Why Game Stores Fail

Some thoughts on running a game store by Shunsen.

During nearly twenty years of gaming (I started playing Magic somewhere in the middle of Mirage) I have experienced several “friendly local game stores” (FLGS). Many of them don’t exist anymore. There’s a bunch of reasons for this. The ones below are the most important ones from my point of view, and they mainly have to do with the fact that FLGS way to often consider themselves as stores, literally. What do I mean by this?

  1. This reason was already important ten years ago, nowadays I consider it reason #1. FLGS often have opening hours like a regular retail store: 10 am till 8 pm on weekdays. If 90% of your customers are Yu-Gi-Oh-/Pokemon-kids this might be an option. If you want to attract mature customers with real jobs you should have (at least) two week-day evenings with opening times until 10 pm or later. Otherwise they have to play at their kitchen tables. And if they have to play at their kitchen tables they can buy those cardboard/board games from infamous online stores (the last point is now way more important than 10 years ago)…
  2. Many stores still try to make a business out of selling cardboard/board games/tabletop miniatures. Back in the 90s there was a reasonable margin on all these geek products. Now there is heavy competition (see above). If you want to make a living from selling geek stuff you have to have a mass market compatible range of products. This means comic books and merchandising stuff from well known TV series. The other option is to make money out of people while they are at the store, playing at your store. How so? Let them rent games, or even better, sell stuff to them to make them play: Make them play draft tournaments… Often! And we can learn things from other branches here: Do gas station operator live from selling gas? No. What makes a night at the movie theater expensive? Right, Coke and popcorn… Sell drinks to the people while playing. If they buy enough drinks and snacks you don’t even have to take a rent on the board games…
  3. Don’t tread your customers (just) like customers! People like your store? Let them show it! Sell shirts to them. Give shirts to tournament winners. Or play mats or deck boxes or…
  4. Hire professional employees. Having students that already play your products as employees might help in some regards, they can demo, TO right away. But this leads to high fluctuation in your employees (if your students are at least mildly successful with their studies 😉 ). Train your full-time employees in your games, let them demo regularly…
  5. I know, you love those games and wanted to make a living out of your hobbies… But now it’s your job. Get a course in controlling and marketing. And no, “marketing” is not a synonym to “advertising”, but that’ the first thing you’ll learn in that course.

Why do I write such stuff? Gamer’s may play at the kitchen table… But growing communities need central meeting points. Many of us want to play tournaments, some want to do so regularly. We need those stores. Most of this text is about how to get into those stores more often and how this should be more profitable for the shop owner. We like them (see above, we are happy to wear shirts with your logo)! So feel free to ask The Flatline for advice! The LCG community in Berlin likes to grow, and we are happy to let your revenues grow as well!

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