Pandemic Recap (Yes, But What About Second Lockdown?) November and December

Posted by Brian Flowers on

What a weird time to run a business. Christmas was coming and sales were ramping up but this was tempered by the trending up of COVID cases. While hoping for an early ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown in the hope of being open for Christmas (Surprise! Nope.), I was keeping the store as low on food stock as possible to avoid the mass waste from last time. Several board game or puzzle deliveries were arriving each week and it was getting difficult to find room for everything, but retail was going to be the only game in town for Christmas!


It is worth mentioning that I consider myself to be fairly good at ordering the right amount of ‘stuff’. In theory the goal is order enough to sell all but one copy of a given thing so that you know you maxed out on the demand of a given product. This does leave you with an ever growing inventory but that is part of the reason to have sales. When I had two stores and could set up at all manner of off site events like Calgary Expo or K-Days, it gave plenty of wiggle room to rotate products and find the people looking deeper into particular niches. Every now and then I would get caught holding the bag due to unforeseen circumstances (X-Wing switching to 2.0 was a big one!) but there almost always is a way to move the product and not take an unbearable loss. Going down to one store, selling way more online, and COVID supply chain disruptions, made my inventory sense not very reliable. The default would be to simply order as much as I could given how badly things were being allocated, but I simply do not have the funds to easily absorb getting too much. 


So when I got a call about being able to increase my order for Wingspan it put me in a bit of an odd spot. It is still the hottest game for Christmas even though it came out the year before and it is on the physically larger side but my current order was big enough for when I had 2 locations. Given that the second expansion was due out in the middle of December, Stonemaier’s history of not flooding the market, and I knew I would be short on a bunch of other titles with all my competition in the same situation, I ended up doubling my order to make sure I would have more than enough to cover Christmas.


I sold out of Wingspan before December….


The day to day in the cafe was getting to be quite slow outside of retail. I was hearing more and more feedback from regulars that they just didn’t want to go out unless they had to and all I could do was stare at the daily updates waiting for the next lockdown. Nov 12 was a baby step with the mandated early closing of businesses (11pm) and on Nov 24 we went back to operating as retail only, similar to how we were back in June 2020. This unfortunately resulted in another round of layoffs but it felt like this time would be different, shorter, and less dire. By now masks were everywhere, vaccines were coming, COVID variants weren’t really a thing, and people were more or less doing the right things. How could this lockdown possibly last longer or be worse than the first one when we knew nothing? Right?!


The last weekend of November was the start of the Wildheart Market at the old Army and Navy building on Whyte ave. While this has been an excellent event in the past, it was very uncertain if it would be able to run under the new restrictions. Scheduled to start on Friday Nov 27, 2020, the organizers had every conceivable precaution in place to keep the event safe and adherent but due to how fast things were changing, AHS did not let the event run on that Friday. This was beyond stressful as all of the vendors (myself included) had already set up and moved everything into place but some serious magic happened and the market was allowed to open with Dr. Hinshaw’s explicit approval. The rest of the market went off without a hitch for 4 weekends in a row and really helped close out the year.


December was all a bit of a blur as I was doing personal delivery across the city and surrounding area each day while also running the market booth 3 days a week. Balancing the inventory of the 75th street store, the Bountiful Market booth, the Christmas Market and the online store was a very tricky thing as I did not have a good way to mark items out of stock fast enough to prevent overselling. This led to me driving back and forth all over the place trying to find that one last copy of a puzzle or game and all kinds of minor changes at the last minute. I think I finally have this issue all sorted and will make sure to never let that happen again for the sake of my sanity!


2020 closed out much like every other year for me. Christmas is always crazy busy and while it was a different kind of busy this year, I was glad for it to be over so I could just, stop, moving, for a little while. I slept, and I rested, and I began to wait.


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