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Subject: Opening A FLGS: What Did I Forget? rss

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Willifred Lewis
United States
Wisconsin
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I have seen what might be an obscene number of threads in forums spaning the great expance of the internet (especially yahoo answers) about opening a game store, most of them starting with something like these.

"I want to open a game store. Where do I buy ccgs and board games cheap to sell?"

"I want to have a game store, it would be so much fun! What do I have to do to start one?"

Naive?

Now for upwards on 6 months now (not that long but still) I have been reasearching what it really takes to open a FLGS, while learning tricks of the trade from the FLGS owner in my town. (We won't be doing business anywhere near each other so he didn't remotely mind.) I am still in the process of finalizing what my start up price would be when I realized something: I had to have forgotten something.

So I have some questions to see if others here may be able to give me more input than I already have on certain things but my main question is What did I forget? Any small thing either physical or psycological I may have forgotten from a cash register to the stress of parts of the job apply.

I know people just like you and people not like you will be my customers so I not only value your oppinions but realize they could be vital to opening and not being in the average of FLGS stores that close within the year. So this question is what are the best and worst experiences you have had at a FLGS and what keeps you constantly coming back or consistently staying away from stores? (And maybe even what events you want your game store to have or the ones they host you love the most.)

I know this may be more oppinion than anything, but what would AND wouldn't you stock and why? Everything from ccgs, board games even miniatures paint can go here.

This one is more for hoping to find some resources I may have missed. What are the best ways to find gamers in your area and find what they are playing?

And the last odd but fun question is: What munchies and drinks should I sell? (Be creative if you want, a FLGS near us has a slushie machine!)

Thanks for your time in advance, and I look forward to seeing your responces.
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Shanthi Gonzales
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Please offer something remotely healthy to eat and drink as far as snacks go. Also I would say to offer plenty of space for gamers to hang out and play, and try to keep the bathrooms in decent shape, or female gamers like me will be less inclined to hang out there.
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Willifred Lewis
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Wisconsin
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jazgonz wrote:
Please offer something remotely healthy to eat and drink as far as snacks go. Also I would say to offer plenty of space for gamers to hang out and play, and try to keep the bathrooms in decent shape, or female gamers like me will be less inclined to hang out there.


This is good, I admit I realy want there to be a good environment especialy for women gamers whos numbers I would like to see grow. Any things you have seen or heard of a store doing that made you not want to go there as a woman?

I have also considered some sort of ladies night with discounts and such, but am not sure how to implament it.
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King of All Simians — Not a Mere Diplomat
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Be sure to let someone else proofread your signage for spelling errors.
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Willifred Lewis
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Wisconsin
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Holmes! wrote:
Be sure to let someone else proofread your signage for spelling errors.


You joke but that is already on my list. I admit I spell poorly. Now answer the other things!
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David Boeren
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On the topic of refreshments, our FLGS has been ordering pizza on game nights and re-selling it by the slice. It seems pretty successful (nearly all of it gets purchased) and it encourages players to stay there rather than take a dinner break.
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Jeff Wood
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Be sure the door and counter are handicap accessible. There are those who take great delight in litigating for obscene amounts for the implied insult, and you'll still have to pay to make it accessible to avoid further legal hassle..

As for food, though healthy is good, don't limit the selection to just that. Occasionally I want carrots, sometimes a candy bar. And soda. If you just had the junk food, I could understand, you're a game store. If all you had were the fruits/veggies, I would think you are telling me how to take care of myself, which is a turn off if I am going to spend time in the store's gaming area with others.

Speaking of which, if you're going to have a game area: have mops and towels available in case of accidents. Post notices that the store is not responsible for loss or damage of personal property in the store.

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Cory Suter
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Lighting is important too and in the same vain, adequate airflow. Maybe go onto those meet up sites or similar sites and join any groups inviting them to hold a board gaming event there. There was the FLGS in my area that had some TVs set up that would allow people to come in to play Arcade style video games (Marvel v. Capcom etc.) with their own gaming sticks. No clue if he charged them but potentially another source of revenue. I know that he created a larger presence with a Facebook page that reached out. If you have any friends with teenagers or you are young enough to still be connected to local college groups, get them to spread the word. As for Food: offer napkins and/or wet wipes, especially if you are serving Cheetos. Oh! Another cool idea that I have seen is a gum ball machine (one with a cool slide that you can see) with d20s for a quarter or 50 cents. Just my thoughts. I hope they help and good luck!
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CJ
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Willifred wrote:
jazgonz wrote:
Please offer something remotely healthy to eat and drink as far as snacks go. Also I would say to offer plenty of space for gamers to hang out and play, and try to keep the bathrooms in decent shape, or female gamers like me will be less inclined to hang out there.


This is good, I admit I realy want there to be a good environment especialy for women gamers whos numbers I would like to see grow. Any things you have seen or heard of a store doing that made you not want to go there as a woman?

I have also considered some sort of ladies night with discounts and such, but am not sure how to implament it.


Well, I'll add some food for thought in regards this...

Table space for people to play is great. You need to ensure it is appropriate, though. By that, I really mean that table space that leads to the following is likely to be a negative:

1 - Anywhere that requires people to transit the place between different parts of the store. It's sub-optimal for all concerned to have people traipsing through the game space. At the back of the store, or in a seperate room, is perfect.

2 - Near the entrance. I don't care to see/hear a horde of games (read: teenage boys playing Magic, as they're the ones with the time during weekday hours to frequent your store) when I walk into a shop. I'm pretty sure less enthusiastic gamers - ie your casual browser - will be even less impressed.


Here's a recommendation for you:

I tend to buy most of my games online because it is cheaper and easier. Obviously you can never compete with price point but I'm sure you already have in mind ways to attract people to your shop. That said, there is one thing that will ALWAYS attract me to FLGS and that is a good range of gaming accessories.

If I find I need some dice, or sleeves, or deck boxes, or whatever, I usually want them straight away and I'm not really going to put in an online order for these things (even assuming I can). Having an extensive selection, and keeping them well stocked, is, in my opinion, a quick win and once you start attracting people to your store for these inevitably they're going to spend on impulse purchases...
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Victoria Osborne
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Space for games, is really important.
+++ on clean bathrooms. there have been some game stores i simply will not go into because of hte bathrooms. On the plus side of things, you can make the womens bathroom smaller, nice decorated with wall paper and poupori. I remember WoTC's game cener in the U district had a gorgeous but tiny womens bathroom, i think like 3 stalls, and it hosted huge tournaments. It had vases of flowers and softer lighting. One night there was a huge tournament and i was pretty mcuh the only woman there. My friend was desperate, i mean really really desperate, and could not wait for hte mens room to open up. he asked me to watch the door he came out shortly and said, "Wow that is a beautiful bathroom." it was then that i found out the mens rooms was a bit less errr habitable.
make a deal with a local pizza delivery, could be a major chain or better yet a local store that delivers and have say coupons or if they deliver pizza to the game store they get a discount. This is really good because it means the pizza parlor will get more business and you will get more business.
work with the other shops around, let them know when you will have organized gaming especially eateries. get some menus or what not from them and have them at your store so that people can order and know where to eat.
develope a game library, either distributor copies or even some of your own and have them available for play testing and playing.
have water, bottled, or even a water cooler. People when they are hot and heavy into gaming seldom drink enough.
good parking, especially if you host an open game night. this is pretty important, you do not need ot be in a place that has a lot of foot traffic but it is nice to be somewhee where people will see you.
those are just some ideas.
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Just from what I've seen from my FLGS, stocking the right products seem to be the biggest issue. I think it's better to order special items rather than try to have 'a little bit of everything'. For example, if you try to stock something like Citadel miniature paint, you need every color of paint that Citadel offers. And it's likely many paints will dry up and die before they're ever sold.

The gamers I know are more likely to buy impulse items. Anything that has a "Ooh, this looks cool, is it new?" appeal to it. Just keep in mind that what looks cool to you and what looks cool to me might be two completely different things. So, I suppose you have to get a feel for your audience.

The gamers I know are also very much like sheep. What one does, they all do. So, when the dominent personalities in the gaming herd are into Magic, so is everyone else. When the Alpha's interests turn to tabletop miniatures, board games, or CCGs the others follow. Gamers are fickle, so be prepared for a shift in interests.

When you spot regular customer with a charismatic personality, ask him or her to demo a game or help host a gaming event. The gamers I know like to hang around with cool people and do what they do. Some people go to bars and buy drinks to find a social life, and some of us go to game store and buy games for the same reason.

Those are the things are first spring to mind. Good luck!
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elgin_j wrote:
Here's a recommendation for you:

I tend to buy most of my games online because it is cheaper and easier. Obviously you can never compete with price point but I'm sure you already have in mind ways to attract people to your shop. That said, there is one thing that will ALWAYS attract me to FLGS and that is a good range of gaming accessories.

If I find I need some dice, or sleeves, or deck boxes, or whatever, I usually want them straight away and I'm not really going to put in an online order for these things (even assuming I can). Having an extensive selection, and keeping them well stocked, is, in my opinion, a quick win and once you start attracting people to your store for these inevitably they're going to spend on impulse purchases...


I totally agree with this one too! As long as you don't try to stretch your inventory too thin trying to stock everything.
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Willifred Lewis
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Wisconsin
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Handicap accesable did manage to miss my list so thank you!

And a d20 dice machine? I must admit that is rather cool. I'll see if I can do that.

It seems most stores aren't clean! I'll keep a close watch on that one in particular then.

And one of my biggest worries is miniatures and paints. Some places I've seen them fly, others it has miserable.

Any oppinions on game selection?
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Will Green
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I would also suggest having a deep knowledge of a wide-variety of games, so that you can clearly answer any questions that come your way. Hire nice, friendly service oriented gamers, who also know the games (or at least are expert in a few specific areas ~ such as Flames of War, or in the newest Euros...).

Make people want to come back by "being the friendly store, with the helpful sales people...).

Good luck!

Will
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Willifred Lewis
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good thoughts, keep them coming!
 
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jazgonz wrote:
Please offer something remotely healthy to eat and drink as far as snacks go. [...]

That's OK as long as you have bacon sandwiches and beer/wine (an ashtray would be good too, but I guess that's unlikely).
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Aaron Morgan
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Willifred wrote:
This one is more for hoping to find some resources I may have missed. What are the best ways to find gamers in your area and find what they are playing?


www.meetup.com is a good source. Be sure to look at RPG and board gaming conventions in your area, as well as cons for things like anime and video games.

Not on your list, and maybe you already have this covered, but when hiring staff, don't hire "gamers" - hire friendly people with good customer service skills. It's easier for them to learn about the games you sell than it is for you to teach someone people skills.

Willifred wrote:
And one of my biggest worries is miniatures and paints. Some places I've seen them fly, others it has miserable.


I was just talking with a guy who recently opened a game store, and he mentioned that the up-front cost of stocking GW's paint selection is very high.
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Bill Gallagher
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A lot of the game-related stuff has already mentioned. There are other things to consider as well, including parking. Be sure there's adequate parking (preferably free) close by. An off-street lot is best, as street parking often comes with restrictions, especially in commercial districts and near college campuses. Two hour parking is fine for the browsers, but won't work for those staying to play games.
 
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Sheldon
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I agree that meetup.com works pretty well, I use it for 2 different game groups I'm in. It also sends reminders usually about a week before a meet and then again a day or two before telling you how many other people have confirmed they are coming. People can also leave messages often asking about interest in playing specific games.

Maybe have dedicated games nights for different types of games. My FLGS has 2 open game nights a week (Tuesday(5pm-10pm) & Saturday(12pm-8pm)) and have a ton of open games. The last Saturday of every month is a 12 hours of gaming day (noon to midnight) and every now and then there will be a dedicated day for a specific game that usually has a long playtime that has limited slots that people have to sign up for (Arkham Horror, Civilization, TI3, etc.). People are also welcome to bring their own games to play. They also do a twice weekly AD&D adventures campaign and once a week Roll Playing sessions.
 
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Another thought that came into my head...

Think of a FLGS as a library more than a store in some ways, but not other ways. I guess I'm thinking this because I work at a library.

When people go to the library, they go there to 'use' the library. They read, use the computers, research stuff, and generally hang out. Because we provide the ability and resources here for them to use the library, they're more likely to come back. And while they're lingering, they pick up a book to check out or find something interesting to do. Libraries provide services for its patrons. Yay for libraries.

Now, the flip side. A store is a money making business, a library is not.

In my area, I've seen many games stores come and go over the years. Many have tried, many have failed. Some tried to squeeze every penny out of their customers and the customers never came back. Some tried to bend over backwards to provide a fun place to hang out and went broke because they gave everything away.

I'm certainly no expert, but my general impression is that game stores walk a fine line between providing an environment that is fun and providing services for its customers, but finding a way to stay afloat financially. I think the key is making the customers WANT to spend money there. I buy things at a game store because I want to support the game store. Kind of like giving an offering at church or donating money to the library. I could get it cheaper online, but I pay the extra because I like the service I get at the FLGS.
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Matt Riddle
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Willifred wrote:
Handicap accesable did manage to miss my list so thank you!

And a d20 dice machine? I must admit that is rather cool. I'll see if I can do that.

It seems most stores aren't clean! I'll keep a close watch on that one in particular then.

And one of my biggest worries is miniatures and paints. Some places I've seen them fly, others it has miserable.

Any oppinions on game selection?

If I want it and you do not have it I am going to buy it from funagain or amazon. I know it’s a big issue for FLGS, because inventory costs money, but the ONLY reason I am buying from FLGS and not amazon or funagain or CSI or wherever is impulse/ I want it right now. Your prices are going to be higher. I am willing to pay that for getting it right now. I understand that balancing between miniatures and magic and board games is hard. It all costs money. BUT if you do not have a good selection of games, gamers will not go there. Again, I realize the ramifications of inventory and the costs associated with it… but you are asking what WE want in a FLGS and I can tell you what me and my gamers friends want is selection.
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The Broox
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Since I don't own a game store I don't know the ins and outs of exactly how this works but this more or less what I have pieced together from multiple conversations.

When games arrive from a distributor at a LGS the LGS can return any damaged games. This is great for the LGS but leaves the distributor with a bunch of damaged games. Some distributors will sell LGS these damaged games at deeply discounted prices. My LGS is one of these stores that sells damaged games. They guarantee the components (not sure if the games are inventoried by the store or the distributor) and sell them at half price in a nick and dent section.

It is a great way to get games cheap as long as you don't mind damaged boxes.
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James Bowyer
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If you're going to survive, you HAVE to have an internet presence. Professional website, facebook, twitter, meetup, etc.

https://www.scifigenre.com/store/ is my FLGS. They also sell online, which helps their bottom line and keeps prices down.
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Brian Davis
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Keep up with your research. Hit up BGG and see what the new hotness is, as well as classics that people rate highly or have lots of buzz. There is a FLGS near me that doesn't do this and it's annoying when you know more about upcoming games than a retailer does. Keep a large selection in stock (as much as you can afford/have shelf space for) many game stores advertise being a game store and only really sell ccg/miniature stuff.

CUSTOMER SERVICE is #1! try to avoid hiring rude or lazy staff. Make sure that you make yourself available to help customers with suggestions and insights. Answer questions without having an air of superiority and when offering your opinion, listen to what the customer has to say, and offer a variety of suggestions in terms of new games to try or purchase.

Speaking of trying games, I have never seen this but have heard about FLGS' that do this, but it might be nice to have a game library where players can try before they buy.

A variety of snacks is nice but I've always been a fan of specialty coffees, if you go this route please hire a good barista.

As others have said, a large play area is nice, but one thing that always turns me off at a game store are the "regulars" who think they own the place, talk however they want, are rude to other customers, etc. Make sure you do not perpetuate this problem, but you also can't drive them away either.

Hopefully this helps, I wish there was a local game store in the city in which I live, I would def frequent it, as it is, any time I go out of town I try to stop in on whatever stores I can find. Speaking to that note, make sure you advertise and get a nice website (and keep it updated) as that will help draw in people who aren't familiar with the area.

Another idea would be to offer some kind of membership or incentive program which would provide small discounts or giveaways or whatever to promote repeat business. Hope my suggestions have helped! Good luck!
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Sheldon
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The FLGS where I used to work was a classic "what not to do". It had originally been a second hand collectables store and the owner kept a lot of the stuff that had been there before, used DVDs & videogames, some geekcentric collectables, sports cards, etc. They also had board games but at high FLGS prices, even higher than most. Their primary trade was Magic/Pokemon/Yugioh cards and related accessories.

The owner basically had bought the place as a locale for he and his friends to play magic cards. The back tables were always full of primarily negative stereotype magic gamers (late teens to early 20s, poor hygiene and social skills), the owner fit in with this crowd and rarely left the magic tables, leaving his wife to tend the store. She was nice enough but had little clue about any of the product and most of her knowledge was second hand, just the opinions she heard from the magic crowd. Despite working directly across the street from this store I avoided it like the plague and took my business to the other FLGS in town which was conveniently only a few blocks away. I have seen negative reviews of this store on BGG confirming my experiences.

The one innovative thing that they did have that I thought was interesting was a board game rental system where you could rent games for I think it was $5 a day and then if you wanted to purchase the game they would deduct the rental from the full price. Their selection was limited but the idea showed promise. They also had some sort of option to rent a larger selection of games for big events at a discount. I don't remember if they had the option or not but I think another good idea would be to have someone available to go along with the games for an additional cost that could explain the rules and help with setup/cleanup.

I don't want anyone to think I'm hating on Magic gamers here, I have a number of friends who are either big into the hobby or used to be who are great and well adjusted/bathed individuals. These just happened to be the stereotypes who reinforce the poor reputation
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