GDPR – the New General Data Protection Legislation

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The likelihood is that you have heard of the introduction of the new GDPR data protection regulations. They come into effect on 25th May. Overall I believe they are a long-overdue measure in allowing people to get some control over their data, although I have already seen Facebook and a couple of other companies announcing changes that enable them to get around the requirements.

If you are in business anywhere within the EU, the chances are you’ll have seen the same host of emails I have from consultancy companies trying to make it all look scary and then trying to sell you vastly over-priced compliance services. Plus a couple of sensible ones with more reasonably priced offerings. But for small businesses like our, GDPR is 95% about common sense and respecting our customers.

The basic principles

I’ve taken these directly from the ICO website. The basic principles are that personal data should be;

a) processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals;

b) collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes; further processing for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes shall not be considered to be incompatible with the initial purposes;

c) adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed;

d) accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date; every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that personal data that are inaccurate, having regard to the purposes for which they are processed, are erased or rectified without delay;

e) kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the personal data are processed; personal data may be stored for longer periods insofar as the personal data will be processed solely for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes subject to implementation of the appropriate technical and organisational measures required by the GDPR in order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals; and

f) processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organisational measures.

I like to think that we are an ethical business, so most of this is built in to what we do in a natural way. But over the last few weeks, I have carried out a review and taken a few measures to reinforce the way we look after data.

Things we’ve always done which meet the requirements of GDPR

  • Our email newsletter mailing list is opt-in, and has been for many years.
  • Every email newsletter includes an unsubscribe link.
  • We believe our security measures are sufficient, both in terms of IT security and physical security.
  • We have never collected personal financial information, card numbers etc.
  • Data is only passed to third parties for neccessary reasons (e.g. payment processing for online orders). We check that they meet current UK and EU data protection legislation.
  • We have never sold or passed personal data to third parties for marketing purposes.

Things we have done to improve our compliance with GDPR

  • Reviewed our email mailing list contacts and eliminated some of the oldest ones. Our very first website many years ago had a pre-ticked opt-in box, which met the requirements then but doesn’t now. Let me know if you think you are subscribed to our email list and didn’t opt-in. I’ll happily manually unsubscribe you. Then I’ll review the cut-off date I used !
  • Reviewed all files on each computer we use which could contain personal data. We deleted all unused, out-of-date or unneccessary ones.
  • Confirmed with key service suppliers (PayPal, MailChimp etc) that they are GDPR compliant.
  • Reviewed and updated our policies about requests for data held (“Subject Access Requests”), and data update or deletion requests.
  • Updated our Privacy Policy to reflect the new regulations.
  • Recently had our website penetration tested to identify and resolve any security issues. We found and fixed a couple of very minor low-risk issues. This is acually pretty much an ongoing process for us !

Hopefully this puts your mind at rest that we are doing the right thing and safeguarding your data. As ever, feel free to drop me a line or comment below if you have any concerns !

Ides of March CATO

Beware the Ides of March – help us try to break our website

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The Ides of March have just been and gone (officially, it happens on the 15th March). So I thought I’d do a week of special offers, which hopefully helps everyone – ourselves, and our customers.

Our last email newsletter had an offer so good, it broke our website. So we have made significant  improvements to improve speed and reduce timeouts. We have also made the whole site, not just the checkout as previously was the case, HTTPS to improve security.

Now we need your help to test it (and yes, being honest, we want to persuade you to buy some stuff !).  I’m hoping we can get enough traffic to see whether the improvements hold up under load. So we are doing a week of special offers. With the Ides of March having just happened, we’re using Roman-themed promo codes.

The first is the code CATO. The offer which broke the website was an extra 30% off our remaining Citadel paints. We’ve gone a bit better this time – this promo code gets you 40% off Citadel Paints !

To see the rest of the week’s offers, visit our Facebook page (or even better, LIKE it if you haven’t already) https://www.facebook.com/snmstuff/ where I’ll be posting each day’s offer late the previous evening. Each offer is only open for a single day, so you’ll have to get in quick !

For those of you wondering, Wikipaedia has a nice concise article on the Ides of March – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ides_of_March

Royal Mail Price Increase - No Thanks !

Royal Mail Price Increase 2018

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It’s that time of year when Royal Mail do their annual price increase. This year it is happening on Monday 26th March. Compared to previous years, it isn’t too bad; an increase of 2-5% depending on the service. In percentage terms, Jiffy bags and cardboard boxes have increased in price far more over the last 12 months !

The good news is that our contracts for Royal Mail Tracked and International services have different renewal dates.  Although it is likely we’ll see increases when they come up for annual review (let’s face it – when have prices for this kind of thing ever come down), we’ll deal with that when the time comes ! International prices increased slightly in January, so hopefully they’ll hold those for a while, although Royal Mail do give themselves an option to review prices if the Sterling exchange rate changes too drastically.

This is good news for our customers. It means that we’ll only have to increase P&P by a very small amount, really just to ensure low value orders (where there isn’t a lot of profit available to subsidise postage costs) don’t end up losing us money. Lowering the threshold where we switch from Royal Mail 24 and Royal Mail 48 to Tracked24 and Tracked48 should absorb most of the increase for other orders. We’re finding that Royal Mail are clearly putting effort into getting the Tracked services right. So far, their reliability has been excellent, and we’ve been getting useful info whenever there’s a delivery query.

There are two other positive things. The first is that if you are one of our international customers, we had a small price increase in January, so your prices will stay the same with this round of changes. The other nice thing is that Special Delivery won’t be changing price. If it’s something you need urgently, it won’t cost any more to get it to you than it does now !

 

Renedra Railings with a Gate

Two More Categories Rejuvenated and One Added

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As part of our process of working through updating the site, there are two more categories rejuvenated. They are paint brushes, and Gunze Sangyo. In addition, we’ve added a sub-category to Accessories for Renedra products.

Paint Brushes

With paint brushes, the sub-categories used to be by whether it was a set, or an individual brush. But that started looking messy, so we’ve changed to having the sub-categories by brand. That seems to work better for our customers, who are generally smart enough to know what they want ! We’ve added some new brushes, as well; in BrokenToad Brushes, we’ve added their Spearhead and Flat brushes, and we’ve added the full range of Lifecolor Brushes. As time goes on we will add sets of brushes within each brand, which should make it easier if you want to buy multiple brushes (as well as enabling us to build in a discount for buying one of each !)

Gunze Sangyo

We’ve fully re-stocked Gunze Sangyo, including their fabulous Mr Metal Color buffable paints. We have also added quite a lot of additional products to all of the sub-categories. This includes more of their Mr Hobby auxiliary products, as well as starting to add their paint sets. One we’re already finding particularly popular is Mr Cement Limonene – designed to glue plastic, but with a citrus smell rather than the chemical smell usually associated with plastic cement. Ideal if “she who must be obeyed” complains about the smell !

Part of our philosophy behind the expansion is to build the sales volumes so that we can put in an order every week with each of our suppliers. Getting into a fixed cycle should make it easier to work with our suppliers, easier to predict our cashflow, and help both us and our customers by significantly improving product availability.

Here’s a question for you; we’ve now got the whole current selection of Gunze Sangyo panel line markers – do you think we should put them in their own sub-category ?

Renedra

As well as the categories we’ve rejuvenated, we’ve also added Renedra Accessories. This is one where we thought long and hard about where it fitted ! We were unsure if it should go in a wargaming category, or under modelling materials. So eventually, we decided to give it a category of it’s own.

We’ve wanted to carry Renedra products for a while, because they are such a great fit to other things we already do. The Renedra range has a great selection of 28mm scale scenery, bases, and other accessories. Whether it’s roleplaying games, tabletop skirmish games like Blood Eagle and Frostgrave, or large-scale tabletop wargaming, there’s something useful in the range for you !  Initially we’ve added some of their scenery. The plan is to rapidly add their bases and other goodies until we’ve got the complete selection.

 

We hope you like what we’re doing with the site, and welcome feedback on which categories to focus in on next !  The three that are on the radar are Chessex Dice, other Dice, and Mig Ammo. The first two of those are just about updating them, and ensuring that everything we’ve got in stock is on the website. Mig Ammo is likely to be longer term, as it’s more about getting the cashflow together to sustain the large minimum economic order size. But with your help, we’ll get there !

Christmas 2017 Last Posting Dates

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Yes, it’s that time of year again, where we publish our Christmas 2017 last posting dates !

 

Christmas 2017 Last Posting Dates – UK

Service Last Posting Date
Economy Delivery Monday 18th December
Royal Mail 48 / Tracked 48 Wednesday 20th December
Royal Mail 24 / Tracked 24 Thursday 21st December
Royal Mail Special Delivery Thursday 21st December
Local Delivery (where applicable) Saturday 23rd December

For all the dates above, you should probably aim to submit your order by noon. We will keep packing and shipping right up until the point where we have to seal the post bags as the postman comes through the door to collect, but at busy times of the year like this, order synchronisation from our site to our shipping software can sometimes be a little slow.

Don’t forget also that around this time of year, Royal Mail can get very busy and their service times will slip. For most of December, it’s fair to expect the “48” services to take 4-5 days minimum.  Neither Royal Mail 24 or Royal Mail 48 are services which guarantee a delivery date; only Special Delivery does that. I definitely advise you not to leave things until the last minute !

 

Christmas 2017 Last Posting Dates – International

Service Last Posting Date
Africa, Middle East Friday 1st December
Asia, Cyprus, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia), Far East Wednesday 6th December
Caribbean, Central and South America Thursday 7th December
Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Turkey Friday 8th December
Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland Tuesday 13th December
Canada, Finland, Sweden, USA Wednesday 13th December
Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland Friday 15th December
Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg Friday 15th December

We definitely advise you to put international orders in as early as possible. Royal Mail are already feeling the strain – we heard from a friend that Australia is currently taking about 18 days from posting to delivery.

Also, just to keep you updated, Royal Mail are making some changes to their international services and prices very shortly. They officially take effect on 2nd January, but this means they’ll actually affect any orders coming in over the New Year weekend, as there are no post collections from 30th December to 2nd January.  The main changes seem to be that they are holding or very slightly decreasing prices on International Tracked & Signed deliveries, but increasing prices for non-tracked post and removing the Large Letter service for items classed as “goods” for many non-EU destinations. In non-technical speak, non-tracked international post is going up about 4% or 5% while ones that used to be Large Letters to non-EU countries are going up about 300%. I guess I’ll be spending the Christmas break updating postage tables in our website control panel !

Reaper by Theme

Reaper Miniatures Organised by Theme

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Based on feedback (thank you !) from our last email newsletter, I’ve gone through and organised all our Reaper Miniatures by theme.

It’s taken a few days, and I’ll be the first to admit that some of the categorisation is very much on a “best fit” basis. To give you a few ideas about the thought process that went into it, here are some examples of the things I’ve done;

  • The Dragons theme includes both dragons and things that can be thought of as dragon-kin. You’ll find wyverns, hydras (hydrae ?), and the like here.
  • With Characters by Species I didn’t include one for humans, as it would be so big as to be almost useless.
  • Characters by Class is split into male and female for the most popular classes, but not for the less-populated ones.
  • In some cases I have gone by what a figure looks like, rather than the pure title. For example, things that look swashbuckling are in the Pirates theme even if they don’t actually have the work “pirate” in the title.
  • For a non-human characters, in most cases it’s probably faster to look by species or monster type. A dwarven rogue might also be found under female rogues, but it is likely to be quicker to look in dwarves.
  • Please give me some feedback on Undead !  I’m wondering if it is too broad a category, or if I should split it into three or four. I’m thinking skeletons, vampires, spectral and squishy. I need a better title for the last one; it covers, zombies, ghouls, and other undead that still have most of their gooey bits.
  • Dungeon Monsters is a catch-all category. It covers critters of the “this doesn’t fit anywhere !” variety.
  • Beasts includes familiars and furry things.
  • Vermin includes things that come in swarms or have too many (or few) legs than is nice.

As always with Reaper, a different or unusual paint scheme can totally change the look of a figure. Think laterally when you are searching ! You might find a barbarian or rogue figure who is perfect for that lightly-armoured warrior. Something you find in Elves could be just begging to be painted as a drow.

If you think I’ve put any figures in the wrong theme, please do let me know; I expect this to be a “work in progress” for a while !

Local Delivery Now Available

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I’ve finally set up Local Delivery as an option if you are near to us !

It operates on a fairly simple principle. It is charged at £4.00 for low-value orders, and free local delivery for medium and higher value orders. The value threshold for free delivery is based on the delivery zone, and there are currently two zones. The inner zone covers GU14 postcodes, and the outer zone covers postcodes starting with GU11, GU12, GU15, GU16, GU17, GU51 and GU52.

I have had to stick a finger in the air when working out what the thresholds should be for free delivery. It has to be attractive if you are placing an order, but enough that the profit in the order at least covers the petrol and some contribution towards the time it takes to make the delivery.  I’ve set the thresholds initially at £20 in the inner zone, and £30 in the outer zone. That may come down if the service proves popular, after a review of how often deliveries can be combined.  A round trip from here in Farnborough to the furthest point of Fleet or Camberley and back can take 30 minutes each way. As long as most delivery runs can combine a couple orders, it should make financial sense for us !

Initially, Local Delivery is probably best thought of as a 1-2 day service. That will hopefully speed up as the service develops and gains popularity. It helps if you pop a note on your order to give an idea of the kind of times you’re in to sign for them. That isn’t compulsory, though !

Possible Post Strike

Possible Post Strike

You might have seen on the news that there is a possible post strike next week.

It is still quite up in the air; they’ve got a week to come to some agreement, and Royal Mail are trying for a court injunction to get the strike declared illegal. There is no information yet on whether this is a one-off, or the start of a pattern between now and Christmas. They always strike at Christmas – I think the union believes that the leverage gained is more valuable than the public goodwill they could lose.

I’m not going to get into the politics of it, but think it’s important to have a plan for if it does happen.

Lessons from last time

Our experience of the last time they did this taught us two things.

First, that orders could still be posted on strike days, but Royal Mail’s policy was to prioritise new post sent on non-strike days. That meant that sacks of mail taken in on strike days were made into huge mountains and sorted with absolutely no urgency over the days and weeks that followed. Post sent the day before a strike also frequently got warehoused; if it didn’t get delivered before they all walked out, it could take weeks before it re-surfaced.

Second, that all the other delivery networks were completely overwhelmed by the sudden additional demand. Since the last bunch of strikes, Royal Mail have lost a lot of market share and the other networks have developed a lot. But I think it likely they will still struggle massively to cope. The only network to come close to competing with Royal Mail’s prices (and which doesn’t use Royal Mail for last-mile delivery) for our size of business is Hermes. They seem to have improved a lot compared to the reputation they previously gained, but talking to people around the country, it is still very variable depending on the region and local depots.

Here’s our plan if the possible post strike becomes an actual one

We will still take orders, but will disable First Class and Special Delivery options in our checkout.

Post for orders placed on strike days and the day immediately before a strike day will be held until we believe it is safe to ship.

This first strike is a 48-hour one, starting at noon on Thursday 19th, until noon on Saturday 21st (coincidentally, that’s Trafalgar Day). I suspect that means nothing will move on the Sunday, so we’d next put post into the system on the Monday.

We are creating local delivery options for customers within about a 10 mile radius of us in Farnborough. That is something we are doing anyway, initially on an experimental basis just for the GU14 postcode. I’m still tinkering with settings; with luck, I may have a way to also set it up so you can pay cash on delivery – watch this space !

If there are repeated strikes

If this possible post strike happens, and then becomes a pattern of a couple of days of strike every week or two in the run-up to Christmas, we’ve got further “tweaks” in mind.

Firstly, we’ll monitor other networks performance as they adapt to the new reality. Assuming there is one or more which look like they are coping and have comparable prices to Royal Mail, we would look to open an account with them and send some experimental orders. Assuming there are no problems, we would then intend to move all our business to a new carrier and away from Royal Mail on a permanent basis.

Sorry for the long essay, I felt it useful to let you know what we’re thinking. We’ll keep you posted ! (sorry, was that a bad pun….)

Dungeons and Dragons New Categories

New Categories – Clearance and Dungeons & Dragons

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If you look down the left hand side of the screen, you’ll see we’ve added two new categories.

Clearance

The first new category is Clearance – it’s where we’re putting ranges we’ll be discontinuing. Sometimes it’s just to let you know that it’s a range which is on the way out. For many, you’ll see discounts which will hopefully entice you to grab the products which are there. In all cases, when it’s gone, it’s gone !

Roleplaying Games

The second of the new categories is Roleplaying Games. It has just one sub-category so far, which is Dungeons & Dragons. The reasons for adding this are fairly simple. It’s our favourite game, so we want to sell and support it, and it has good synergies with many of the other ranges we sell; Reaper, Frostgrave etc.

Enjoy !

Website Categories Update – what we’re keeping, and what we’re killing

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I thought I’d write a quick update on where we’re at with our ongoing review of website categories. It’s taking a bit longer than expected, but then it is a pretty big project.

We’re assessing each category based on a number of criteria. These include popularity, profitability, how it fits into our overall product mix, the amount of warehouse space it requires, supplier lead time, minimum order cost, whether there are any posting issues (e.g. solvents, or fragility) and how easy the supplier is to deal with. If we eliminate a category now, it doesn’t mean it won’t return, but in order to return we’d have to solve the reason why we’ve decided to drop it. The intention is to work hard on the website categories we keep to improve them. We believe it’s better to do a few things well than lots of things half-heartedly !

An overall result of the category analysis we’ve done is that it looks like we’ll be focusing the business quite more towards the modelling side of things, and away from the Gaming side. Quite simply, gaming products are widely sold, and have become a “commodity” product. We’re seeing people choose a seller based entirely on price. This has driven margins down to (in many cases) well under 5%. At that point, something has to give; either service has to slip, or you have to be a business which doesn’t need to make a profit. So we’ll be cutting gaming products down to only those which make a sensible (not greedy !) profit, plus those which directly support games we play ourselves.

For each category we decide to keep, there is a three-stage process.

– First, make the decision !
– Second, to calculate the correct stock level to hold and build it back to be consistently at that level, then set it up so we can more frequently review and update the correct stock level to reflect changing trends. To make best use of our capital, we’re keeping stock levels tight, and ordering from our suppliers more frequently. More of a “little and often” approach rather than trying to cover the rare cases where someone wants two dozen of a rare item we normally sell at the rate of three a year.
– Third, “gap fill” any products in the range we haven’t previously stocked, and keep up to date with new releases.

I won’t bore you with a list of every single category we’ve got (there are about 180 in total !), but here are the key ones;

Website Categories we’re keeping

Vallejo – we’ve rebuilt this up to correct stock levels, and have started “gap filling”, beginning with Model Air sets and the Pigment sets which replace the ones Vallejo discontinued.

Reaper Miniatures – we like Reaper, and like to think we do it well compared to our competitors (although we keep on top of monitoring what they’re up to !). Also, as avid D&D players, it supports one of the games we play ! Stock availability is much better now that we’re ordering little and often from Reaper. It has also reduced the number of problems we had with large orders getting stuck in Customs. We’ve been rapidly adding to the range we keep, including Dark Heaven Legends, Bones, Pathfinder and Warlord. We will create a new sub-category shortly for Savage Worlds.

AK Interactive – we’re working on rebuilding this up to correct stock levels, although the importer frequently runs out of things in the AK range. There will be a lot of “gap-filling” needed for AK Interactive products, so it’ll take time to do this !

Tamiya – the model-maker’s staple; high quality products, and a brilliant supplier to deal with. Sadly we can’t ship their aerosols (if we end up doing any local shows, we’ll probably be bringing our remaining stock of aerosols with us at great prices…). We’re considering making their full range of kits an “available to order” thing, if we can solve a few technical aspects within our website software.

Chessex Dice – again, a product which supports our love of Dungeons & Dragons ! Chessex are fabulous to deal with as a supplier. We’re in the process of rebuilding stock levels; in terms of gap-filling, we’ve got quite a few of their newer releases but need to take good photos of them before we can add them to our website. We also need to do quite a lot of work “prettifying” the existing Chessex sub-categories.

Javis Scenics – a really great UK supplier. We’ve built stock levels back up for key products in the range. There’s more work to do (as time and cashflow allow), and a lot of gap-filling to be done !

Frostgrave – although we’re stopping many tabletop gaming categories, Frostgrave is a game we like so much we’ll be keeping and developing it !

IHMN / Daisho / Blood Eagle – these rulesets are published by good friends of ours. In addition, we’ve got exclusive rights to distribute the e-book versions of their rules.

Website Categories we’re killing

Games Workshop – when we closed our bricks & mortar shop down, our GW account manager said they would still be happy to supply us although it might be at a slightly lower discount. Once the decision was made and we communicated it to them, they then changed their line. They then told us we had to have a physical shop or they would refuse to supply us. Heavy discounting of GW products, and their insane release schedule were factors which most harmed our cashflow. Their lack of loyalty to a customer who spent over £125,000 a year with them was both saddening and unsurprising. I see it as their loss more than it is ours.

Alclad – popularity has slipped as newer products have come onto the market (e.g. Vallejo Metal Color). More importantly, postal regulations continue to tighten. We believe that Alclad are rapidly slipping from “grey area” territory into “complete no-no” when it comes to posting them, even within the UK.

Ultimate Modelling Products – this was a difficult one ! The products are lovely, they are popular, and the people behind the business are great to deal with. Unfortunately, they have an incredibly low profit margin, a significantly longer lead time for deliveries than any other UK supplier, and a pricing model where the discount is based on buying a lot of each item to get the top discount level rather than being based on overall spend.

Warlord Games – great products, great supplier to deal with, but with long (and highly unpredictable) lead times on orders. The main problem is that they are so heavily discounted by other sellers that the profitability is absolutely minimal. We may make them an “available to order” range at a later date if there is demand.

Website Categories we’re not sure

Mig Ammo – popular and reasonably profitable, but require massive minimum order values to get a good discount. We’ll restock this if the Euro exchange rate stabilises and once our cashflow will support repeated regular orders.

Lifecolor – a bit of a niche product, but popular with it’s own audience. The supplier is great, but minimum order values are quite high, and it takes up a lot of space. In addition, prices haven’t been stable since Brexit. This may be a good candidate for a range that is available to order rather than kept in stock.

Gunze Sangyo / Mt Hobby – nice products, great supplier, but tend to sell on other channels at low margins rather than through our website.

Airbrushes – cost prices (particularly for Iwata) have gone through the roof over the last few months. Online discounting has become more prevalent as this is an easy way for competitors to recoup cash. The profitability is low considering the amount of support and advice which is required. These are another good fit for the “available to order” model. It is our intention to continue stocking key spare parts for the foreseeable future.

New website categories we’ll be adding

RPG’s / Dungeons and Dragons – our favourite game, so it makes sense to stock it !


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