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Subject: Hobby Store Business? rss

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Laura BlueFrost
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In my country there are NO stores that sells non-classic Board Games or Miniature/Card Games. None. But that's because these games are not popular.

I was thinking of making a business where I can sell Board Games, Miniature Games, Card Games, Comics and what have you. I know there are die hard fans around and I know if they hear about the store they would be frequent visitors. I also optimistic about luring new people to these genres and I will target specific age demographics with some sort of a marketing campaign (schools, colleges..etc).

I did some research about "Hobby Stores" and I found out that everyone says it's a bad business plan. I just think there's potential for me in where I live since there's zero competition and the market is sleeping and can be stirred and lured with the right bait.

What do you guys think, should I make such a crazy plan? if yes, what are the things that I must do and not do? Note that I don't want to make CRAZY money, just some profit would make me satisfied.

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Steven Metzger
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mmotomb wrote:

In my country there are NO stores that sells non-classic Board Games or Miniature/Card Games. None. But that's because these games are not popular.
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Neil Wehneman
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Laura BlueFrost wrote:

In my country there are NO stores that sells non-classic Board Games or Miniature/Card Games.


Did you mean country or county?

- Neil Wehneman
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Bill Eldard
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mmotomb wrote:
In my country there are NO stores that sells non-classic Board Games or Miniature/Card Games. None. But that's because these games are not popular.


If you're an American as you flag implies, there are actually many such stores in the country. I assume you meant county.

mmotomb wrote:
I was thinking of making a business where I can sell Board Games, Miniature Games, Card Games, Comics and what have you. I know there are die hard fans around and I know if they hear about the store they would be frequent visitors. I also optimistic about luring new people to these genres and I will target specific age demographics with some sort of a marketing campaign (schools, colleges..etc).


What you're describing sounds a lot like Game Parlor, which has two stores in northern Virginia (accessible to the Washington DC metropolitan area). Check their website.

mmotomb wrote:
I did some research about "Hobby Stores" and I found out that everyone says it's a bad business plan. I just think there's potential for me in where I live since there's zero competition and the market is sleeping and can be stirred and lured with the right bait.


In general, game stores have struggled in the Washington DC area, which has a large population base to draw on. A number of them have folded, and the survivors aren't thriving like they did 5-10 years ago.

Is your community urban, suburban, or rural? How much of a radius are you planning on drawing on?

mmotomb wrote:
What do you guys think, should I make such a crazy plan? if yes, what are the things that I must do and not do? Note that I don't want to make CRAZY money, just some profit would make me satisfied.


Would this business be your primary source of income?

How many employees will you hire? Will you work the store yourself?

Will you also get into mail and web sales?

Would you borrow money to get started? Will your location be owned or rented?

Will you incorporate or go LLC to protect your personal property?

Can you afford to lose money for the first two years?
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John Bobek
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Bill has stated it best. It's always a risk to start your own business. Being in an economy populated with nervous nellies won't help. I wouldn't want to discourage you but add the caution that you need something to fall back on if you can't pay your bills. If you have another source of income, then a hobby shop would, even if it did poorly, at least provide a tax write off. I wish you all the best!!!
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Laura BlueFrost
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yeah that one sounded stupid, no Hobby Stores in America.. lol.


Would this business be your primary source of income?
No, I will not quit my day job.

How many employees will you hire? Will you work the store yourself?
I am planning to have 1-2 employees and I will work on the store.


Will you also get into mail and web sales?
There's going to be a website, but I don't have any plans to mail or deliver games.


Would you borrow money to get started? Will your location be owned or rented?
So, far I'm thinking of using my saved money to establish this project. I am willing to get a loan after I make more research on the matter. I will be seeking a place to rent for the store.


Will you incorporate or go LLC to protect your personal property?
LLC, it will never become incorporated. I'm not aiming for big business. I would be happy to be an average local store which makes some profit.


Can you afford to lose money for the first two years?
Well, depends on how much money I'm going to lose. I was hoping it would at least pay the place's rental and employee payroll. I'm not expecting to make profit from my initial cost of the establishment in the first year. But at least the monthly expenses would be covered.


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Laura BlueFrost
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Wargamer204 wrote:
Bill has stated it best. It's always a risk to start your own business. Being in an economy populated with nervous nellies won't help. I wouldn't want to discourage you but add the caution that you need something to fall back on if you can't pay your bills. If you have another source of income, then a hobby shop would, even if it did poorly, at least provide a tax write off. I wish you all the best!!!


Thank you!

Yeah everyone told me it's not the brightest idea to get into this business. I just don't understand why. I think there are enough fangs of Board Games, Miniatures, Comics, Card Games that would make the store going. Specially being the only option in a town/city of 500,000+ population (including the suburbs).
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Ed Lizak
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I've been an owner and I can tell by your replies that you really have a lot to learn before you can make an informed decision.

It will take a LOT more time than you think.

There will be a LOT less sales than you think.

It will cost a LOT more than you think to stay in business.

Having employees and the paperwork that goes along with them will be a LOT more hassle than you think.

Overall, there are so many negatives that you need to know a lot more about before you should spend real money on this venture.

Forgot to add: Doing it part time means you won't be dependant on the store for an income but it also means you will never be as committed as you should be. Eventually it will get to the point where you don't feel like dealing with the hassles and because it's the easy way out, you will close the store. Sorry to be so negative but I really believe you have to be extremely committed to make this type of thing work.
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One rule of thumb: expect to lose money the first two years, at a minimum.

The reason there is no game stores now in your county may be because there have been game stores in the past and they did not succeed. Do some historical work to see if that is the case.

"frequent visitors" doesn't equal "making money". Take a hard look at the people you think would be frequent visitors. Do they spend money now? Do they eat out? Do they tip? Or do they like to hang out...and spend nothing?

How will you compete with Amazon.com and other online retailers? Including the many retailers who advertise right here on Geek?

How are comic and book retailers doing in your area? Model hobby shops?
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Bill Eldard
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mmotomb wrote:
Wargamer204 wrote:
Bill has stated it best. It's always a risk to start your own business. Being in an economy populated with nervous nellies won't help. I wouldn't want to discourage you but add the caution that you need something to fall back on if you can't pay your bills. If you have another source of income, then a hobby shop would, even if it did poorly, at least provide a tax write off. I wish you all the best!!!


Thank you!

Yeah everyone told me it's not the brightest idea to get into this business. I just don't understand why. I think there are enough fangs of Board Games, Miniatures, Comics, Card Games that would make the store going. Specially being the only option in a town/city of 500,000+ population (including the suburbs).


There are a number of factors that make a game store start-up difficult, not the least of which is the recessed economic situation in the US right now. Games priced at $40-$80 are a big investment to people breaking into the hobby. Sales are down.

Also, it's easy for we fans of eurogames, wargames, RPGs, etc. to over-estimate their appeal to the general public. It's not easy to expand the base.

There's also stiff competition from online resources, from e-stores to eBay. I know folks who do their window shopping at games stores and then order online to get the discounts.

This isn't to say that you can't succeed. But make sure your expectation are realistic.

You might consider starting a gaming club or offer to teach gaming to adult education classes and civic groups to get an idea of how much interest there may be.
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R Mayers
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Make sure you can sell sodas, water, chips, snacks, etc. Also, check and see how much extra you'd need to spend to open a small restaurant. That would allow you to serve meals and / or prepackaged foods.

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james collins
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Survive, make it big or die in flames. I gave you a thumbs up because you are following a dream to own your own business. Good Luck!
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Bill Eldard
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VegasRobb wrote:
Make sure you can sell sodas, water, chips, snacks, etc. Also, check and see how much extra you'd need to spend to open a small restaurant. That would allow you to serve meals and / or prepackaged foods.


Are you presuming that Laura is going to have gaming tables in the store?

Even if the store is to have tables, I would strongly advise against selling any food beyond soda-water-chips-snacks. Serving meals is a massive added investment and expense requiring licensing, health and fire inspections, liability insurance, and the training and supervision of food-handlers. There are also issues of refrigeration and dry food storage, sanitation, and spoilage.

Based on Laura's business model, I'd say food service is just too hard.

As fans, we all dream of a store where we can buy merchandise, meet friends and make new ones over games, and enjoy some good food while we're playing.

But there's a reason why you don't see a lot of stores like that around.

Laura seems intent on focusing on game sales, and I advise against getting very grandiose about it. If the store takes off, serving food may be something to consider. Or perhaps there's a food-service businessman wouldn't mind teaming up with the game store and share space.

I recommend against mixing the two from the start.

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james collins
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Eldard wrote:
VegasRobb wrote:
Make sure you can sell sodas, water, chips, snacks, etc. Also, check and see how much extra you'd need to spend to open a small restaurant. That would allow you to serve meals and / or prepackaged foods.


Are you presuming that Laura is going to have gaming tables in the store?

Even if the store is to have tables, I would strongly advise against selling any food beyond soda-water-chips-snacks. Serving meals is a massive added investment and expense requiring licensing, health and fire inspections, liability insurance, and the training and supervision of food-handlers. There are also issues of refrigeration and dry food storage, sanitation, and spoilage.

Based on Laura's business model, I'd say food service is just too hard.

As fans, we all dream of a store where we can buy merchandise, meet friends and make new ones over games, and enjoy some good food while we're playing.

But there's a reason why you don't see a lot of stores like that around.

Laura seems intent on focusing on game sales, and I advise against getting very grandiose about it. If the store takes off, serving food may be something to consider. Or perhaps there's a food-service businessman wouldn't mind teaming up with the game store and share space.

I recommend against mixing the two from the start.



Where is this proposed store going to be located? A mixture of quick finger food and snacks would help increase and impulse buy when the games are not selling. The margins are better and it would look like a Barnes and Noble in my view.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Quote:
How many employees will you hire? Will you work the store yourself?
I am planning to have 1-2 employees and I will work on the store.

Can you afford to lose money for the first two years?
Well, depends on how much money I'm going to lose. I was hoping it would at least pay the place's rental and employee payroll. I'm not expecting to make profit from my initial cost of the establishment in the first year. But at least the monthly expenses would be covered.


Have you done any rough calculations of revenue and expenses? Here are my back-of-the-envelope numbers. If anything, I would guess I am being optimistic, but at least it's a starting point for thought and discussion.

If you have 2 full-time employees at $10/hour, that will cost you about $40k/year. Rent and utilities, licenses, office supplies, accountants, etc. might run $12k (purely a guess, as that will vary greatly depending on size and location, but that's an optimistic guess). Advertising? Figure $6k per year if you want to make a serious go of it (yellow pages, flyers, promotions, maybe some newspaper ads). I'll assume you don't have to repay a loan or pay interest. And I'll count inventory as a one-time investment rather than an ongoing expense. So your expenses in the first two years might be something like $120k, or $5k/month.

If you make $10 per game sold (I have no idea what profit margins are on games), you would have to sell 500 per month. About 16 per day, every day, seven days per week. Two every hour. Sounds difficult to me.

One rule of thumb when starting a small business is to assume that you will have ZERO income for the first two years. Hopefully you'll do better than that, but almost everyone is shocked at how long it takes to get even a few people in the door. And shocked again at how few people actually make a purchase, and/or how little they spend. Better to expect and be prepared for the worst, and perhaps be pleasantly surprised.

Now, if you look at those expense numbers, you will quickly see that employees are EXPEN$IVE. So an alternative would be a shoestring approach: Find a little space for $200/month, have no employees, and only open weekends and maybe an evening or two each week. Rely on tons of word-of-mouth, online, and free-publicity rather than any paid advertising. Maybe you could get volunteer labor (who could borrow demo games and meet other gamers as perks) to extend your hours. Now you only have to sell 20 games per month (five games per week) to break even. But of course you are only open maybe 20 hours per week, so your per-hour revenue needs are still pretty daunting. Plus you would be giving up every weekend, which could get old quickly. Maybe you could rent the space during off-hours to bring in a bit more money (but I wouldn't count on a lot from that).

If I were in your shoes, that second scenario seems a whole lot more promising. If/when it takes off, you can always grow.

I visited the two nearest gaming stores for the first time last weekend (we just moved here, and they are about 15 miles away). Each had probably 50-100 Euro games in stock, but none were on my wish list, so I left empty-handed. If games cost $5-10 (I wish!), I might have done an impulse purchase, but at $25-40+, I'm only going to buy a game that I have thoroughly researched. So you'll also have to think about whether you'll stock 100 games ($3k worth of inventory) or 1000 ($30k worth), or some other number.

The guy at one of the two did offer to order any game I wanted, for pick-up in a couple days. The other one should have done the same. The guy at the first store also did a good job of trying to understand my needs and suggested and explained games they had that might have worked. The guy at the second store rambled on a bit too long about a game we had no interest in. You can probably guess which store I am more likely to return to.

My goal isn't to convince you that starting and running a hobby/gaming store is impossible. Just to help you see the real picture, so you can wisely decide whether or not to invest your savings.
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Paul Adams
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My wife owned her own business for years (not in gaming). Based on that experience, I know that the best thing you can do right now is to take as many game store owners out to lunch and ask them all of your questions in person. Even if you have to drive 100 miles or more to meet someone in the next county over, it will definitely be worth the time and effort. Consider the gas and lunch money to be the first investments in your business.

The owners of other businesses will tell you about their experience - good and bad. Pay special attention to the tough things they talk about...the stuff you don't want to hear. By talking to them face to face, you'll get the real story.

What you want at this point - really want - is for other people who have been in your position to tell you the unvarnished truth about what you are getting yourself into. This is far more important than getting people to affirm your idea.

I work in a field that places a very high value on creative ideas. At first what I wanted from my co-workers was for them to endorse my ideas, but I have learned (the hard way) that what I need from my colleagues is their honest feedback, so I can then adapt my ideas for the greatest chance of success.

You may also consider hiring a business consultant to help you get started - try your local chamber of commerce. They'll know your local market better than anyone...and it's yet another investment that could pay off for you in the future!
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Rich Perna
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I live in a decent sized city, and any comics/game store that has succeeded around here uses the following formula:

1. Magic the Gathering. Run games, sell cards, register with Wizards, and get as many games going as you possibly can. This is a large piece of your pie.
2. Treat comic book customers like you are selling rare antiquities. Offer to board/bag books, and set up a weekly subscription service for both locals AND ONLINE.
3. Set up a Amazon store and sell figurines/comics/old stock through it.
4. Set up a website with a gaming calendar and forum.
5. It wouldn't hurt to have a non-nerd side business. One of the successful nerd shops also sells equipment and organizes Disc Golf tournaments. Another is a full blown sports memorabilia and clothing store as well. Yet another sells tons of anime/hentai.
6. Set up a frequent buyer program right off the bat. It gets people to come back.
7. Don't charge retail for the board games, if you ever want to see that inventory move. Otherwise, you will be blowing it all out at 50% off after every Christmas.
8. Don't make your storefront look like a porn shop. Put more than $25 into signage, and put some current advertising up that gets people excited. One of the more successful shops nearby has this really cool neon Magic sign in the front window.
9. Keep your gaming tables clean. Use decent cloths, and sell gaming mats for cheap (they look like huge, thin mouse mats).
10. That reminds me, know where to make profit and where to keep prices low for goodwill. If a new customer comes in and seems interested in Magic, help them build a starter deck out of the junk left over from sealed tournaments (after a few of these, you will have more then you will know what to do with). Bag and board comics for very cheap, or free if someone subscribes to 3+ books for example.

My main concern is that you seem to want to run this store from afar, which is a bad idea. At least find a partner who will man the shop with excellent customer service skills and is also passionate about what it is you're selling.
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Herb Petro
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Listen to all of the GAMA trade show presentations available on podcast. Great stuff in there about running a game store, or any similar retail outlet.

The 2010 presentations are starting to be available, but you need to go back through the presentations from 2009:
http://www.pulpgamer.com/gama/archive/
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Tim Swartz
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peakhope wrote:

Have you done any rough calculations of revenue and expenses? Here are my back-of-the-envelope numbers. If anything, I would guess I am being optimistic, but at least it's a starting point for thought and discussion.
:


I agree strongly with this post. ALWAYS CRUNCH THE NUMBERS. Better now than after you've been in business a year. The salient question is not is there any competition for my venture, but simply do I have a business model that adds up?. Assume you have no competition at all - if the numbers are not profitable under reasonably rosey assumptions, you have a problem.
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Bill Eldard
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bkdlots wrote:
Where is this proposed store going to be located? A mixture of quick finger food and snacks would help increase and impulse buy when the games are not selling. The margins are better and it would look like a Barnes and Noble in my view.


The Barnes & Noble model is the gamer fantasy -- large and broad inventory, discounts, online sales, coffee and food, et al. It's a terrific environment.

But does the food service side pull the store through when sales of books, magazines, and other items are down? I don't know. I do know that I've never been with anyone who suggested stopping in to Barnes & Noble just for coffee and a pastry.

I think the food sales in B&N are designed not to draw the impulse buyer into the store, but to keep the impulse buyer in the store once there. I'm sure their market research discovered that once the impulse player leaves to get food or drink, he/she's not likely to come back in that day. And with the wide array of products B&N sells -- a browser might spend hours in the store if he/she can take a food break during the stay.

There are a lot of factors that impact the game business plan's calculus. I would advise that if Laura wants to include food service, she bring in an expert on that kind of business for advice and possibly partnerhsip.

The first question she has to settle is: "Do I want to run a food service store that sells games, or do I want to run a game store that sells food?"

When she answers that question, then she has to crunch the numbers.
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Leo Zappa
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I'd only suggest doing this if your burning passion is running your own small business, NOT if your burning passion is gaming. It's all about doing whatever it takes to create this business from nothing and investing not just your money but your time, intellect, emotion, and passion into the thing to make it a success. If you are into that, then by all means go for it. Don't do it because you are into gaming and you think owning a gamestore would be neat.
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monchi
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mmotomb wrote:

Will you also get into mail and web sales?
There's going to be a website, but I don't have any plans to mail or deliver games.


If you are serious about this you HAVE to also have online sales and shipping. There is no other way of doing it. I live in Vancouver, BC. So we have a larger population than it sounds like you are drawing on and we only have a handful of games stores with physical locations. All of them have online sales to boost their sales in order to stay in business. I would even suspect that their online sales out weight their store sales.

One of these stores is www.drexollgames.com. Take a look at their site. They don't get into miniatures but to be honest I don't think miniature sales would make the difference as in Vancouver at least miniature retail stores come and go like the bank accounts of those that own them. If you look at Drexoll's prices you will see they are higher than suggested retail, but they need to be as it is the only way to stay in business. Now if you compare this to another Vancouver game outlet which is strictly online you will start to see the picture a little clearer. www.starlitcitadel.com is also a Vancouver based company, the difference is that since they are online only they have a little office space in the bottom of a building where they ship from. If you compare games between these two companies you will see a huge difference. Starlite can get away with this as they don't have large overheads and they are able to sell in greater volume due to their online sales which reaches everywhere. Out of the 500,000 people you have to draw on there will be a large % of those that are into this kind of stuff that will keep buying online even if there is a store in their backyard as online is way cheaper.

Vancouver's population, well the Greater Vancouver Regional District, in 2007 was 2.2million. We have 2 major Universities, several colleges and a very diverse population and yet I don't think we are able to support a retail only store like you are proposing. One thing to keep in mind is that with a customer base such as you are looking to attract there are a lot of people that just come in to hang out. Drexoll has open games and tables that you can come in and try games out at, doesn't mean you will get a sale from it. Plus there is an increasing number of people that do a majority of their purchasing online these days, so not offering online and mail sales is like shooting yourself in the head.

Not sure how much math you have done on this, but to put things into perspective say you rent a 500sqft store front, which is very small, and you are paying $5/sqft in rent, probably very cheap, your rent per month is $2500. In reality it is easily double this amount. In order to pay for your rent alone you need to sell $2500 a month. I know US min wage is less than here so say you pay your 2 employees $6/hr and combined they work 40hrs a week that is about another $1000 in payroll. Now you need make $3500 to break even and you aren't even paying your self yet let alone the other operating costs. If you take an average game at say $50, your cost would be $25, this means you need to sell something like 140 games a month in order to break even which is 35 games per week.

I would encourage you to do a poll. Ask how many games a year people buy, how often they buy new games, on average how much they spend each time they buy, and if they buy online or in a store. I know that with my group and personally we only added maybe 6 games a year. I am sure that there are people out there buying on a more regular basis, but there isn't a lot of disposable income these days and people are being tighter with their money. College kids may love games but they won't make you rich. They are the people that go to a coffee shop, buy a small coffee for $1 and then hang out using your free WiFi for the next 3 hours.

You may be better off to start by opening an online store. With Starlite if you live in Vancouver you can go to his office and pick up your games. So when it comes to servicing your immediate area you can offer free pick ups and that will get you face time with the local community and from there you can judge if they are able to support a store. If you ask people if they would like and support this kind of store they will all tell you yes, but can they and will they back it up with hard sales needed to support it, it doesn't matter how much support they say they will give you if that support doesn't translate into sales.

Think hard before sinking your savings into just a store as it is a far harder business than it appears on the surface. I wish you all the best and hope if you follow through with it that you are successful.
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Bill Eldard
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desertfox2004 wrote:
I'd only suggest doing this is your burning passion is running your own small business, NOT if your burning passion is gaming. It's all about doing whatever it takes to create this business from nothing and investing not just your money but your time, intellect, emotion, and passion into the thing to make it a success. If you are into that, then by all means go for it. Don't do it because you are into gaming and you think owning a gamestore would be neat.


Leo is right. Very sound advice.
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Marty Sample
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Take some time and read all of the posts in this blog, written by a FLGS owner in the Bay area. Very illuminating. Not all posts are about the business of running a game store, but many are.

http://blackdiamondgames.blogspot.com/
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Martin Mathes
Germany
Essen
NRW
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I have never run a game store . . . . but worked in a game's store second branch that was actually set in the mensa area of a big university.

the setting was ideal!

100% sorted customer group - that is young, nerdy students and the like, some nerdy professors as well

several gaming groups of any sort from chess to RPGs at the university and around.

low costs for the booth and employees - then students like me payed per the hour low rates and sure to reinvest some of the money back into the shop.

but the money was made with a few silly games like Halli Galli

and the sale of huge brightly colored bouncing balls . . .

the "ernest" board games and the RPG stuff had always the problem of:

even back in the late eighties and early nineties a small shop wasn't able to compare with the big department stores flushing the market with special offers . . . nowadays with all the online-shops this will even be worse.

back than, a small shop at least had the opportunity to be able to order games and supply items not available anywhere else - nowadays even in the most remote part of the world one can order almost every game and game accessoire from anywhere and have it delivered the next day.

the booth eventually closed with the crisis on the game market during the first half of the 90s and a substantial rise in rent.

a shop has to have a lot of games in stock . . . and you don't know, which will be sold in a good turnaround time and what will be eating up shelfspace for a century . . . yuk

ok, IF you are really in it then at least combine the shop with a decent gaming area . . . for all kinds of games with lots of coffee and soft drinks.

those regular gamers are the ones that will buy at least one item from your shop every other day - dice, miniatures, a pack of CCG boosters . . . anything.

but go ahead . . . more gaming opportunities are good

ciao

martin m.
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