Thursday, October 29, 2009

The flu has made it to our house. Both of my sons have been sick. The older one was sick all weekend. His younger brother came down with it on Sunday. He is still sick and will probably end up missing the whole week of school. We assume its the H1N1, but they do not test for that specifically anymore around us. The schools have been hit really hard. Last week the high school was seeing about 18% absence rate.

My youngest has it worse than his brother. He is miserable. I wish I could report he has been doing puzzles while at home, but he hasn't. He sleeps and coughs. One funny thing he has been doing is with some chalk. One of the puzzles we make is our Chalkboard Floor Puzzle. It is a puzzle that comes with chalk and kids can write on. The pieces are big and chunky. My son has been using one of the pieces and a piece of chalk to communicate. He says his throat hurts and when he talks it makes him cough. So he has been writing on a piece of the puzzle different words. Things like "juice" or "ok" or "yes". Its been pretty funny. And a use for the puzzle I never thought about until now.

Maybe I can have the first puzzle ever sold in the cough medicine aisle at the drugstore.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

In this first real year of business, there have been a lot of unexpected surprises and joys. Until your products are in stores, when people ask you what you do for a living, it is a little awkward. When asked what I did for a living, I would say I started a jigsaw puzzle company. The next question was usually, where can I buy your puzzles? Before the puzzles were in stores, this was hard to answer. And very unsatisfying to tell people they were not in stores. The follow up question was usually, your wife works, right?

But now, our products are in stores across the country. And one of the neatest things I do is watch POS data. POS stands for Point of Sale. Depending on the retailer, either everyday or every week, they report how many puzzles we have sold in their stores. Since getting our products on to shelves this fall, I have been obsessed with POS data. It is the ultimate scoreboard. I celebrate the days that show big jumps in our sales. And scour the weather reports to see why the numbers did not jump other days (too warm outside, too stormy, sold out?). But it is all great fun. And helps us figure out where to take our lines next.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who obesses about POS data for their product. I know it is important for manufacturers to see how their products are selling. But, LPF is so small, the data feels more intimate. We all remember who picked certain images or found a particular artist. We remember the passionate discussions to put a particular image in a certain piece count. The POS data acts as the ultimate judge that the persons passion was right. And so far, the data seems to show we all did a good job of picking images and formats.

I also wonder if I am the only person who goes into stores and poses for pictures with his products behind him. I doubt the CEO of Goodyear tires does that. Although he might want to. Its a great conversation starter. More on that another day.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. It has been really crazy since Dallas. I got home late Friday night and spent the next two days watching or coaching my kids during 10 soccer games. Overall, they did great. My daughters HS team won the County Cup tournament. And my oldest son won his tournament in Indianapolis. My youngest son was in a tournament as well, but they are in a younger age bracket and did not have an official champion (unofficially, they won!)

Then last week was spent following up on our meetings in Dallas. The retailers see a lot of great toys in a short period of time. We work really hard to make sure our products stay front and center in their minds.

Here is a picture of our booth in Dallas. A lot of folks worked really hard to make the booth look as good as it did. To be honest, it makes the selling of our products that much easier when our visual presentation is so good.

We had a great spot on a busy intersection. I was across from Fundex and my friend Tracey, who is now the queen of puzzles for them. A couple of furtive glances suggested that she did a great job on their booth as well.

Next door to us was a really neat guy who sells fun and fast moving sports themed dice games. He gave me one of his GoLo games (easier than packing it up and taking it home) and I played it last week. It was easy to learn and kept moving. I played with my sons 10 and 12. Both caught on quickly and enjoyed keeping score on the score pads. It is basically golf with dice. A "round" takes about 2 minutes. So the three of us could knock out a game in 6 or 8 minutes. Check out his web site and look for his games. They are really clever.

Our distribution continues to grow. I love getting notes from around the country from people who are enjoying our puzzles. I respond to every e-mail personally so keep sending in notes and e-mails.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Had a great day today in Dallas. Our booth looks great and is near the Starbucks and bathrooms. What limited amount of foot traffic there is at the show seems to pass our booth.

It does feel like the number of exhibitors and attendees is less than last year. The elevators are not as crowded and the Starbucks never had a line of more than 5 people.

The first day of a show is usually has the most activity. And the last day is usually the quietest. If today was the busy day, I am am really curious to see how quiet Friday will be.

As for my booth, it was a good day. Not very many walk in visitors, but our set schedule went off as planned and included many household retailer names. My sales team did a great job setting up appointments and showing our new items.

I was also very pleased with the write ups we had in several trade publications. We are introducing a line of Crayola brand floor puzzles at the show. The trade publications did a nice job of explaining the items and how they will appeal to moms and kids both. We also had a great response today to our new 3D puzzle line. The line is a big improvement over the current lenticular puzzles in the market. Lenticualar puzzles look neat when complete, but trying to put one together is really difficult. We have solved this problem.

More reports from the show and more sneak peaks at new products as the week goes on.