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Subject: New gaming store - what to do? rss

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Andrew Rysavy
United States
Bismarck
North Dakota
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I am going to be starting up a new gaming store, and would like some suggestions on what I should carry. A good chunk of my purchasing budget is going to go towards the typical big name games (D&D, minis, magic, etc.), but I want to actually have a nice variety of other games.

There are two different areas I'm looking for suggestions in:

1) What to stock for sale? What are good games that are also likely to catch the interest of the average person? What is a good balance of expensive, average priced, and cheap games to have? Should I bother with any of the generic mass-market games (monopoly, stratego, etc.)? What about the classics (chess, go, etc.)? If you walked into a game shop, what would you like to see available?

2) What playable samples? I intend to have an area for people to play games in the store, and I think it would be nice to have a couple of games sitting around for those people who want to play something, but didn't bring their own game. What are a few good games to have available?
 
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Bobby Doran
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I think you should have a good variety. I think a little of a lot of things is better than a lot of a few things.
You will obviously need a little bit of the classic American boardgames and a little bit of the BIG box games. A good selection of kids games and a little bit of war games. Lots of cool (non collectible)card games would be great. Those are cheaper so it's easier for people to plop down the cash. Pirate games are a must.
Settlers
Puerto Rico
BattleLore
Tide of Iron
Descent
Notre Dame
Blokus
Ticket to Ride
...

Definitely stay on BGG and keep track of what's HOT.

 
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Marco Fuini
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If you can develop a clear idea of who your target market is and who the competition is, then you should be able to identify your greatest opportunity for sales.

Gaming is a fairly niche market. If your market is not a well developed gaming market, you probably should cast your net quite wide. In general it would be best for you to break down traditional perceptions of boardgames. As such I believe the image of your store is important. Don't make it too adult or too child like - it's not a toy store or a book store - it's a family entertainment opportunity! You need to encourage family participation. You want your client base to expand beyond existing gamers, hence the introductory process is critical. Virgin gamers will consider some of the following: Price, opportunity, value and understanding.

Price is clear enough. Your stock should cater for all pockets.
Value. This is the perceived or additional non-monetary value. ie "This will bring the family together", "it costs a lot now but I will play with it so often", "I love horror themed stuff - I must include this in my collection".
Opportunity How long will it take to play, "will I ever use this?"
Understanding. Educate the customer, find out what they enjoy. Opinions are usually related to what we have previously experienced, so it may be important to have games stocked that they are familiar with.

A positive reaction to their first experience should build the foundation for future sales.

Thus I would stock:
- Games from low to high price points.
- Various themes.
- Different game weights. (This is a good link to follow: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/21636)
- Games that appeal to different age groups.

Select the most popular games that accomodate (and hopefully overlap) the above categories, this way you can maximise your initial capital input.



Please note, I have never owned or run a game store and as such my opinions are based on how I would personally consider my own client's business needs.
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Kris Verbeeck
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Koldfoot wrote:
Just an idea, but you should at least give it some thought:

Volunteer to work for free at an established game store in another market. Preferably a game store selling similar stuff to your game store. I see you live in NoDak. Might have to travel to do so, and you might not find a store that is similar to yours. Still, the experience will be invaluable.

For your time you will end up with more knowledge than you could ever glean from a forum such as this, and that could be the difference between a successful business and bankrupcy in a year.



He is right you know.



If Koldfoot's idea is not an option I would strongly advice to find other similar stores. Talk a little about games and ask him
how he decides what games to carry. If the shop is far enough from your place you could tell him that you are thinking of opening a similar shop.

Other things to keep in mind is how high has your stock level to be. where to order.
Organize monthly game nights at the shop.
Have demo-units available.
Support a local gaming club. (10% discount to members)

Imho you have to have games that appeal to everyone (so that people are not afraid to enter your shop) so i would put some of the better known games (carcassonne, settlers, ticket to ride, puerto rico) in the window (on the left) as well as the games you specialize in (on the right)
I would also have for instance colloseum or the pillars of the earth next to the better known games. This tells people that you are also carrying other games.

But the best advertising you can have is word of mouth. So if there is a local game club I would advice you to sponsor them (10 % discount for members)

good luck
 
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Jeff Burdett

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Hi Andrew - I think all the suggestions above are sound, especially sponsoring a local boardgame club (with a discount). The key is giving them a reason to buy from you rather than playing at your store but spending their money online. You may even consider a tiered discount (up to 25-30%) for your very best customers who buy a lot.

Your market analysis is going to be very important. Do you happen to have a "microclimate" of hardcore wargamers (and if you do, tell me and I'll move immediately), or is it mostly Eurogamers, minis, or CCG's? If you sponsored a different theme each night of the week (e.g. Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, Flames of War, warhammer, etc.), you'll get an idea of which are more popular than others. I also suspect that weekend CCG tournaments are a potential cash cow.

That said, I think you're living out a dream of many of us here. I hope you have a lot of success, and fun!
 
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Green Knight Games
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I can echo many of the previous comments. Do your research and know the products. There are thousands of games out there. Boardgames alone are enough to stock a modest shop. RPGs, minis, wargames, CCGs - each of these is a huge specialist area by itself.

If you are going to target the general public and try and prise off of a diet of Monpoly and Clue, you'll have to stock some gateway games.

Hardened gamers can be difficult to persuade away from their favourite game store (unless there isn't one).
 
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Marco Fuini
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Personally I believe both the general public than the existing gamer are equally important markets.

Exisiting gamers already have an apetite and need for games, especially faster moving items (expansions, miniatures...)

The general public may be a harder sell, but if you do get them the beauty is they dont own any games yet! And of course they will need someone to play with, so they will introduce one of their non-gaming friends and... you get where Im going.
 
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Kevin Bernatz
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Alexandria
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sbilbey wrote:
I can echo many of the previous comments. Do your research and know the products. There are thousands of games out there. Boardgames alone are enough to stock a modest shop. RPGs, minis, wargames, CCGs - each of these is a huge specialist area by itself.

If you are going to target the general public and try and prise off of a diet of Monpoly and Clue, you'll have to stock some gateway games.

Hardened gamers can be difficult to persuade away from their favourite game store (unless there isn't one).


Preface: I am not, nor have ever been, a game store owner..
Preface 2: Between my brother and I, we have purchased over 600 games of all variety (childrens, hard core wargaming, AD&D-systems, etc)
Preface 3: My wife has been in retail management for 10+ years

Three factors that I think might bear considering are the following:

1) For a target audience of non-gamers/family gamers, what games are you able to stock + sell for either profit or as "loss leaders" vis a vis local competition (namely Target and Walmart, which often can offer these types of games /much/ cheaper than a Mom&Pop's store).

2) For a hardcore gamer, how competitive will your prices be with the "standard" on-line stores (Thoughthammer.com, bouldergames.com, etc)

3) Which stores are your competition in which areas, and are you able to either price competitively, or price reasonably enough that the extra "personality" a true game store provides will still result in people buying from you, and not from your competition. Bear in mind, your "competition" may be from on-line stores, not brick&mortar ones.

With that said, if you are in an area with Walmart and/or Target nearby, I would carefully analize their stock of games and try to stay clear of directly competing with them with the specific games that they have. However, I would seriously consider trying to "piggy-back" on them by stocking similar games to what they have to get the people who shop Target and Walmart to also come shop your store for the "next game". If you have the capability of eating some losses, you may want to consider the tactic of having some loss leaders among these family oriented games (for the non-merchants reading this: a loss leader is a product that one sells intentionally for a loss as a way to get a customer into the store, with the hope of getting them to buy other items. Almost always these are the items that you will see when you first enter a store).

With #2 above, as long as your prices are within 5-10% of what someone can get on-line, you should get a good share of die hard gamers supporting your store. But as much as we gamers want to encourage the hobby, it just doesn't make sense for us to buy (for example) World in Flames from you for $80 when we can get it from Thoughthammer for $56 and probably free shipping. Cruel, yes...but sadly realistic. This may mean that you will need to consider games that you can sell competitively, or only purchasing a smattering of the higher priced games that may sit on the shelf for a long time before being moved.

But as I noted above...I'm not a store owner, so take all the above with a grain of salt.
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Philip Reed
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Where in North Dakota are you? When I lived in Grand Forks (years ago) there was pretty much only one store. Fargo had a couple and I never did find any in Bismarck.

 
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Kris Verbeeck
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kbernatz wrote:


With that said, if you are in an area with Walmart and/or Target nearby, I would carefully analize their stock of games and try to stay clear of directly competing with them with the specific games that they have. However, I would seriously consider trying to "piggy-back" on them by stocking similar games to what they have to get the people who shop Target and Walmart to also come shop your store for the "next game". If you have the capability of eating some losses, you may want to consider the tactic of having some loss leaders among these family oriented games (for the non-merchants reading this: a loss leader is a product that one sells intentionally for a loss as a way to get a customer into the store, with the hope of getting them to buy other items. Almost always these are the items that you will see when you first enter a store).



I believe you got to have the "good" games that target and wallmart have. You have to price competitively to them. Be prepared to not make any profit on them.
I see them as customer lure. They make it possible for customers to enter your shop.

The couple of games that they have seen elsewhere will make them feel comfortable in your shop. Otherwise they would feel strangers in your shop. Not in the right place.

A story about someone who was not comfortable can be found in this geeklist.
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/22143

I believe the story could end differently if there were some games she knew.

jl4130 wrote:
My roommate invited his girlfriend and some of her friends over once after he got back from church (side story: he started going to church to pick up "goody-goody girls" and ended up a devout Christian in the process). One particularly attractive friend whom I had never met before wandered into my room, said hi, and after some awkward-silence-fighting-banter, asked about my collection. I sheepishly explained, and with a look of both confusion and pity, she managed an "Oh, how interesting..." as she backed toward the door. She was still dressed in her church clothes, and the combination of her heels and a seam in the carpet sent her toppling backwards in the process. What happened next was the fastest recovery from a fall that I have ever seen, followed by a flustered, "I'll see you later" and a quick dash back to the safety of her friends and my roommate, all of whom were rolling on the floor laughing at this point.


The reason why you have to price competitive with those big retailers on the same games is simple. If you do people will believe that the price they get on the other games is good (if you ask 10 dollars more for the settlers game, they will think that you ask at least 10 dollars too much on Shogun)
I won't mind spending a couple of euros more in my local shop (an hours drive). But if the difference was big on the games I knew (I would have probably left and never gone back)
I have bought now over fourty games there in 4 months. Joined a guild for 10 euros a year so I could have the 10 % discount.
And i am trying to convert most of my friends to become a BGG




 
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Chris Tandlmayer
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Others have mentioned this as well, but I'd like to re-emphasize it, because I think it's perhaps the only thing that makes going to a store more attractive than shopping online: Game Nights.

You mention playable samples, and this is a good idea. The key is advertising enough that you have people in your store to play them AND ALSO BUY GAMES FROM YOU. If you support the hobby by having a fun, clean, well-lit environment for gamers to go monthly (or bi-weekly, or weekly...) you do a great service for people. I know I'd much rather go out to a public place where there are other members of my hobby participating in it than play at home, and I'd imagine many people feel the same way.
The thing is, you have to foster such an environment so people will also buy their games from you. I'm sure others will have suggestions on how to do that. There's a store nearby that allows basically unlimited use of its tables for no charge, which is great...but if those people aren't spending anything except a few bucks on snacks and soda, then it's a lost opportunity as far as I can tell.

Not having that much of an idea about business (yay, English Literature...), especially niche businesses like gaming, I'm not sure of the finance end of things. But certainly what most of the hardcore market is looking for in a game store is a place to meet others, a group of people to talk about games with, and an attractive space to play games. If those are met, I can imagine they'd be more willing to buy games from that store. At least I would.
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Doug Palmer
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All of the above replies are good ones. I'd recommend taking it all in. I applaud you for having the cajones to tackle such an endeavor. I gave serious thought to opening up a hobby shop some time back. But the margins and overall soft market convinced me otherwise.

The Wal-Marts and Toys-R-Us's of the world are carrying more and more of what BGG'ers would consider "real games" (or at least, more so). If that's true by you (or if there are other game stores around), you'll have to ask yourself "what will we offer that they don't?". And I'm not talking product here. You won't be able to match the big box stores on price, so you'll have to offer more. Demo games are a great idea. Will there be playing space for weekly "game nights"?

Also, you might find that your market, once open, veers from the boardgaming crowd and maybe more CCG (young). Great. From what I've seen, the margins are great on CCG's. I've talked to many a store owner who lives and dies by their Yu-Gi-Oh sales.

Here's a suggestion that I haven't seen yet. Contact the area schools. Most have a gaming club (or at least, a Chess Club). Hey, Chess players are board gamers. Get in touch with the teacher/sponsor. Let them know that you're around. Get them in. Even if only once, you get them (and their parents) aware that you exist. Game clubs, area conventions (even Comic Book ones are a great source of prospective customers), ANYTHING that gets people who might be gamers (or prospective gamers) into your store at least once. Once they're there, then it's up to YOU to get them to come back. And I'm sure you've heard it all before...

> Knowledgable staff who are FRIENDLY. C'mon, we've all found that great store that has what we want but we're loathe to return to because the sales clerk was a putz.

> Inventory. Not every game on the planet, but enough to entice the gamer who didn't find the game they wanted, to either order it from you or comes back because they can see that you're serious.

> Remain flexible. Maybe you're a grognard who loves the military sims and hopes that your place becomes a haven for the same. But your sales are 10 year olds who play Yu-Gi-Oh. Sell Yu-Gi-Oh!! It's a business, not a hobby.

Bottom line, cater to your clientle, and you'll at least put yourself into a better position. It's not a guarantee of success, that's for sure.

Oh, and lastly, nobody is an expert. We're all just tossing our own 2 cents into the mix (you asked! ). Take it all with a grain of salt. If you're willing to do the work, I'm sure you'll be real successful. And please, keep us posted on your progress.
 
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Boo
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My husband has been working at a game store for 6 years and after listening to him every day I have learned the following:

1. Every one so far is correct about encouraging game clubs - they will be your biggest source of income. A 10% discount is appropriate to people who can provide you with a recognized club membership card.

2. Make sure that you have more than one supplier, you will be low on the quota totem pole for awhile so it will pay to be able to get stock from more than one place.

3. Have an expandible, clean gaming area. People who stick around tend to buy more stuff. If you do not have a convenience store/coffee shop within a 2 minute walk please have pop and snacks available.

4. Make sure you carry small cheap games as well as the regular ones, things like Icehouse and PotSM sell well to people who balk at first about buying the larger more expensive games and can lure them back. Also make sure that you carry the Munchkin, Chez, and Cheepass games - they are inexpensive and people will always come back for the expansions, they are also very easy to demo.

5. Do not carry games like Monopoly or Clue unless you can provide them at the same or close to the same as the big box stores. That said, you can always try to carry one or two of the specialty editions that the major stores do not carry.

6. Depending on which city you are in make sure you get a location that is close to good busing.

I will ask my husband if he has any other advice for you.
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At best, figure between 15-30% of your volume will be actual board games. RPG's, mini's & mini games, CCG's, etc. will be the bulk of what you sell.

With that in mind I'd pretty much ignore any commentary you get on BGG that you must somehow compete in the pricing arena with online deep discounters. Trust me, your clientel will not be BGG members.

Some of the suggestions here are both excellent and obvious:

* game nights
* structured play like MTG tournaments, 40K, etc.
* demo copies of board games

If you're shooting for 25% of your sales to be board games then it's straightforward that 25% of your initial budget for stock ought to be board games. As for selection, just use the phone, email and a bit of common sense.

1. Let's say you decide to use Alliance as a primary distributor. Work with the sales rep. Get their list of the top 100 sellers. Meld that info with what you see here on BGG. Example - Tide of Iron, Memoir '44, Battlelore would likely be better war "type" games for the general public than ASL.

Settlers, Ticket to Ride, Bang!, Munchkin and that ilk are board games that are easy to demo and viral in nature. One copy sold can infect 5, 6 or more people and spur them into wanting one of their own. The fact that titles like this have expansions, add-ons and other associated products is a bonus... it means cash for you.

2. Make a list of a half dozen stores you admire or have seen and impressed you. Contact the owner(s) and see if they'll give you some phone time or are willing to get an email dialog going. Find out what works, what sells and ask why they think it works and sells. Mostly, game store owners love it when they can pontificate and aid a new store in any fashion.

3. One of the hidden keys to success for any local retailer is pre-ordering and special ordering. By staying abreast of what board games are in the pipeline and doing your best to gauge how many you might sell if you promote them locally you can generate enthusiasm and quickly become the focal point for board games in your community.

I can't stress this aspect of local retailing too much... my store's peak income in the early years of this century was in the $300K range. Fully 30% of this income was generated via promoting not-yet-released products (ranging from MTG to WarMachine to board games and even to Chessex's yearly releases of new dice sets) or through my special order program.

New products that were pre-ordered yet not pre-paid receieved a marginal discount if picked up within the first week... about 5% or so. If they were prepaid I normally discounted 15%, sometimes more depending on my wholesale price or how I viewed the product.

4. My special order policy was very sucessful because I didn't require it to be paid upfront nor did I add any "fees" to the order. In many cases, where I knew the customer, I gave them a discount in the 10-15% range if they prepaid a special order. CAUTION: Utilizing online inventory levels when taking someone's money is critical. Few things are worse than taking a person's money and then having to give it back because you couldn't get what they wanted. Alliance and probably other distributors like ACD have live inventory levels for retailer use.

Overall, I'd shy away from building a customer base based on discount pricing. It's much easier to build a base that is loyal if they are motivated to buy from you because of your selection, your fair discounts (based on an effort they make, such as pre-paying for a new release), your willingness to provide structured gaming and your general knowledge about games overall.

There are some people who'll drive an extra $3 in gas to save $1 on something. In Game Geek terms, BGG has a large number of gamers who will only buy based on how cheaply they can obtain the game. That mindset ought to tell you straight up that anything even remotely similar to loyalty from that group will disappear as soon as they find someone who'll sell it for .79 cents less.

What I'm suggesting is to cater to your hometown gamers and build a store that offers so much in other terms that people will want to shop there because the store and it's staff are great.

Advice - pick a dollar amount that you have determined will mean your store is successful... I dunno, say $250,000 in a year. Now, do the standard math - subtracting fixed and variable costs from that gross income and see what's left. Now take that figure and remove from it the "gross" amount of discounts you would be obliged to give if you established your business based largely on discounting.

Pick the remaining dollar amount that makes you smile between the two and build your business towards making you smile as well as making your local gamers smile... the latter of which you can accomplish just by having a good store.
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Phillip Heaton
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What to stock. You have to know your gaming customers and what they play. If you have a gaming convention in your area, go to it; you might even try selling stuff at a dealer's table to introduce yourself to the area gamers. If you have gaming groups in your area, go to their gaming nights; let them know that you are opening a game store and offer them discounts. Once you have a store, pay attention to what they play. It does no good to stock miniatures, CCGs or board wargames if no one plays them.

One way around this is to offer a 20 or 25% discount if they pre-pay on an order. That way you will already have the cash in hand when you order the game and there will be no chance that the game will sit on the shelves for years (especially important if your state has an inventory tax). I've seen stores that dated their price tags and began discounting them after they had sat on the shelves for six months. Even if all you get is your money back, it is better than having stock that does not move.

If RPGs are popular in your group, DO NOT ORDER EVERYTHING. If all they play is D&D, don't order the complete line of GURPS products. Hold off on carrying lots of D&D stuff as well. Carry the core products (one each), dice and order no more than one copy of anything new, unless there is significant interest in a particular item. Much the same advice applies to miniatures (don't buy Warhammer if they play Flames of War (in fact you might avoid any Games Workshop stuff anyway - they have too many rules)).

What playable samples. Look at the top 50 or so games on BGG. Cross reference that with the types of games your customers play. Don't buy any that haven't been out for a year or more (you want to sell the newer games). Find the cheapest way to get these games that you can (ebay can work, the demo games don't have to be new, you can always say they came from your collection - in fact games from your collection wouldn't be a bad idea since you'll be giving up playing them to run the store, for the most part). You shouldn't stock any games that you don't know how to play.

Quick games to learn and play, AKA filler games, should dominate the collection. These don't have to be in the top 50, just be games you know and enjoy. You might even get to play a few of these!
 
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Marco Grubert
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What Jennifer said. Excellent advice.
Also having loud ueber-geeky war gamers hang around the game tables at my local store makes me not want to try out games there. Instead I prefer coffee house meetings with local gaming groups to try out games.
 
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Anthony Thompson
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Andrew;

You're going to get 99% consumer-level feedback here. I've been a consumer for most of my life and business owner for only some of it, and I can say that we, consumers, don't know the 1st thing about any aspect of a retail operation and it's business decisions, bless our hearts.

I strongly recommend contacting Marcus King of Titan Games and getting access to the Games Information Network (the GIN) on Delphi Forums. It is industry-only and is largely populated by very experienced, very savvy, very helpful retailers who are happy to share their advice.

Good luck and have fun with it,
Thompson
 
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Steven Johnson
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A couple of areas you didn't ask about, but I'll mention them anyway. I've recently traveled across the USA, and I noted a few things that make the difference between a great game store and one that will close as soon as the initial capital runs out.

[By the way, you should have enough capital to operate at a loss for the first year. The first three months, friends and family will keep you afloat, the next 6-9 months will be lean and mean as you develop a community of customers.]

Keep it clean!!!! If you've spent any time in serious game stores, you may have noticed that some of our community are better at moving panzer divisions than personal hygiene. I visited one new store in the mid west that showed a great deal of promise - along with the retail area, he had 4 separate gaming areas for miniatures,wargames, board games and CCG's. I spent a few hours, spent some hard earned cash and had a good time. Five months later I was in the same time and dropped by. The reek of the place hit you when you moved near any of the gaming areas. I bought a magazine and left quickly. A few months later I passed through and discovered the store was closed down. Setting good standards for the ship, the gaming areas and the clients will pay off in the long run. Metagames in Springfield, MO is one of the finest stores in the country. Even your grandmother would be happy visiting the store and buying stuff for you! Another great example is Enigma Games in northwest section of Houston. Mom's like letting their kids spend time (and money) in stores that are pleasant and well kept.

Be nice to the annoying kids! Even when they have a long list of silly questions, they still have parents with cash to spend on their pride and joy! Mike, the manager of Battlezone in Raytown, Missouri is a master of this. He is willing to spend time with kids and answer their endless questions - without being condescending. He treated my kids so well that they will demand a 2 hour detour just to visit his store. The amount I've spent there reflects the excellence of the environment good management creates.
 
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Robert Rossney
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Whenever I hear about someone planning to open a game store, I think of the old joke about the farmer who wins the lottery. When asked what he plans to do with his winnings, he says "I guess I'll just keep farming till it's gone."
 
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Bill Eldard
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TableStar_Thompson wrote:
Andrew;

You're going to get 99% consumer-level feedback here. I've been a consumer for most of my life and business owner for only some of it, and I can say that we, consumers, don't know the 1st thing about any aspect of a retail operation and it's business decisions, bless our hearts.

I strongly recommend contacting Marcus King of Titan Games and getting access to the Games Information Network (the GIN) on Delphi Forums. It is industry-only and is largely populated by very experienced, very savvy, very helpful retailers who are happy to share their advice.

Good luck and have fun with it,
Thompson


Valid point. And craft a complete business plan; don't expect to turn a profit too soon.

You also didn't mention how much square footage and shelf space you're dealing with. If you're going to have a huge store like these two http://gameparlor.com/Store/store.html then you'll need lots of everything, and you don't have to concentrate on just the most popular items. If you're going to have a single store front, then getting the mix of games just right is very important.
 
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Rob Rob
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DW,

I've never been in sales so I may not be asking this quite correctly but in your opinion, do game stores do better prioritizing selling lots of small items vs. a few big ones? E.G. a mess of CCG cards for a couple bucks each (but at a 100% mark up) or a few "monster" games going for $80 (but only a few % mark up)?

Quote:
Have an expandible, clean gaming area. People who stick around tend to buy more stuff. If you do not have a convenience store/coffee shop within a 2 minute walk please have pop and snacks available.


I'd think that vending machines selling cokes and snacks to your gamers might be a pretty good revenue stream. Something also our FLGS does is they buy back used games to resell.

Good luck!
 
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Quote:
DW,
I've never been in sales so I may not be asking this quite correctly but in your opinion, do game stores do better prioritizing selling lots of small items vs. a few big ones? E.G. a mess of CCG cards for a couple bucks each (but at a 100% mark up) or a few "monster" games going for $80 (but only a few % mark up)?


My personal view is that they do better selling everything they can at full mark-up. I also think perception is everything.

As a rule I sold all the basic GW games like Warhammer, 40K and anything in a big box for about $15 below retail. Even though I marked them at full retail. My in-store training was that no clerk or manager was to allow a newbie to pay retail for a GW big box game. The general idea was to "talk 'em up" and then take the $15 off at the counter.

GW will tell you that a basic game sale of 40K will earn the store between $500-1200 over the next 6-18 months. So the philosophy was to get them hooked cheap and then sell the accessories at as close to full mark-up as possible.

I worked as a salesman for a motorcycle dealership in the very early 80's and their technique was exactly the same. We were flexible on the retail price of the bike but invariably got full pop for accessories... which, by the way, had a much better mark-up from wholesale than the actual motorcycle.

Printers are maybe one of the best examples of where the real money is made.

The funny thing is though, about a store like a game store, you really can hit a home run with $1-5 items... and that definitely includes snacks and drinks. As the years went by I built up a much wider array of small little goodies that the casual customer could pick up at the counter or near it for a buck or two. When training my daughter and son to work in my store I explained it to them as "building a pattern of habitual buying". The concept (a primitive and still devastingly effect marketing strategy) is that people become comfortable buying in the same location over time. The inverse would be that people who you don't convert become just as comfortable not buying over time when that's the pattern they establish.

The retailer's job is obvious... sell them something, even if it's a pack of CCG cards or a bag of Cheetos.
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Andrew Brannan
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Robrob wrote:
DW,

I've never been in sales so I may not be asking this quite correctly but in your opinion, do game stores do better prioritizing selling lots of small items vs. a few big ones? E.G. a mess of CCG cards for a couple bucks each (but at a 100% mark up) or a few "monster" games going for $80 (but only a few % mark up)?



Well, if I'm selling CCGs at $3 per booster (and $1.50 of that is profit) vs selling an $80 Monster game (where I get, say $20 in profit), I'll make the same amount of money for every 14 boosters I sell vs 1 Monster game. Okay, so, I'm likely to be able to sell 14 boosters at least as often as I can sell one Monster game.

Add to that the fact that the Monster game buyer is not likely to buy another copy from me anytime soon (though I may get one or two ancillary sales from friends who've played Monster's copy) vs that fact that the CCG buyer will almost definitely buy another 14 packs, if not more, and you get a pretty good idea why C*Gs have saved many a game store over the last 15 years.

Even if the profit margins were the same, the CCGs would still be a better bet overall. $3 for a booster is an impulse purchase that many are likely to make, whereas folks are less likely to lay out $80 for the monster game.


There's a rule about sales (and I'm paraphrasing here) that says there are 3 ways to make more money:

1) Increase your number of customers (advertising, wider product ranges, etc)
2) Increase the average transaction amount (Raising prices, impulse buys, service plans, premium items, etc)
3) Increase return visits (loyalty discounts, events, "new release" days, etc)

Take that as you will, I just thought it was worth mentioning.


I'll go on record as in favor of having the "traditional" games, even if they can get them a little cheaper at Wal-Mart, or you take a small loss on them. It means that when someone calls your store, or sticks their head in asking "Do you have Monopoly?", you can say "Yes" and get the person in the door. If you say "No", they'll never enter the store. It's a lost opportunity.

If you can get them in the store, you can sell to them. They may just buy the game and leave, leaving you a few bucks poorer. They may see that odd game that someone had at a party a few years back (usually something still mainstream, like Apples to Apples) and buy that. They might see all those games and ask "Which one of these would be good for my 10-year-old nephew?", or "Is there anything you'd recommend for a game night?" that opens the door for an additional sale. They may have a child with them that sees the flashy colors on a game and asks them to buy it. And so on and so on. The point is, none of that would have been possible if you didn't carry the game. This technique worked wonders for us at the game store where I worked, and we didn't even discount the "traditional" games below MSRP.

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Matt Foulger
Canada
Vancouver
British Columbia
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First of all, good luck with your new store!

I've worked at a games store for about a year and a half now, and although since I don't own the store I can't give you informed advice on the financial side of things, I have a few suggestions.

In no particular order:

Don't fall into the trap of trying to compete on price alone. Any customers you gain this way, you will lose just as easily. You can't compete with online retailers, anyway. You're not going to win over customers who frequently buy games online by discounting. Win them over by playing to your strength: you're a friendly local game store!

Don't do what comics stores tend to do and offer all of your 'regulars' discounts. Pretty soon everybody is a 'regular', ie they buy stuff every few weeks, and will want a discount. Then your biggest customers will expect even better discounts, and so on and so on. Like I said I'm not an owner so this is just personal opinion but I can certainly tell you that getting customer loyalty is not just about giving away discounts.

Build your customer base. Make your store welcoming for non-gamers, and have the 'gateway' games prominently displayed. Your mission is to make non-gamers into gamers. Make sure first-timers buy gateway games like Settlers, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride. These games are great stepping stones in to gaming and they are viral. If you have a young couple walk into your store and the man is excited about Axis and Allies, but you can see his girlfriend is not excited, steer them towards something they will both like (this is just a stereotypical example - A&A is great, too, for the right people!)

This might seem like the most obvious advice, but I cannot overstate the importance of matching the right people with the right game. In the long term, selling somebody an expensive or high-margin item that they won't fall in love with is nowhere near as important as selling them something GOOD. They'll keep coming back and asking your advice as they build their collection. If all else fails and you can't find somebody the perfect game, remember your go-to games. Honestly, you can build your German games side of your business around a few core games and then use the Geek to expand from there. I crank out the Carcassonnes, Settlers and TTR's, and get people interested in German games. Before I know it, they've discovered the Geek and come back asking for Puerto Rico or a cool Fantasy Flight game.

I agree with an earlier poster's point that not having the "mainstream" games in-store is a lost oppurtunity. Stocking those games helps get people in the door and gives you a chance to show them the unique games that they won't find at Wal-Mart. But really, you don't need to carry them all. On a related note - when someone calls me up and asks about a game I don't have, I'll just ask them what kind of game it is and tell them what we DO have. Usually they'll be intrigued and come check the store out. This definitely goes for people who are looking for a gift and are just relieved to hear suggestions, especially at Christmas time.

One other thing: your best form of advertising is word of mouth. You can also get FREE advertising in the local media. The whole "Board games are making a comeback!" story angle never gets old If you have regular boardgame nights (which you should!) they are the perfect time for a local newsweekly human interest writer to come check out your store. From their perspective, these newfangled German board games are very interesting and worth writing about. Also, make a great website so that when people type in "boardgames + your town name", your store pops up. Resources spent on this type of publicity are way more effective than buying ads, IMHO. Paid ads are a rip-off when you're a small business in a niche market. Your customers will advertise you for free.

Make sure you find your happy balance in time and resources between supporting collectable games and the rest of your business. I think it really depends on your local neighborhood and what other shops in the area are already doing.

Put board games, poker chips, chess sets near the front of the store. This will make it more welcoming for non-gamers to wander in. People looking for RPG's, Heroclix, etc, will walk in anyways. I also think gaming tables shouldn't be in the front - although they should obviously be noticable so people will see the gaming and ask about game nights, etc. I think that tables filled with CCG or miniatures gamers in the front of the store will inevitably lead non-gamers to think your store caters only to hard-cores, and they won't stay as long to browse. *This is not to say you should not cater to hard-core gamers too!!* Hopefully you get my meaning, here.

I think everything is variable based on your neighborhood. Urban? Suburbs? Upscale? Near a university? Your clientele isn't neccesarily "every gamer in my metro area", it's "every person in my neighborhood who I will convert into a gamer".

These are just a few personal opinions based on my experience as a gaming evangelist

Good luck!



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