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Subject: How to Open a Gaming Store rss

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Ryan Langton
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Hey all, I've thrown around the idea of opening my own gaming store for years. I think soon may be the time but wanted to get some ideas. Over the years in this area there has been multiple gaming stores opened and closed down because they haven't been profitable. I think this is more due to their location, lack of advertising, stocking the wrong things (even as an avid gamer myself they rarely if ever had anything in stock that I wanted - no games even from the top 10 here at BGG), and the general perception of the places - it's always some geek behind the counter who's more interested in his next session with his gaming buddies than making sales.

The demographics of the area I believe is ripe for a new gaming store. This is a college town that is growing in students every year. There is a military base close by that is growing by nearly double over the next 5 years. This means lots of new families in town, lots of young, influencable minds.

I want to change the perception of a gaming store. Rather than opening the store as some underground store trying to target that niche audience that already exist.. I want to bring awareness to the public. I plan on running an advertising campaign something like "games have evolved, have you?" So enough of WHY I think a gaming store would be a good idea.. on which the HOW.

I want to open a good size store with lots of stock. I'd like to stock dozens if not hundreds of games listed here at BGG, and every one of the top 10 will always be stocked. I'd even like to have printouts from BGG on the shelves, so people can look at read a bit about games before they by them. Where do I go about finding a distributor who can not only handle that kind of volume, but will give me a good price for doing so?

Tournaments! I want to run gaming tournaments.. as often as possible.. probably leagues too. I see this as a great way to attract a loyal customer base. Any of you gamers or store owners out there play in or run tournaments currently? How has that worked out? Any games you enjoy particularly for a tournament format?

Right now this is all just a big dream, one that has been developing slowly in my head over the course of many years. So these are my initial thoughts and I thought BGG would be a great place to post my ideas and see what the gaming community here thinks about it. Maybe I'm crazy and you all will talk some sense into me.. maybe I'm not.



 
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Lexingtonian
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There have been a number of threads, even recently, about opening a game store. I would do a search to see what people have said before.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
 
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eric fox
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I started two threads on this recently - on a retail store and on an internet store only. Check them out:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127390

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127073
 
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eric fox
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This is a list of distributors that sell games to retailers not the general public.

http://www.gtmguide.com/hobbydist.htm
 
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Scott A. Reed
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I think the key to opening a game store is that one must adhere to principles that anyone would follow in any other small retail store, sucha as paying attention to your customer base and minding your profit margins.
 
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Lisa Gilmer
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I've often wondered why game stores don't capitalize on the whole "family fun night" ad campaign that has been going on. The ones here seem to be so niche oriented that if you are not in that niche, you feel uncomfortable. I know trying to serve many masters is difficult, but it doesn't seem like the game stores here want to serve anyone else. Or turn on the lights for that matter.

Displays that show great games for kids, for adults, for parties. Game promotions based on what kids are doing now: Cure the Summer doldrums! (more involved games that take good portions of time. Spring Break! (portable, beach/park friendly games) Schools In! Games that advance math skills, reading, comprehension, strategy. Cure FCAT Burn Out! Easy, fun, quick games.

Play With Me! Gaming tables and displays. Standards like chess sets or solitaire games.

Barnes & Noble has an area called Staff Picks for different genres with info on why it is recommended and for who. It is a great idea for gifts.

I guess approachable by Joe Average. I would prefer to not go into dark, dirty, elitist stores to buy anything, much less a box of cardboard I'll probably shell out $40 for. There is a thread somewhere about End Games a shop somewhere in California, THAT looks like a place I want to visit. Take cues from Libraries to work hard to get folks to come in an read. They have a ton of programs.

I just went to the Toys R' Us and from the outside it looked depressing, when I went in it didn't look much better. Make it look like a place you would want to walk into.

Oh, and being a board game snob here is one thing. Being on in a shop is asinine. Why would you want a customer to feel like shit? Sure, Monopoly may be lame, but I would bet more than 95% of homes have a copy of it. Someone is selling it to them. Heck,I have 4 copies of it. I have 2 copies of Life and I despise that game. But see, I love games, I grew up playing games, it has only been recently that I have discovered the world of games is much bigger than I knew. I look forward to buying my daughter her first game of Candyland. That will not change, even if I find other games that she likes better. I remember loving Candyland. I have a pretty shitty collection of games according to BGG, however,those games brought me here. If I didn't grow up playing them and feeling like they are as important to having a home as a microwave, I wouldn't be here, I would not have bought about 10 games in the last few months (locally I might add) and I would not be your customer.

Oh, and I am a dreaded wife, who is killing herself trying to get her husband into games. I'm also a 38 year old new mother who is trapped in suburbia with my minivan. I doubt many women who appear as I do, would feel as comfortable going into some of the shops I have been in.

The Walmart near me is clean, well-lit and well stocked (granted with the crap they sell). The hobby/game shop down the street is dirty, cluttered, poorly stocked and unhelpful unless you are in their favored niche (warhammer).
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Auntbeast wrote:
I've often wondered why game stores don't capitalize on the whole "family fun night" ...
Displays that show great games for kids, for adults, for parties. ... Play With Me! Gaming tables and displays. Standards like chess sets or solitaire games. ... Staff Picks for different genres.


All of these ARE done at stores around here. And they still scrounge for every penny and bitch about margins.
 
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Ryan Langton
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travisbickle wrote:
I started two threads on this recently - on a retail store and on an internet store only. Check them out:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127390

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127073


Well that was a pretty depressing read. Still I'm only slightly deterred. I really think the problem is the owners and managers of these stores. They're running the same old hobby stores, back alley, grungy, geeks sitting in a dark room in the back moving their army of miniatures around a board, elitist cashier that sits behind the register reading a comic book and could care less about the customers.. this type of atmosphere is not condusive to a profitable business!

I want a well lit, nice looking store that caters to all audiences - kids, familys, and the traditional "hardcore" games. I'd sell fountain drinks (sodas) available as well as candy and other snacks. The aisles would have 1 page descriptions of each game (not just what's on the box) including their ratings here on BGG.. I think it would be cool to have a board displaying the top 10 on BGG and a section devoted to them.

I would 100% have to have a web presense along with a calender that highlights the months events. I'd also do a "game of the month" in which people can come and try out the game and also help and instruction on that game. I have enough games of my own to last a few years without ever touching the store stock.

I think the key here is to get a brand name and make an impression on the community. I don't think retail Gaming stores are dead, I just think they have not evolved properly.. it's not all about the goods anymore, it's about the services.
 
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James Stubbs
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travisbickle wrote:
it's not all about the goods anymore, it's about the services.


Amen to that. I'm a librarian and thats the biggest change that libraries have had to adjust to. I say that, if you have the heart and desire and think that you can make it work, go for it.

 
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Richard Irving
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Riddle:
How do you get a small fortune in running a game store?

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Start with a LARGE fortune!
 
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eric fox
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Tyveil wrote:
travisbickle wrote:
I started two threads on this recently - on a retail store and on an internet store only. Check them out:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127390

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127073


I really think the problem is the owners and managers of these stores. They're running the same old hobby stores, back alley, grungy, geeks sitting in a dark room in the back moving their army of miniatures around a board, elitist cashier that sits behind the register reading a comic book and could care less about the customers.. this type of atmosphere is not condusive to a profitable business!


Not sure if you are right about this but that comment I predict will unleash a torrent of backlash from former owners and managers. Can't wait wow
 
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eric fox
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ryokowerx wrote:
travisbickle wrote:
it's not all about the goods anymore, it's about the services.


Amen to that. I'm a librarian and thats the biggest change that libraries have had to adjust to. I say that, if you have the heart and desire and think that you can make it work, go for it.




Hey...I didn't write that !!!!
 
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Travis Cook
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One thing I always wanted in a game store is a computer where I can look up BGG ratings and reviews on a game that I'm looking at in the store. I would go to a game store and browse and find something interesting, but not buy it because I'm not sure if it's any good or not. Have a computer with BGG as the main page would be a huge plus in my book.

I'd also say to throw in a nice selection of family and party games. Different copies of Monopoly, themed versions of Pirates of Caribbean or games of mainstream popularity. Those of us in the gaming hobby look down on those games, but there's a reason why Monopoly has 200 different themes....they sell. Plus, if they're ready to buy Star Wars Life, you might be able to give a suggestion or two of other games they might like. Perhaps you can hook another customer into the hobby.



 
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Ryan Langton
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travisbickle wrote:
Tyveil wrote:
travisbickle wrote:
I started two threads on this recently - on a retail store and on an internet store only. Check them out:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127390

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/127073


I really think the problem is the owners and managers of these stores. They're running the same old hobby stores, back alley, grungy, geeks sitting in a dark room in the back moving their army of miniatures around a board, elitist cashier that sits behind the register reading a comic book and could care less about the customers.. this type of atmosphere is not condusive to a profitable business!


Not sure if you are right about this but that comment I predict will unleash a torrent of backlash from former owners and managers. Can't wait wow


You're right my comment was insensitive and hastily written. I don't want to blanket all owners and managers with this statement. I am more specifically speaking of my personal experience with gaming stores in my area I've seen shut down over the last 5 years. They have been without a doubt poorly operated, advertised, branded, etc.
 
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Michael Potter
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Auntbeast wrote:
There is a thread somewhere about End Games a shop somewhere in California, THAT looks like a place I want to visit.


I have to agree with what you said about the dark dungeon style shops - you feel uncomfortable and do not desire to stay.

Do you have a link to the End Games shop? I tried to Google it and search BGG with no luck.
 
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Chadwik
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mdpotter wrote:
Auntbeast wrote:
There is a thread somewhere about End Games a shop somewhere in California, THAT looks like a place I want to visit.


I have to agree with what you said about the dark dungeon style shops - you feel uncomfortable and do not desire to stay.

Do you have a link to the End Games shop? I tried to Google it and search BGG with no luck.


Michael, try http://www.endgameoakland.com/

I have frequented this store on many occasions and must say that it is a pleasure to shop & play there.
 
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Ryan S.
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mdpotter wrote:
Auntbeast wrote:
There is a thread somewhere about End Games a shop somewhere in California, THAT looks like a place I want to visit.


I have to agree with what you said about the dark dungeon style shops - you feel uncomfortable and do not desire to stay.


I've gotten this response from many people who were new to gaming. The conversations tend to go something like this:

"Wow, this game is really fun! Where do you get games like this?"

"Well, there's this great website for information, (insert BGG plug) and you can pick them up at (insert retailer plug)."

"Yeah, I've been by that place..." *cautiously takes a step back*

I think having good help really makes or breaks a shop too. If the person behind the counter is too busy playing something with his or her buddy to help out the newbie looking for that first gateway game, you've most likely lost a string of sales.

This might be a long shot, but what about doing events outside of the store? If you're active in a school, church, community organization, etc, set up a gaming event or two to show people what games are all about. It's one thing to advertise and hope people come in, but it's another to actually bring the games to them in a place they feel more "comfortable."

Expanding on the outreach-type stuff, maybe offer a deeper discount on games you let people play at these events. My guess is these could be more typical gateway games, so you could sell games like Settlers, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, etc at a lower margin to help get people hooked. Then advertise a good frequent shopper program to keep them coming back.

Since I have absolutely no business experience whatsoever, my guess is this logic is horribly flawed. I'm just spewing out as a gamer what I think would be attractive to my many non-gaming friends.
 
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Mike Jones
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rayzir wrote:
One thing I always wanted in a game store is a computer where I can look up BGG ratings and reviews on a game that I'm looking at in the store. I would go to a game store and browse and find something interesting, but not buy it because I'm not sure if it's any good or not. Have a computer with BGG as the main page would be a huge plus in my book.

I'd also say to throw in a nice selection of family and party games. Different copies of Monopoly, themed versions of Pirates of Caribbean or games of mainstream popularity. Those of us in the gaming hobby look down on those games, but there's a reason why Monopoly has 200 different themes....they sell. Plus, if they're ready to buy Star Wars Life, you might be able to give a suggestion or two of other games they might like. Perhaps you can hook another customer into the hobby.





Wow I was just thinking about recommending this to a new store that same thing.

 
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Phillip Heaton
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Have you studied small business administration? Read lots of material on opening your own store? Have you talked with small business owners in your area? Have you contacted the local small business administration or chamber of comerve for your area?

Do you have enough capital set aside so that you can set the business up, stock it like you want, and not see a dime of income for the first year? Are you computer savvy enough to set up your busines system? Website? Online business?

Are you willing to give up gaming to run the business, because you probably won't have time to do that anymore, and certainly won't while the shop is open.
 
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Tim Thorp
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Quote:
I want a well lit, nice looking store that caters to all audiences - kids, familys, and the traditional "hardcore" games. I'd sell fountain drinks (sodas) available as well as candy and other snacks. The aisles would have 1 page descriptions of each game (not just what's on the box) including their ratings here on BGG.. I think it would be cool to have a board displaying the top 10 on BGG and a section devoted to them.

PLEASE open your store in Everett, WA! I promise to spend a fortune there! This is the kind of gamestore that I like!
 
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David Shimp
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I used to be a partial owner of a game store which was profitable.

My first tip is avoid partners if you can afford it. I am no longer a partner due to a falling out with the others.

Second tip is make sure your wife and family realize that it takes A LOT of your time. This created significant tension in my household.

After those 2 things its all about money.

Try to be the best at something. We were the largest retailer of Games Workshop in our area. This brought in traffic from other GW locations.

We ran tournaments all the time. MTG, Heroclix, Mage Knight, etc.

Try to be involved in the community. We teamed up with the local school district and were part of their Gifted and Talented program.

The more stock you have the more you can sell. If you have a limited selection you will lose customers who can't find what they want.




 
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Carlos Ramirez
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A few practical tips:

1) file a fictitous business name statement
2) get a tax ID, if your state charges sales taxes
3) get a federal employer id number
4) get a reseller's permit
5) don't forget insurance. You'll need worker's comp, liability and loss & damage. usually property management companies require minimum coverage of some sort.
6) get a distributor
the biggest stateside is Alliance Games; they are owned by Diamond Comics Distribution. If you have an account with one it's easy to get one with the other. This brings you: games, comics, manga, anime, movies, toys, music, extras... Alliance gives a graduated discount based on quarterly volume. You have to have pretty high volume to maintain 50% discount on most things; 47% is more common. They require a credit application in order to open an account. They are very nice and ship for free for any order greater than $300.00.
The others: ACD, Blackhawk, etc. smaller operations that usually offer fewer lines but usually offer 50% off on everything with free shipping thresholds, etc.
It doesn't hurt to have accounts at several places at once.
You can also deal directly with some manufacturers. For example, Columbia Games and MMP do not have their full lines with Alliance so we go directly to the manufacturers for these lines.
7) Tournaments=Magic, Yu Gi Oh, Pokemon (still) etc. provide food/drink and prizes (usually product or store credit)
8) If you carry enough, you might want to consider dealing directly with Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro). There are advantages to dealing with them directly.
9) get a POS
10) Inventory control!
11) Look for full returnability of new items, it helps.
12) BGG, wonderous resource that it is, does not a market make. The majority of the people in your area who are on the Geek will drive by your spiffy new store to order their games from a deep discounter online. (You'll learn to hate the discounters if you open a store.) You definitely have to mine your area for enthusiasts and manufacture your own customer base to some extent.
13) Get over your fear of teenaged boys. They will keep you afloat when the boardgame sales are slow. Never underestimate how many magic packs/singles the average american teenaged gamer will buy.
14) Unless you have endless space available, blow out the old/slow stuff as soon as it's clear that it's old/slow. Shelf space is precious.
15) Consider conventions. Consider contacting day camps, schools, retirement homes, hospitals, etc. All game friendly businesses.
16) Good Luck

CER
14)
 
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Jon Cormier
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Hey, I like what most people were saying here but there's some practical aspects you need to really consider before you move on to things like friendly staff and good lighting (both of which are essential). There are a lot of business planners available online and free advice for small business entrepenuers - please seek it out.

I was working towards opening a comic shop and decided that it wouldn’t work because I couldn’t get through all these steps. I think a comic shop is rather close to a game shop since they’re usually combined on some level (and in some shops) as something you did when you were a kid.

First you need to decide if you’re the type of person who is willing to risk financial ruin on yourself and your family. Are you ready to spend very little time with your loved ones and friends to make the business work? Are you able to survive without making profit for a year? These are questions every small business owner needs to ask him/herself before you start (not just game shops).

Anyway, you need to come up with a business plan. This means you need to find out how much everything you want to accomplish will cost you – up front. So look for locations you can rent locally to have an idea of what it will cost you. How much will your initial stock cost you to order? Will you have staff and how much will you pay them? How much for shelves, carpet or flooring, lighting, a computer?

Great, you’ve tallied that. Now, do you have that much money? If not, where will you get it? Bank Loan, line of credit, elderly rich relative, government grant? Start researching and getting investors if you can. A lot of communities will have small business initiatives and if your young enough there are government grants available. While some grants are simply lines of credit with reduced payback rates these can still remove a lot of burden. Do some research on what is available – there is a lot for young people getting into business but they will require a business plan.

Don’t expect to turn a profit for at least a year. Work to turn a profit in six months, but don’t expect money to come in hand over fist. Yes, I know it’s a great hobby and more people would love it if they tried it and you’ll get them to try it, but it will take time.

So, I hope this doesn’t discourage you. I think fun game shops are essential but it’s easy to confuse the fun of games with the hard work of owning your own business. I know I just couldn’t get the seed money to start up my shop – maybe some day…

Still, there are some fun things to try. First, think about guerilla marketing. Can you afford to buy some 2-player games and leave them at the local popular coffee shop? Ask if you can leave a copy of something like Kahuna with a sticker on the box or the back of the board saying “This free game is provided courtesy of Game Shop X (contact details).” Or do this with common areas of universities. Heck, leave cheap fun games at pubs and attach your details to the back of the board. A few $25 dollar games left in the right locations may be better than a $200 newspaper advert.

If you want some great ideas, check out The Isotope website:

http://www.isotopecomics.com/

It’s a comic book lounge in San Fran but you can adapt a lot of his mentality to a games shop. Throw parties and theme gaming nights instead of regular old gaming nights. Get creators to show up and have a tournament against them. Just come up with fun things that customers can’t get anywhere else, and always smile and be helpful.
 
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J Mathews
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Just out of curiosity, how well would it work to start a game store but hire someone to manage it for you and factoring in that salary to the start-up costs/initial cash outlay/pro forma? This would allow you to keep a job (stable income), start the store, and run the store like a business from a more objective level. Is this just a bad idea or may it have legs?
 
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Ryan Langton
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EventHorizon wrote:
Just out of curiosity, how well would it work to start a game store but hire someone to manage it for you and factoring in that salary to the start-up costs/initial cash outlay/pro forma? This would allow you to keep a job (stable income), start the store, and run the store like a business from a more objective level. Is this just a bad idea or may it have legs?


This is how I plan on doing it. I'd probably take a week or so vacation from my current job for the opening week, training employees, etc... then hand most daily operations over to a manager. I would still devote my evenings/weekends as much as possible/needed. Also I figured I'd adjust my store hours to appeal to the college and younger crowds, since this will probably be most of my business. Maybe something like 3p - 11p M/T/W/T/F, 10a-11p S/S.

I've seen it recommended to start a new business this way (don't quit your day job), and I'd tend to follow that logic. I have too much to lose to quit a steady income job.
 
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