A post-pandemic drop in sales leaves board game manufacturers and retailers with surpluses.
Board game sales have exploded in 2020, driven by a certain COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, manufacturers and businesses suffered from a shortage of parts and games. To prevent such a situation from repeating itself, they massively bailed out their stocks.
This year, game sales have returned to pre-pandemic norms. While we feared another shortage, it is finally surplus stocks that bother the actors in the field.
Canada’s largest board game manufacturer, Gladius, has to deal with this problem. “I speak with many other companies who confirm to me that it is the same for them,” says Marc Fournier, founding president of Éditions Gladius. To empty his inventory, Mr. Fournier organizes warehouse sales, a solution that works well, he says.
Randolph game pubs also have to manage an “overstock” of strategy games, which have sold less than party games, said Joël Gagnon, publishing director at Randolph.
The excess inventory coincides with the slowdown in board game sales since the start of the post-COVID-19 era. Sales of Éditions Gladius had increased by 15% to 20% in 2020. In 2023, the sales figures correspond to those of 2019, a year when board games were much less popular than today, indicates Marc Fournier to The Press.
On the Renaud-Bray side, sales have also fallen since 2022. “If we compare to the pre-pandemic, we are still on the increase,” says Floriane Claveau, director of communications for the company.
In recent years, the supply of board games has abounded. Five years ago, nearly 50 board games were released every week, says Éric Raymond, co-owner and co-founder of Joubec Boutiques. This number would now fluctuate between 200 and 300, according to the entrepreneur.
“Competition is 10 times fiercer than 10, 15 or 20 years ago,” adds Marc Fournier, Éditions Gladius.
The oversupply of board games forces retailers to display only a few copies of the same game. “Merchant shelves are not elastic,” Fournier says.
For its part, the puzzle industry, which has experienced an absolute peak during the pandemic, has come to a standstill. At Wrebbit, a Quebec flagship to which we owe 3D puzzles, sales had exploded by 60% in 2020. This effervescence was unheard of for the company, which sells 85% of its puzzles to the ‘international.
“Since January 2022, the market has fallen,” says Claude Alary, the company’s sales manager.
Right now, Wrebbit’s sales match pre-pandemic numbers. Puzzles became a popular activity during the lockdown, as businesses, restaurants, sports activities and travel were put on hold. The resumption of activities has greatly affected the puzzle market and, more broadly, that of board games, Mr. Alary argues.
Consolation, Wrebbit designs its puzzles on demand: the company has no excess inventory.