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Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Penny-pinching families go back to board games

Classic diversions find resurgence during recession because ‘you can play them over and over again’

The Wordelman family of Sacramento, Calif. – from left, dad Gary; Michael, 15; mom Mira; Madelyn, 9; and Danielle, 17 – play a board game as a cheaper alternative to other family activities. McClatchy Tribune (McClatchy Tribune / The Spokesman-Review)
The Wordelman family of Sacramento, Calif. – from left, dad Gary; Michael, 15; mom Mira; Madelyn, 9; and Danielle, 17 – play a board game as a cheaper alternative to other family activities. McClatchy Tribune (McClatchy Tribune / The Spokesman-Review)
By Joel Poelhuis McClatchy

MIAMI – Generating revenue in a recession is a difficult game, but a Miami entrepreneur has made the right moves in a growing industry: board games. Eric Poses rolled the dice in 1997, when he founded All Things Equal and took off on a cross-country sales trip in his car. Since then, revenue has grown and he now finds himself in a countercyclical sales boom.

Board games traditionally do well during tough economic times. After all, Monopoly was launched in 1935, during the Great Depression. Last year, as total U.S. toy sales declined, board game sales rose 6 percent to $794 million, according to market research by NPD Group.

Poses said All Things Equal brought in $1.45 million in revenue last year. This year he projects that to grow to more than $2 million. But he will have to wait to find out if that projection is accurate, since about 75 percent of his company sales occur during the fourth-quarter holiday rush.

Board game makers attribute the recent boost in sales to consumers looking for a way to socialize without going out.

“When the economy is bad and people are feeling financially pinched, board games are very attractive,” said Cliff Annicelli, editor-in-chief of Playthings Magazine, a toy industry publication. “You can play them over and over again.”

Everyone – from kids and parents to young adults – has been getting into the game, according to industry leaders.

“It’s growing across all demographics,” said Pat Riso, vice president of global communications at Hasbro Games.

Reyne Rice, a toy trend specialist at the Toy Industry Association, said board games have been selling well even during the spring and summer, a time when sales normally experience a lull.

Poses said his company is having a good year. The company added Kmart as a distributor and sales were bolstered by a deal with retailer TJ Maxx, which bought the entire inventory of four games that had not sold well. Poses said ridding himself of the slow-selling inventory was not just a financial boon, but also an opportunity to start fresh.

“I lost a little bit of focus on the Loaded Questions brand, which has always been the breadwinner,” he said.

This year Poses released more games that draw on Loaded Questions, including adult and travel versions. He also updated the content and the game pieces. For next year, he is working on a parenting version of the game.

And more adults without children may be getting exposure to board games sold through retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble.

“Bookstores are becoming a big part of where people buy games,” Annicelli said. “The same customer who likes to read probably likes to play board games.”

Ellen Heney-Mizer, who handles board game purchasing for Barnes & Noble, said the company looks for games that are a bit offbeat. She said the bookseller has had particular success with word games.

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