by Jason Lautenschleger, owner and co-founder, Barry & Jason Games & Entertainment
On Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28), we were feeling particularly small. Like many start-ups, Barry & Jason uses the Amazon marketplace to reach new customers. Amazon’s incredible distribution capabilities and low costs on shipping rates typically translate into fantastic opportunities for companies like ours. We’ve enjoyed great success in launching our first two games, Game Night in a Can and Dr. Biscuits’ Radical Road Trip exclusively on Amazon. This year, we doubled our game offerings and released two new games: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Historical Trivia Travel Game in September and Anchorman: The Game in October. Apparently, our timing could not have been worse — and the reason is ridiculous.
In July, Amazon announced that it would be initiating Restock Quantity Limits on all new products. So, anything that had never been sold before would be subject to a 200 unit limit. Restocking amounts would be based on sales over a 90-day period. Back in July, Amazon noted that the companies most affected would be “those that were launching a new product in the next five months.” Hey, that’s us!
Not only is that us, but we were intending to do so much more on Amazon this year with the addition of two popular licensed properties that are now gaining holiday sales momentum. It turns out they’re gaining momentum just in time for us to miss most fourth-quarter sales online. We took a big swing and Amazon has pulled the bat out from behind us. Instead of calculating estimates based on other party games, or even our own existing games, Amazon was insisting on reassessing each offering on its own merits and sales figures, which, in our case, didn’t exist previous to the fall of 2020.
Here’s a recent snapshot: After selling out once already, we had 180 units of our Anchorman Game in inventory, according to Amazon, on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28. However, none of those units could ship out that day. They were being moved around within Amazon’s fulfillment centers. If you were to order one on Nov. 28, you should’ve received it by Dec. 5, but Amazon switched the date to Dec. 9. Receiving an item more than 10 days later is not the expedience that Amazon Prime members are used to and it certainly isn’t what they pay for. If it were up to us, we’d have thousands of Anchorman Games available for sale on Amazon right now, and fans of the movie and of party games would continue buying them and receiving them in a couple of days for the foreseeable future.
But it’s not up to us.
Amazon calculated (via its “sophisticated optimization model”) that we had 39 days of inventory on hand as of Small Business Saturday — that our 180 games would magically, like so many loaves and fishes, be enough to satisfy the demand of Amazon shoppers throughout the remainder of the holiday shopping season and into the new year. We sold 46 Anchorman games on Black Friday and, as a result, became able to send in a dozen more games (can’t exceed that 200 total!). It can take 2-3 weeks for the inventory we send into Amazon to be made fulfillable through its system. So even if Amazon changed its mind today, we will still miss thousands upon thousands in sales. Conversely, Amazon asked us to send in 3,000 units of Game Night in a Can to meet its estimated demand — because it’s been there before. Alas, the loyal and rabid fanbase of Ron Burgundy is being completely undervalued.
Despite these challenges, we’re pretty lucky. Target stores carry the Anchorman Game and Barnes & Noble sells our Bill & Ted’s Travel Game. Your neighborhood toy store might have them as well (speaking of supporting small businesses). Back in August, we saw this coming and converted our website over to Shopify to be able to fulfill orders there. It just all feels very short-sighted on the part of a company that prides itself on logistics and analytics. Most people aren’t even aware it’s happening. This certainly has the potential to impact many shoppers this season as delivery times look to push later and later as well.
We’re grateful for all the opportunities we have.
The aforementioned frustrations aside, we’re staying positive and constantly moving forward, albeit slower than we anticipated. We suspect there are small businesses out there who are trying to launch a product and feel cut off at the knees. If you own one such business and you’re reading this, let us know how we can help. We’d love to support and spread the word if we can.
As of this writing, Game Night in a Can is showing as “currently unavailable” and the Anchorman Game is only available through third-party sellers on Amazon. A version of this story originally appeared on Medium.