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Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like?
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TOPIC: Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like?
#54720
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
1. Don't rely solely on a distributor. Be an online ordering hub.

If someone comes in looking for a specific product that you don't have, look for it online and offer to order it for them. Have an internet connection ready at all times, with as many links to manufacturers' websites as possible. Figure out a pricing policy up front (a percentage of the total cost of the order, probably) and make sure people know what it is.

Some people are wary of using credit cards online, or receiving orders at home. Some people don't want to do their own internet searches. That is a service you can provide for a reasonable fee.

My LGS handles orders by taking down your information, then waiting to see if their distributor happens to send it with the next shipment. Terrible.

2. Feed the gamers.

Weigh this one carefully against the necessity of maintaining a neat, clean store.

Consider installing a (mini?) fridge with cold drinks and a rack of snacks for people who are using the tables. A group of six gamers might drop as much as $30 on soda, chips, and candy during an extended session.

Also find out if you can establish a relationship with a couple of nearby takeout/delivery places, but only one of any given type (pizza, Chinese, etc.) If you can get a discount in exchange for exclusive rights in your store, you might be able to pocket some of that discount. (But you might have to act as intermediary in the order/pay process.)

3. Post your prices and fees prominently!

Nothing dissipates customer loyalty faster than the impression they are being gouged. If you are charging to use the tables, put up a sign in plain sight. If there is a fee for ordering something to be delivered to the store, put up a sign in plain sight. Don't wait until someone has settled in to play a game, or gone through the process of placing an order, or anything else, to reveal that there is a fee for doing so. Even the most reasonable pricing in the world feels like gouging when it is sprung on you at the last minute.

4. Be knowledgeable. Failing that, appear knowledgeable.

Try to have a broad knowledge of the industries represented in your stock. If you carry board games, read industry news about board games and keep up with new releases. If you carry miniatures, try to keep up with all of the manufacturers and know what kind of miniatures they make. Et cetera. When someone asks a question you don't know the answer to, be honest that you don't know but follow up with "but I can find out in [TIMEFRAME]".

Hopefully, you'll be able to find websites that do this for you. Finding independent websites that collect information from numerous company websites is much better than going to numerous company websites yourself. Industry magazines should be required reading for you and your staff.

And leverage web sites that sell OOP items like Noble Knight Games, or search engines dedicated to finding merchandise like www.thefind.com (which is where I found I found several WizKids HorrorClix starters for the "creepy tree" item).
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#54731
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
A lot of excellent points. Dafrca's first two points should be a must for any establishment that deals with the public, especially for a reason I will elaborate later. The third point and jackattack's points all seem like sound advice to me.

The point I hinted at earlier is that the gaming crowd is not your only market. They have relatives that buy things for gifts for their gamers and they also buy the occasional board game or non-ccg card game. While cleanliness, ambiance, and service oriented staff are important for catering to gamers, they are critical for non-gamers since they have less motivation to shop the flgs than a gamer. Another thing that arises from this point is the wishlist. If their account allows them to create a list indexed to their name that relatives can buy from for them this is a wonderful selling tool. Relatives and friends can now buy wanted items without fear of getting the wrong one. Also, gift cards. Gift cards let relatives feed the habit without plunking down enough to buy something outright if need be.

It also helps to troll Craigslist and other sources of used material to snatch up good deals that can be moved to your shelves.

The final point is relationships. Develop the closest ones you can with developers, manufacturers, and local business. Encourage them to come out to your shop any way you can. To this end it is important to find out who is in your area and what events draw others to the area. If you pack your shop for the game and accessory makers and let them demo their products they will love you. The closer the relationship the easier to get free gifts like samples and promotional materials for both your staff and customers. You can also sometimes wrangle a sneak preview or other special event.

I ran video game stores for two different companies, both of which were not doing well when I took them over. One had a nice turning point with a major Halo tournament. We had a radio station, a ton of free pizza, and prizes sponsored by a local music store and ourselves. The pizza was donated by a Papa John's franchise in return for letting them put up a sign at the event and using their coupons as bag stuffers for a week. There was also a local barber next door that we talked into offering discounted military style crew cuts to sort of fit with the theme. He got a ton of business and we made our event even bigger for 20 minutes of our time. We were in for about $200 while we put on an event that was closer to $3000. The store that had been regularly missing plan made it and then some. We did something similar with the other with a Madden tournament. Sorry this is so long, just felt like this info might help. We need all the quality flgs we can get up and running.
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#54774
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
I did some research (shopping) at several of the local game stores this weekend. Got some interesting ideas, as well as showing me that the customer service part of the equation is sorely lacking in some of the stores. Which is promising for me, as I can sell stuff all day.

One store it felt like I was imposing on the owner by being in there, I interrupted his conversation by asking a question, then while I was looking at some of his add on stuff at the cash register he was giving me the stink eye. No smile, no qualifying questions about what I play to try and build rapport. Disappointing experience, but also good for my business plan.

There was another store that was dedicated only to board games, was brand new, and was the sister store of a comic book shop close by. Very inviting, had stand up card tables to demo all sorts of games. Clerk was friendly, asked what type of games we play, demoed a few games, and we ended up buying a card game. (Gloom if anyone is interested, rather neat concept to that game.)

Luckily, that store and its sister store are on the complete opposite side of town from me, over 30 miles away.


Another question for the crowd:

Would you pay for a private gaming room that had a custom gaming table, terrain, comfortable chairs, projector screen, secured wifi and snack service? (assuming you didnt already have all of the terrain you do)
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#54776
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
swcorwyn wrote:
Another question for the crowd:

Would you pay for a private gaming room that had a custom gaming table, terrain, comfortable chairs, projector screen, secured wifi and snack service? (assuming you didnt already have all of the terrain you do)


I would. The projector isn't useful to me, but I know groups that would use it. Audio hookup for running sound effects would also be good, and possibly a mini collection. Just have to wonder about pilferage.
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#54777
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
nielsene wrote:
swcorwyn wrote:
Another question for the crowd:

Would you pay for a private gaming room that had a custom gaming table, terrain, comfortable chairs, projector screen, secured wifi and snack service? (assuming you didnt already have all of the terrain you do)


I would. The projector isn't useful to me, but I know groups that would use it. Audio hookup for running sound effects would also be good, and possibly a mini collection. Just have to wonder about pilferage.


I forgot to mention Minis, I would definitely have a selection of minis available, both sci fi and fantasy, as well as sci fi and fantasy terrain. Audio would be included. As for losing that product, I would require one person in the group (likely the GM) to do a check in and check out process, like with a rental car. To inventory all of the pieces and note any damages.
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#54778
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
I'm not sure how well the "rental" car system would work. If the collection of terrain and minis are large enough (as I would assume they would be) then doing an exhaustive inventory would take a lot of time and people would get sick of it (and start signing off without doing the full check, so by the time you actual notice the problem it would be well removed from when it went missing. The rental car model works because its a single large item, that can be inspected in a few minutes. With a good terrain/mini collection you're talking low hundreds of items (assuming you've already somewhat segregated sci-fi & fantasy collections into different locked drawers, etc) it would take forever for people to itemize everything everytime... Unless you make them pay a significant deposit, they probably won't be motivated to check.... and if you require a hefty deposit, I think people won't take advantage of it.
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#54779
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
To be honest I would question the "private" room idea. For those who don't have the money it is beyond them. For those who do have the money, I bet they already have the money. Lastly you will have a hard time controlling what goes into that room and what happens in that room. I think open game areas are good, they allow on site games, but I would really question the cost vs return of private rooms. You would be spending the money to stock those rooms. What would you have to charge not only to cover the cost fo the time they are in the room, but the upkeep and the time no one is using the room.
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#54780
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
I would do a LOT of math before I committed to a fully supplied luxury gaming room with a full electronics suite.

I suspect that the startup and overhead costs would make that an expensive proposition, and unless you live in a fairly affluent area people are not going to want to pay. Especially if there is an extensive sign-in, deposit down, inventory-out process involved. When the economy crashed, my LGS reduced its hours to save on utilities and started charging a dollar per chair -- and all of the gamers stopped playing at the store and went back to their basements.

You need to be prepared to cool the room year-round, and ventilate well. Five to nine people in a restricted space generate a lot of heat, and after a couple-few hours they can get a little gamey.

You need to be able to see into the room so you can monitor and intervene if the gamers start to misbehave. This can range from taping artwork to the walls to abusing the furniture to raised voices to playful (or not-so-playful) roughhousing. You also want your customers to see people having fun playing the games.

You need to keep the electronics operational at all times. Customers paying a premium to rent a gaming space will expect everything to be as advertised, and can get very snarky when the projector's bulb burns out or the speakers buzz or the wifi goes down.

I would not offer minis or terrain unless it was a store sponsored event being directly supervised by at least two store employees. In order to have a useful selection, you would have to supply thousands of dollars worth of minis and terrain, comprising hundreds of individual pieces. And pilfering aside, the more items the store provides for gamers' use, the fewer items gamers are going to buy from the store.

If I were doing this, I would offer a clean room with light colored walls, and variable overhead light settings. If possible, I would give the room its own thermostat (or at the very least a fan) with lo-med-hi settings. Lights should be LED or fluorescent to minimize heat. Chairs should be sturdy with firm back support -- upholstery is only going to get torn and stained, faster than you thought possible. The table should be sturdy and simple -- the fanciest I would get would be flat pull-outs for people to put their papers on when the table surface gets cluttered. I would put a large picture window in the wall between the gaming room and the store, and I'd think seriously about a smooth tile floor with a lip at the doorway to contain spills.

None of this should be taken to mean that I don't appreciate the ideas behind your dream store. I just think that you need to weigh practical concerns against high concept, especially if you are going to apply for any kind of business loan. Keep your costs low to start out, then upgrade when you have a few years of success under your belt and have a good idea how your customers treat your space.
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#54781
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
Thanks Jack, I hadnt considered ALL of that. ITs one of the reasons I am crowdsourcing input, as well as putting together a business plan, researching like crazy, following forums and blogs, trying to find dave wallace's book. I am looking at a few years before it is all put together and I am actually ready to start the work of leasing, paperwork and everything else. But I want to be prepared.
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#54782
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
Absolutely the right way to do it.
jackattack
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Last Edit: 2013/07/15 17:15 By jackattack.
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#54783
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
I have worked and managed retail for over a decade, I understand the entire front and back end process, just need to adapt it to specialty retail like this. I am confident in my abilities, just need the knowledge. (And, you know, the money) :-D
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#54785
Re:Gaming Stores: What do you like or not like? 1 Year, 2 Months ago  
SWCORWYN,

I was surprised when I read you are in Las Vegas! How long have you been here in town? I ask because I am a native of the valley and have been gaming here since the eighties. I have seen many gaming stores come and go here. I would love to see a good gaming store open here. I assume you have already checked out what would be your competition and judged the hits and misses in their version of a gaming store? I would be very interested in seeing you achieve this vision, this valley needs it.

Jeff
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