself is dirt cheap to produce, and does not take up that much space in a warehouse (unlike a car for instance).

If we want to minimize the time kept in the supply chain, then 3d printing will win, as it is print to order.
   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut





 spaceelf wrote:

I think that some of the core of the miniature hobby bucks this few sku trend. Old units can still sell. They retain their value in the game. They do not spoil like produce. They of course do not sell that fast.

However, we pay a premium price for minis. For me part of that price is to account for the slow sales. The product itself is dirt cheap to produce, and does not take up that much space in a warehouse (unlike a car for instance).

If we want to minimize the time kept in the supply chain, then 3d printing will win, as it is print to order.


They can, but they don't; at least not profitably. Players just don't hunt around for back stock anymore when they can get exactly what they want guaranteed at nearly half the price online. A store only has so much money to invest in stock and pouring it into stuff to sit on shelves for years in the hopes that someone might come along and buy it at full price so you can make back ten or twenty bucks profit is a good way to go out of business. Compared to Magic or Board Games or RPGs or anything else a game store might want to provide, minis are just a sinkhole outside of preorders and maybe a few buzz worthy new box set releases.

A big part of the problem is that distributors are realizing this too. If you've tried to get a model that was released a couple months ago, you'll find your store probably can't get it from their distributor. Distributors see know reason to stock minis either for all the same lack of incentive stores do. Why keep things in your warehouse on the chance some store might want to order it when Asmodee has a dozen hot new games your stores want to have on shelves day one before their customers are lured away by CMONs new shiny? You JUST managed to offload that last batch of Underworlds sets and there's more coming; why bother re-ordering the old stuff on the off chance someone cares?

I do think the future of minis probably IS 3D printing. The question will be whether or not its something that ever gets SO convenient that its really something everyone does for themselves, or if it becomes the kind of service better provided by someone like... a game store. There's probably a bubble needing to burst and its definitely an ugly time for the industry. Right now though, minis are trying to get by reducing SKUs and making themselves more like board games to compete.
   
Made in gb
Perfect Shot Dark Angels Predator Pilot



Wrexham, North Wales

 LunarSol wrote:


A big part of the problem is that distributors are realizing this too. If you've tried to get a model that was released a couple months ago, you'll find your store probably can't get it from their distributor. Distributors see know reason to stock minis either for all the same lack of incentive stores do. Why keep things in your warehouse on the chance some store might want to order it when Asmodee has a dozen hot new games your stores want to have on shelves day one before their customers are lured away by CMONs new shiny? You JUST managed to offload that last batch of Underworlds sets and there's more coming; why bother re-ordering the old stuff on the off chance someone cares?

I do think the future of minis probably IS 3D printing. The question will be whether or not its something that ever gets SO convenient that its really something everyone does for themselves, or if it becomes the kind of service better provided by someone like... a game store. There's probably a bubble needing to burst and its definitely an ugly time for the industry. Right now though, minis are trying to get by reducing SKUs and making themselves more like board games to compete.


It goes up (back?) another level. Manufacturers (at least those without the heft of GW, and have to get their stock made in China) are cutting back on re-casting new miniatures after the initial release. There's always a new mini on the way and after that first wave you're yesterday's hero. OK the SKUs exist, on paper (well, spreadsheet) but not where it matters - in physical product taking up space and money.
   
Made in us
Courageous Space Marine Captain





SoCal

My FLGS stopped carrying Malifaux and Infinity relatively recently. Reduced skus really do save shelf space!

Personally, I stopped buying Malifaux when they started reboxing. The bigger boxes are less attractive because they now contain something I’m not interested in with things I am interested in, making them lower value while also pricing them much higher than the “impulse buy” range where I feel comfortable buying something without paralyzing paroxysms of guilt.

Meanwhile, DFC has been expanding their skus and I’ve been buying. Or trying to. I’m still waiting for an order from November because TTCombat’s US distributor died. They make Frostgrave look easy to find in the US.

   
Made in us
Napoleonics Obsesser




MN

Fewer SKUs reduce waste by facilitating "Just-in-Time" delivery.

There is less to store as items sitting in a warehouse are a wasted cost.

Shipping more SKUs are another wasted cost.

Producing more than what the "customer" actually wants or needs is a wasted cost. If the SKUs are not moving, they should be cut.

Overproducing on an SKU is a wasted cost.

Therefore, their should be very little actually "in" inventory until it is asked for and purchased by a customer. Only your "best selling" SKUs should be made available to increase the profit throughput of the SKU.

This is MBA 101 stuff....

Do you like Free Wargames?
http://bloodandspectacles.blogspot.com/ 
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran





I agree shipping more items than needed is waste. However, if the combined skus take more space than the separate ones, then there is no shipping waste with fewer skus. In general, my flgs seems to get tons of boxes, most of which are not even close to being full. There is lots of extra space. Tons of wasted shipping volume.

Items sitting in a warehouse is a type of cost. The question is, is the cost justified? Most consumers want products now. Stores are not kickstarters. People do not want to wait for a product to be produced, shipped from china, and then sold to them. Lack of stock in a store kills impulse purchases.

You mention just in time delivery. The only way to accomplish it is to know the demand for a product and what the demand will be in the future. It does not matter how few or many skus you have. You need to know how many are needed. Guess too low, and stock runs out. Guess too high and stuff sits in the warehouse. I view going too low as disrespectful to the consumer. It means I and other gamers may not be able to purchase the game and play. In a certain sense having more skus makes the task easier, as the products are more defined, and thus it is easier to judge whether or not a consumer would want them, as opposed to consumers buying something that really does not fit them. The latter demand may be difficult to judge.

Although fewer SKUs do not facilitate delivery of what the consumer may want. Fewer skus generally means that the consumer does not get what they want. Products are bundled, some of which the consumer may not want. This is truly waste. Otherwise, the consumer is shoehorned into purchasing a game that does not fit them.

I can see your point Easy E. It is in one sense MBA 101. In a certain sense, it makes business sense, and can in theory lead to more profit for a company. However, I believe that there are other factors at play that make sku reduction highly undersirable. For example, bobtheinquisitor stated that he quit malifaux when there was reboxing.

   
Made in us
Napoleonics Obsesser




MN

 spaceelf wrote:


I can see your point Easy E. It is in one sense MBA 101. In a certain sense, it makes business sense, and can in theory lead to more profit for a company. However, I believe that there are other factors at play that make sku reduction highly undersirable. For example, bobtheinquisitor stated that he quit malifaux when there was reboxing.



For the record, I agree with you guys. I often find MBA 101 to not always be in the best interests of the shareholders, and using those band aid/templated approaches tend to cause just as many issues as solve.

I understand why as a Business they are making those moves, even if as a customer I do not find them helpful to me. Of course, a company out of business is the worst case scenario for me IF I like their products.

Do you like Free Wargames?
http://bloodandspectacles.blogspot.com/ 
   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut





Often the hardest thing to appreciate is how much economy of scale skews are perceived value of things. We've gotten very used to what things are worth based on development costs spread across thousands if not millions of buyers. The question most businesses have to face is deciding between what customers want and what they're willing to pay (and not just say they'll pay for).
   
Made in us
God-like Imperator Titan Commander






Halifax

I feel like there's something of a bubble deflating in the gaming world; perhaps related to Kickstarter. Essentially people have been flushing lots of money down Kickstarter for games that are delivered, if at all, two years later, and which aren't supported because they weren't sold for enough to kickstart anything.

Maybe the Squats were all the Space Marines we made along the way.  
   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut





Nobody wants to support games these days. It's easier to sell completely new instead. Kickstarter is a part of this, but not the only reason. We had a solid decade of board games figuring out the expansion curve and just about where the demand for a sequel dries up against the barrier to entry.
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran





It may also be an effect of the game industry coming into cantact with other industries.

If a game is in an amazon warehouse, then it is competing for that space with other products that may sell faster, or for more profit.

If game companies have their own warehouses, then they are competing for real estate with other companies. The real estate is driven up in price, and it is difficult to sustain the cost based on the sales volume or markup.

It is of course my hope that the markup in the game industry, which is high can account for the costs.
   
Made in us
Longtime Dakkanaut





 spaceelf wrote:

It is of course my hope that the markup in the game industry, which is high can account for the costs.


It most certainly is not.
   
 
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