Sep 182013

I’m having trouble sorting out distribution – I’ve approached PSI and Impressions on recommendations from Triple Ace and Pelgrane, but to no avail. I’m assuming this is because we are a new and small company, and this is our first print product, but to be honest I’m unsure if I’m doing something wrong with my approach.

Do you have any advice how I should go about it? I’m asking Jason at IPR if he can help with the direct sales fulfillment, and am looking for a similar outlet in the UK / Europe, but as far as actual distribution into stores is concerned I seem to be running up against a brick wall. I’m thinking of approaching Studio 2 but otherwise am running out of options. How does Evil Hat manage distribution?

So, we don’t go through middle-men to get into distribution: we don’t use Impressions, PSI, or Studio 2, so I have no experience there. I know they’re out there but there’s been no incentive to start using them. Others have plenty of incentive, I imagine! But it’s outside my sphere of knowledge.

Our original setup:

We floored (stored, sometimes for a fee depending on the provider) our stuff with Indie Press Revolution (IPR). They handled not only direct sales for us, but also sales to retailers. The challenge there was that IPR’s penetration into retail was only so-so. IPR would pay us quarterly, as is their contracted arrangement.

Our next setup:

We retained our relationship with IPR, but moved our primary flooring and sales fulfillment over to Alliance Games Distribution along with some automation support with our own web store so we could capture a little more coin on our direct sales. We solicited purchase orders from other distributors such as ACD and PHD in the States, and Esdevium, Lion Rampant, and Ulisses Spiele abroad. When one of them placed an order, we’d ship to them, issue a PO, and wait 30-ish days to get paid. Our flooring arrangement with Alliance meanwhile got us paid monthly, after they’d report to us how much they sold of our stuff and we’d invoice them according to that report. Alliance let us ship to their central (midwest) warehouse, and would take care of any cost of shipping our stuff to their other three warehouses themselves. Sometimes this meant they’d go really skimpy on those other three warehouses and end up running out of stock on key items of ours despite having thousands of copies at their midwest facility. And so…

Our current setup:

Same as previous but now we’re diversifying our flooring a little more: we’ve got ACD flooring our stuff as well now. This means they have more of our stuff on hand because we assume the risk of unsold inventory. They DON’T do the “ship between our warehouses ourselves” thing, so I have to send them a separate supply to each of three locations. On the other hand this means there’s a better chance we’ll be able to have confidence that all three sales zones they cover will remain reasonably well stocked. While that does happen reasonably often with Alliance, the fact that it’s all on them to make sure they don’t hit gaps in their other three locations means they DO hit gaps in their other three locations if they play it too careful or, simply, don’t pay attention to how fast our items are running down in those locations.

My recommendation: 

If you’re looking to break into the distribution market… don’t skip a step in what we did, because that worked out damn fine. Start out with Indie Press Revolution, like we did. Their flooring is very cheap, they’ll handle US-based direct sales for you if you don’t have a storefront that can do so comfortably, and they’re able to get you some convention representation via their booth presence.

But maybe unlike us, also try to get purchase orders from Alliance and ACD at the least, in the States. If you build up the kind of sales momentum necessary to make the cost components of flooring with those guys work, THEN try to get something like that set up. Fast forwarding to that step first might well be jumping the gun — tho you can look into it. I just don’t think the math bears up until you’ve got a proven winner. We didn’t make that jump until we had the Dresden Files RPG.


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