Welcome to our store for Chess Sets, Chess Boards, Chess Computers, Chess Software and Chess Clocks. We have hundreds of fine chess products from the world's finest chess store - ChessBaron. We ship worldwide. Our chess pieces are of the finest woods such as ebony, redwood (also known as bud rosewood and red sandalwood), rosewood and sheesham. Our boards are solid genuine wood products, not the veneer that most chess stores supply.

June 24, 2006

Chess Retail: Drop Shipping Chess Sales

Filed under: Chess Retailing — Baron Turner @ 10:34 pm

Theme chess sets, chess clocks, chess computers, all of these are periferal to our main business. So our sales of them don’t carry as much profit, but hey, we don’t have to stock them or handle the problems with purchasing, returns, etc. But if only the man blowing bubbles at the top of the diagram were really true. Is it? Well, after optimising our chess store website and attaining good position, importing most of our stock for selling as a conventional store, it’s the easiest part of our business to then include other chess products that we don’t actually stock - we’d kinda be crazy not to huh?

Chess Computers appear to have a very thin profit margin, so we don’t want to get involved in stocking them, let’s just drop ship them. It may suprise most readers to know that in the UK, most chess computers are funnelled through one company, who drop ship for most of the countries online chess stores. Good old Eric. Theme chess set suppliers already have mature defined programs for drop shipping, so we may as well take advantage of them, the margin can be quite generous - it would be madness to stock them. Chess clocks sales are low if steady, so the hurdle to stock them seems rather high, especially with Ebay being the automatic first stop for something like a chess clock.

To run a whole business on a drop ship basis is a much easier way to live, but exceptionally hard to really make the kind of margin needed for a successful business in chess retailing such as chess sets and chess boards. They therefore usually go for volume and a ‘Mall’ type of store, unless as in our case, it’s just perifery to the main stock. Once accomplished with enough lines and enough volume, it would be a relatively easy life. The destination retailer’s stock levels is always an issue (managable, coping with what they have in stock and out of stock) but the larger issue is that with increased web maturity and the subsequent difficulty in optimising a site for competitive phrases, the up ramp is steep indeed. Getting on the High street without paying through adwords is expensive, difficult and prone to great dissapointment with rogue SEO companies being difficult to detect among the many who have set up in this industry.

However, one important factor in favour of drop shipping is the superiority of the model over mere affiliate sites. Clicks go astray, other sites don’t want to link to affiliate sites, search engines take a dim view to affiliate sites, etc. At least with the drop shipping method, the funds are taken and neither the customer, the search engines, nor other websites and webmasters know that no stock is actually held. Not a bad life if kept in balance, the customer is well served, and the suppliers manage to make their profit too, something I often wonder about.

Couriers for our Chess Sales - Oh Dear!

Filed under: Chess Retailing — Baron Turner @ 9:55 pm

Well, kinda. Only they make us do it instead of themselves. It’s not as if we don’t give a reasonable business over the months. We have many parcels, some small some large, but courier profit margins are so thin that they appear to try anything on to make that little extra. Our packages from chess sales are generally between 3 and 15KG’s. So how come we have entries of 44 KG’s in our bill? Human error they say, we’ll get another bill out to you. Well, hang on, what about these re-delivery charges? Half our entries for the month have corresponding re-delivery charges, which in some cases would significantly affect any profitability for the sale (once Gordon Brown has his VAT cut, the Credit Card’s have their cut, the payment gateway theirs and the transaction processing company get their cut)… And whilst you’re sorting all that out those redelivery charges, what about those prices for chess deliveries Northern Ireland, Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Man?

Yes, we’re working with new couriers for our chess store, actually a broker who will sort out the right courier for the area of country, including Europe. With billing errors, if paid, it would be a wonder that we would make any profit from our chess store at all sometimes. What with the chess suppliers trying to get every penny possible, more and more customers trying for discounts on their chess sets, customer returns and now couriers doubling their bill, its a daily struggle. Mmmm, but I’d rather be in chess than in logistics. The key is to keep an eye on everything and not to trust bills from suppliers and couriers. We have a small company do our order fulfillment, and the guy who heads it also has the task of going through the couriers bill with a toothcombe - we’re fortunate to have someone so methodical and meticulous.

We managed to get our bill almost halved for the month of May, that kind of reduction really helps the bottom line. I think we can continue working with this broker. It’s a struggle to get couriers at the right price. Any suggestions anyone?

June 20, 2006

Whats the Appeal of a Theme Chess Set?

Filed under: Chess Sets — Search Engine Optimisation @ 4:02 pm

civil war chess set
In our online chess store in the UK - 25% of the chess set range are theme chess sets. They are wonderful productions with great attention to detail in the design of the chess set. Whether Isle of Lewis, Battle of Culloden, or Sherlock Holmes, the designs are sumptuous and wonderful. I haven’t done much statistical analysis over the last year, but I’d estimate that 10% or so of our chess set sales are theme chess sets. Why is there a market for theme chess sets?

SAC and Mascott both say that the theme chess set market has changed radically over the last few years. Mainly that it has reduced considerably in size after cheaply made products largely from China ruined the appeal. The market that is left is generally a gift oriented market. They are somewhat ideal as fairly expensive discerning gifts. A theme chess set as a gift is a gift that is remembered and on display for years, very gratifying to the giver if growingly a dust collector to the recipient. But the magnificence of the figures are surely admired.as a gift is a gift that is remembered and on display for years, very gratifying to the giver if growingly a dust collector to the recipient. But the magnificence of the figures are surely admired.

Theme chess sets such as The Battle of Waterloo, The Battle of Culloden, or The Isle of Lewis, may rarely be used to actually play chess, they may be used occasionally for a social game, but they’re really there for ornamental purposes. There is also an element of oneupmanship involved too. Better to display books than CD’s. Better to display a chess set with a historical theme than a pottery figurine or some other passe ornament. The theme chess set is seen as discerning, interesting. Only a thinking person would decide such an ornament which also has a practical side. You must therefore be such a person…

June 18, 2006

Chess Piece Design after the Jaques-Staunton Hatchet Job

Filed under: Chess Design — Baron Turner @ 7:28 pm

It’s all very well having a prescribed design such as Staunton to work with. Sure - we all know where we are,  we all know which one is the pawn and which the bishop, and the queen has her head-dress, etc., but it has all kinda done away with the amazing artistic display of pre-staunton times. Then, if a religious theme were requested - no problem. If a battle theme, same again. Different periods of history gave way to wonderful representative chess as art. Now what do we have? The queen has to look like, well, a queen, with a coronet - the pawn has it’s prescribed shape, the bishop it’s mitre and the rook it’s ballistrade.

Here Mr Horsey - let’s make you all special! Yep, that’s about it. The knight is the one figure for artistic expression. But it aint so bad huh? We have mane’s waving in the wind, we define their eyes, show the teeth, carve the rippling muscles and torso of the animal. What was that you say? You wanna see some examples? Sure - how about these - respectively, the Ultimate Knight, the Royal Shock, the Earl Anthony, the Bronte and the Bridled Knight?

Ultimate Knight Chess Set    Royal Shock Chess Set    Earl Anthony Chess Set    Bronte Chess Set    Bridled Knight Chess Set
All in all, still enough room for significant expression and to know where we are during the game too, which piece is which. Have any favourites?

Customers in my online chess store generally look most at the knight and it is probably the single chess piece that makes or breaks the sale. However, it’s also true to say that we display the knight most - it’s usually the thumbnail introducing the chess set, so we’re herding them toward that design and quality ‘deciding factor’. The reality is that customers should also look at the other chess pieces in the set too. The proportion of the pawn is often a give away that all effort has been invested in the knight with other pieces neglected. The balance and feel of the rook is of high importance. I’ve seen chess set designs with 4″ Kings and little squat pawns that add nothing to the set. The height proportion among all pieces should look right. This can’t always be conveyed in photographs, so a conversation with the chess retailer always helps.

Now, if only having a cool knight design and proportioned pieces could improve my game!

June 17, 2006

Chess Sales and the Football World Cup

Filed under: Chess Sales — Baron Turner @ 11:22 pm

Retailers the football (soccer) world over are…. enjoying the football, yelling for their side… but also wailing about the retail dry-up it has brought along. Germany must be doing well for retailing - at least the part of Germany where there are hundreds of thousands of football fans to see their teams slug it out for the next round. Chess Sales will come back…. wont they?

The little chess store I run does a theme set that is a replica of the England team winning the 1966 world cup - yep, the Brits have to go back a while for that victory. If they win again - perhaps we should rush to produce the 2006 equivilent. The 1966 World Cup- Chess Set is a great theme chess set - if you’re into decorative chess rather than playing the game properly requiring Staunton chess sets.

Well, I want England to win, but I want strong retail sales back too. The beautiful game has captivated half the world - let’s hope they get their wallets out when returning. Until then - Come on England!

Late June06 Update - ahh.. not too bad after all - sales have held up…. and so has England in the World Cup!

June 16, 2006

Which Wood is Preferred in Chess Piece Design?

Filed under: Chess Sets — Baron Turner @ 10:52 pm

Bronte Chess Set
It seems traditionalists prefer Ebony Chess Pieces, whilst the asthetically minded prefer Bud Rosewood chess - what have you found? I run a store in the UK and people choose Bud Rosewood chess pieces much more than Ebony - with a ratio of around 70/30. The deep colours possible with Bud Rosewood are quite beautiful and the chess sets really have a warmth that people remark on and find beautiful. I’m not yet seasoned at this game - but I understand that there is little distinction made across retailers in differentiating between Red Rosewood, Bud Rosewood, and Redwood. Redwood is from the Californian Redwood, whilst the other two are synonymous and are from the root of the Rosewood tree, Bud Rosewood being the more often used term. Some customers just go straight for Ebony, I find it it also depends on the set - some just look better with the classic Ebony finish, or it’s cheaper Ebonized equivilent.

Then there are Rosewood, Boxwood and Sheesham - woods used in the manufacture of chess sets across India. Cheap rubbishy sets of the genre sold in large superstores are usually reconstituted wood that has no weighting added to the chess piece. Even Harrods has chess sets (with some hefty price tag of course) of this type of wood. But Rosewood is the other chess wood used which has significant credibility (Note - not Bud Rosewood). This is the middle part of the Rosewood tree. The colouring attained isn’t quite as rich as Bud Rosewood, but the wood is significantly cheaper and results in a great balance between quality wood and chess set price.

Sheesham is generally reserved for the cheaper chess set, but is a very respectable wood. Also known as Golden Rosewood, Sheesham is best deployed for chess boards. The chess board using this wood is great for chess sets of Ebony or chess sets of Rosewood. Customers are much less fussy with the board type of wood than with the chess piece type. Sheesham gives a more robust chessboard, less susceptable to light scratches rendering the board a ’second’.

June 10, 2006

Chess Retailing and Buying from a Third World Country

Filed under: Chess Miscellaneous — Baron Turner @ 5:24 pm

India Chess
It’s no secret that the vast majority of decent chess sets are made in a small area of India. The country that claims to have invented the game has the ‘privilege’ of supplying the world with it’s excellent designs. Whether it’s Pleasant Times, JS Arts, Ivory Works, Checkmate (and many others), the demand for excellence at a price that purchasing countries can afford is met through people working for a  lower salary than the developed world. If USA or European salaries were required for a typical chess set sold in the same countries, that chess set would be at least five times as much.

But dealing with a country that just doesn’t have the same way of thinking carries many problems, especially when it comes to that over-used, under-served word that may well be a contender for the most common word on eCommerce web sites: Quality.  Despite suppliers claiming high quality, the plain fact is that shipments contain blemishes, missing items, inconsistent finishes, the list goes on. Is this why Camaratta set up his own manufacturing outfit in India? Why is consitent, high quality such a problem? Try thinking of it in western salary terms. You work for three days straight on a chessboard, everything is fine, until a blemish is caused or realized. It’s a tough call. The end customer will probably notice it and will probably want a discount or want to return it. You might get away with it if it’s Christmas and the chess retailer is so busy that he lapses in his QC and if it’s a gift from a customer to someone he or she may not see for another year. And after all - you’ve been working on it for three days which represents a substantial part of your much needed salary.

So, ya can’t blame them - but neither can you allow the practice to continue. What to do? Training the supplier that  you won’t accept blemishes is a start. Making them feel the pain is another policy too (by credit/replacement demands). Suppliers hate this! They want to get on with volume work instead of the fiddley task of making a single rosewood Queen that was blemished - and if it’s a carved knight it’s particularly painful. Hopefully the message gets through.

In a meeting with one of our suppliers, I was reminded however of a truth that easily escapes a chess retailer. Out of a large shipment, it is often true that maybe just 1% or so is blemished. Even we Westerners make mistakes - right? So there is a tolerance. What have you found works well in dealing with this problem? Leave a comment and your site gets a link if the comment is worthwhile.

June 3, 2006

What’s so special about the Isle of Lewis Chess Set?

Filed under: Chess Design — Baron Turner @ 10:04 pm

What is it about the Isle of Lewis chess set that gives it the aura of wonderment resulting in it representing a significant chunk of chess sales? It’s not Staunton and can’t be used in tournament play. It’s kinda confusing which piece is which with some exceptions. There are many excellent chess sets available that fulfil the purpose and many chess pieces that give an element of luxury to the product. But so many customers just prefer the Isle of Lewis chess design - go figure!

The history of the Lewis design is probably the answer. As a result of its historicity, the design is shown in the British Museum.

You could extend the question to general theme chess sets - can’t play chess with them very easily, but they look great on display. But the Isle of Lewis chess set appears to bridge the divide between sets that are rarely used for playing the game and sets which are only ever brought out in order to play the game. The pieces are at least fairly distinguishable from each other and the game can be played - if not as easily as with Staunton.

Is it just Adwords, or is all of Google gone Evil?

Filed under: Chess Miscellaneous — Search Engine Optimisation @ 8:09 pm

This pic is an attempt by someone to work out the interplay between adwords and adsense. Kinda scary huh? I run a small online chess retailing outfit - just about provides enough income with a bonus at Christmas for my family. The mighty G holds the rules of adwords very close to it’s chest. A while ago - in a bid to get to the top of the adwords tree I increased my bid significantly, and ended up paying just over 12000% (yes, three zeros) greater costs for nearly four hours, until I returned the bid back to where it should have been. This wiped out the profit for my small enterprise for an entire month! Now you’re probably thinking - ‘well you’re clearly an idiot for bidding that much’, and I can understand that sentiment. However, consider closely the situation. Google never charge the amount you bid and the generally accepted wisdom is that it doesn’t matter how much you bid, it just puts you above the person who bid less - and that your costs will be 10c (or some such small figure) more per click. This is the view held by many experienced adwords practitioners.

The fact is that this is absolutley not true. The price you pay depends on another closely guarded factor - so closley guarded that if discussed in terms of actual cases, ya get banned from the G. Yes, God becomes displeased - oops, did I say God? I meant, of course, Goog, the G, G!, The Goog, or whatever you prefer to call the entity that ‘does no evil’. Anyway - where was I? Yes, The other factor? What your competitors are bidding! Obvious? No. Like Rumsfeld said - there are known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns. Wow! What a mouthful. His wrestling was clearly a war of words not physical.

OK - here it is… if you’re bidding 50c a click, we always assumed that the guys underneath were all bidding 10c less, until it gets to the minimum. Say there’s one guy above you. You assume he’s bidding 60c (leaving aside the other factors we know make a difference - like quality of ad which also lowers the actual price). So - the wisdom goes - if you now bid $90 per click, all you end up paying is 60c. The formerly top guy now pays 50c and all live happily ever after - right? Wrong. That’s a possible scenario if no-one then tries to get back to the top spot - but if it were that easy everyone would do it. The formerly top guy now raises his bid to $35 a click in an effort to get back up there. Oooh, this is where it gets painful. The difference between the formerly top guy and you is now significantly spaced apart, as is the difference between the formerly top guy and the blissfully unaware beneath him. The G will now start charging in excess of the second position, the formerly top guy. You’re now paying, instead of 60c, an amount per click greater than $35. He is paying an amount per click greater than the guy beneath him. But G! doesn’t tell you that. G! doesn’t tell you anything. So far, I don’t think I’ve said anything that will cause my demise in the ‘benevolent’ giants search engine that does no evil. So I won’t push it too far by even remotely suggesting that it’s worth arguing the case with them - hey, never know, they may return some of the greedily gotten gains.

If only they’d tell us the rules, we’d know, and they’d make less money. Oh! Silly me, that must be why they don’t tell us the rules. But hang on! They ‘do no evil’ - don’t they?

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