Happy Thanksgiving to all our customers! We are truly grateful for your support the past year. However, we aren’t having a Black Friday sale. Now that we’ve passed Thanksgiving, we enter what should be a time of reflection. In looking back over the past year, we are necessarily drawn even farther back into memories of past years and people who filled them. For those of us who game, many of our best memories are with others like us in the community – the competition and camaraderie of past victories and defeats all shared with someone else across the table. I am always humbled by what a great community gamers are and how many of my best memories are from one side of the table or other.
Instead of giving us your money this Friday, take a moment to remember those we play and have payed with and please consider a donation to http://childsplaycharity.org instead. They purchase board and video games for hospitals around the country so kids receiving care can have a little fun and distraction from what they are facing. You can even select which hospital your donation goes to. I am always humbled by what a great community gamers are so please consider helping out this season.
While sitting here checking in another restock from Micro Arts Studio, Facebook reminds me that one year ago, I was doing the exact same thing with our very first shipment of inventory – also from Micro Art Studio. Looking over the shelves here now and seeing all the great products from our overseas partners, it is amazing to me how much has changed in our first year. It seems like the perfect time to look back over the year and see where we have been and where we are going. This means talking about our successes as well as some rough spots and what have done and are doing to improve on them.
Infinity Harbour started because I was frustrated with the lack of availability of products in the USA. Several online retailers listed carrying products but would be out for months and months at a time. My initial thought was that I would place a direct order with Micro Art Studio and Bandua, negotiate a discount, and sell half of it to cover my personal table. Seemed like a great way to get a gaming table paid for myself. I clearly had underestimated the pent up demand because as soon as I started putting feelers out into the forums, I was inundated with requests from people wanting these products. I was also surprised to find that the manufacturers were equally enthusiastic about getting their products into the USA with more consistent availability. Thus, with some great partners in place and customers excited to have product, we launched with a large shipment from Micro Art Studio (Poland) and Bandua (Spain). We didn’t even carry the Corvus Belli (Spain) Infinity figures at that point. Soon we added Plast Craft (Spain), Antenocitis Workshop (UK), CNC Workshop (Australia) and very recently Deepcut Studios (Lithuania) as direct partners. These direct partnerships have been key to providing you with high availability of these product lines and we have been delighted with the relationships we have built with these companies. We also brought in Corvus Belli and Customeeple (Spain) from distributors. I was so nervous paying for those initial orders. Would this stuff sell? What had I gotten myself into? Anxiety was running high to be sure but so was my belief that it would work out and that there was a demand for a niche Infinity retailer. Now, it seems funny to look back at how concerned I was at the size of those initial orders as we restock that same amount regularly now. We were never going to be the largest seller online and that was fine. We wanted to make sure we had the best products available and the best in customer service and I like to think that we have largely succeeded on those points.
Besides selling product, we wanted to play an active role in supporting the game and growing the community of players in the US. To that end, we have supplied lots of clubs and groups with ITS packs and supported some great events around the country. We provided prize support to the Twin Cities Infinity League, Twinfinity Tournament, Kingdom Con, Operation Space Bunny, and Battle for the Bayou to name a few. We are already committed to several events in the next year and will continue to play an active role in supporting events large and small.
Now, in interest of full disclosure, there were certainly some growing pains. Some of these I think have been resolved and some we are still working on. Initially, it was really daunting and beyond our financial resources to stock the entire Corvus Belli line. We had to pick and choose carefully and gradually increase our stock. We initially did a combination of focused purchases based on the most popular factions and products as well as drop shipping orders on demand. This meant that there were times it might take almost a week from when an order was placed until we received your Infinity figures from our distributors. It also meant that we pretty much had to manually update stock availability on a daily basis to reflect what was available to us. In order to try and have as much availability as possible, we worked with multiple distributors in multiple locations. This meant higher availability of inventory, but required an enormous amount of manual labor for us. Luckily, after about 6 months of grinding away with this manual process, we were able to make a large inventory purchase so that we no longer had to drop ship any product. We started carrying the whole Corvus Belli line and carrying it deep enough to handle demand. We now restock weekly and availability is generally really good across the entire line.
When we launched, our website and our accounting system did not talk to each other. This meant we had to manage customers and orders in two places and manually enter everything twice. The main problem in this for you, was that there were times when a product may have been sold locally and before we could update the website, you placed an order for the same item. This led to a fairly frequent situation where we would have to refund parts of orders and was frustrating for you and for us. This clearly was not a good formula for customer satisfaction or particular efficient for us. Consequently, we invested in some software integration to link our ecommerce site and our accounting systems so that your orders and our inventory items would stay in sync. This system has been in place about six months now and has overall been working great and inventory sync issues have been completely eliminated.
This brings us to shipping. Shipping product out in a timely manner has always been our biggest hurdle. It took us a couple months just to figure out what size boxes and how many of each kind we needed to stock. We tried several carriers and eventually settled on USPS Priority as the best combination of price, speed in delivery, and quality of parcel delivery. As of right now, USPS has damaged less than 1 in 1,000 packages we have sent which is really good for everyone. Now, some of our customers have complained about slow ship times. Other customers have come to our defense (which we appreciate). However, both sides of the argument are correct. Some of our customers have been fortunate and gotten things quickly, but it is also true that some customers have not had their orders processed as quickly as they or we would like. Again, most of the problem here lies in manual processes and those which require double manual entry in multiple systems. In order to address this complaint from customers and to improve our shipping, just in the past month we have invested in some new shipping solutions which we hope will improve things for everybody. This includes software integration to eliminate manual entry of shipping information and things like dedicated postage label printers that are also integrated into the shipping solution to speed things along. We have also made improvements in our pick list generation and order handling methods to shorten the time from order placement to order shipment.
In conclusion, I would like to let all of you know, we are grateful for the opportunity to have served your Infinity needs the past year and thank you for going on this journey with us. There have been growing pains and lessons learned but there has also been fun and camaraderie as well. We have lots planned in the next year – new products, events, and more. We look forward to working with you in the next year and those to follow.
Our shipment from CNC Workshop in Australia arrived and is now in stock! I suspect our initial inventory will go fast so if there is something you want, grab it now. All the preorders have been fulfilled and shipped out so you should already have your new stuff or will any day now!
As you may know, we had a problem with our last Antenocitis Workshop reorder when it vanished in transit after clearing customs. You can see more info in our previous post here. Antenocitis Workshop (and by extension you and I) had to wait for UPS to complete their investigation and pay for the loss before Antenocitis Workshop could start remaking the order and getting it shipped to us. Antenocitis Workshop like most of our partners are a small company and large orders are manufactured as they are placed. Losing an order of our size and then having to turn around and make it again was stressful for everyone. Luckily, Antenocitis got right to it and now it has arrived and it includes some new products as well!
I’ll be going through it and getting it into inventory today and then fill any orders waiting on stock. Thanks again for your patience and understanding and a big thank-you to Antenocitis for getting inventory remade and back to us promptly!
Just heard from CNC Workshop, our order (which was huge!) is almost completed and they hope to get it shipped out end of this week or early next week! Can’t wait! I have goodies for myself on that order too so I am as excited as all of you for it to arrive!
You may have noticed we have been low and out of a significant amount of Antenocitis stock lately. You may have an order held in limbo waiting on Antenocitis products. Unfortunately, we have had an issue with our last order which is inevitable when dealing globally with manufacturers directly.
All of the manufacturers we deal with directly manufacture our order once we place it and it typically takes 2-3 weeks to make. Shipping typically is a week or so. Thus, it is possible if there is a rush on a product to be out of it for a couple weeks. After manufacturing our last last order, Antenocitis shipped us our product as per usual. It arrived in the US, cleared customs… and then vanished. Completely. The whole thing. UPS would not start an investigation until the delivery date had been 10 business days overdue. Then, they wanted a couple weeks to investigate the missing package. Basically, things have been tied up for a month looking for the shipment. The investigation is over and it turned up nothing. Antenocitis is starting to remake the order but that will take a couple weeks still.
The bottom line is that while this is an unfortunate event and we deeply regret the delay, it is out of our hands and both Infinity Harbour and Antenocitis are working as quickly as possible to get product back to us. So ultimately, no worries. We are very dedicated to continue to keep Antenocitis products in stock with high availability and will continue to do so barring issues such as these. If you have an order waiting on a restock and need a refund, let us know and we will take care of it for you. Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about this issue.