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Author Topic: Opening a game/nerd store.  (Read 2158 times)

Offline Gracchus Armisurplus

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Opening a game/nerd store.
« on: April 09, 2016, 11:12:39 PM »
Hello team. It's been my desire for some time to open my own nerd dungeon and an important part of that is doing my homework. So I thought I'd start by asking the online community what they think about. I'd particularly like to hear from store owners or people who have previously worked at or owned a store. I'd like to hear about what products sell really well, what ones have the best profit margins, what tips or tricks you used to get people in the door, how you competed with the online market, mistakes you made, opportunities you missed, how much start-up capital you used, how large your town was and if it had any competing stores, etc.

Basically anything you can tell me! And if you've never had a game store, then I'd like to hear about what you want in a store, what I could offer you, ways I could encourage you to buy from me instead of online, things you'd like to see on the shelf, etc.

Offline rebelyell2006

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2016, 11:35:44 PM »
I've only worked three months in the for-profit world, but some ideas from the museum field and public sector are universal: know your audience and community.  Figure out what your community/clientele will be, what they want, what they need, and what they can afford.  And plan from there.

And if your community base is across a larger region (like say New Mexico), find a store location that is close to an interstate exit and easy to find.  And offer products and prices and friendly customer service that would justify driving 2 hours to find the store.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2016, 11:43:24 PM by rebelyell2006 »

Offline Cubs

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2016, 06:03:27 PM »
I worked a lot of years in retail, including a few as store manager of a gadget and toy shop. The three absolutely golden rules are -

1) Keep the shop clean.
2) Keep the shelves full.
3) Make sure everything is clearly priced.

There's lots of other stuff as well of course, some of which will probably be common sense, some of which is less obvious.

An important thing to tackle in being self-employed is to be honest about your own abilities and limitations. You can't work 24/7 and at some point you're probably going to have to hire staff and delegate. Judging someone's suitability from a resume and a quick interview is a trick I never learned ... I think you just have to go on gut feeling ad rely on your own judgement with this. If you already know someone you can trust, this might help, but then there are issues to consider regarding how the relationship will change when they become your employee.

Good luck with it all. If your bank has a business advisor, I would thoroughly recommend using them as much as possible, too. 
'Sir John ejaculated explosively, sitting up in his chair.' ... 'The Black Gang'.

Paul Cubbin Miniature Painter

Offline nic-e

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2016, 06:35:45 PM »
Currently a shop troll at a big london shop.
X wing sells like crack .
Magic the gathering sells better than crack.
Warhammer 40k is always a steady seller and the new gw releases are always in demand to someone,especially if you do online selling. (f--k you deathwatch, 400 preorders!)

If you make the effort to build up communities, you can sell pretty much anything . We have alot of guildball and malifuax players, more than i've seen anywhere else and so we stock alot of it and sell alot.

people like the essentials aswell, paint, bases, tools ,glue, never let them go out of stock!

Hire friendly staff rather than just people who are game encyclopedias. My local shop has this problem of having every staff member bar one being a hardcore gamer, but not one of them knowing how to talk to a customer or organize a shop.

(as a side note, i''ve often wanted to start up a small shop within another shop selling rare/old/oop models in person rather than online.like an old bookshop but for lead.)
never trust a horse, they make a commitment to shoes that no animal should make.


Offline rebelyell2006

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2016, 07:05:20 PM »
It might help to give advice if we knew where you were considering to set up a shop.  A shop in a densely-populated urban or suburban area like Atlanta would operate differently than a shop in central Texas or in the mountains out west.

Offline Hobgoblin

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2016, 07:30:39 PM »

(as a side note, i''ve often wanted to start up a small shop within another shop selling rare/old/oop models in person rather than online.like an old bookshop but for lead.)

Off-topic, but that is a brilliant idea! I've often rhapsodised to anyone who'll listen about the value of second-hand bookshops in the internet age: there's too much choice online, so having the itch for a book and being confronted with a limited set of options is a great scenario. It's very easy to find things that you'd forgotten you wanted and things that you didn't know you need.

On-topic: selling bits for (literally) pennies is a great way of helping customers out and encouraging sales. I buy very few miniatures, as I have thousands from the first phase of my 'career', but the shop where I go to buy paints has trays and trays of plastic bits (presumably spares from staff/shop kits) that they sell for almost nothing. It's great for picking up bits for conversions and kitbashes (as for the assembly of these chaps). And, from the owner's perspective, it encourages loyalty and impulse purchases.

Offline fastolfrus

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2016, 09:04:23 PM »
Make sure it's well lit so you (and your customers) can see things clearly.
Well ventilated could be a bonus, apart from glue or paint fumes you need to avoid lingering smells from food (or possibly customers).
Although depending on which country you are in some smells might be ok eg a coffee machine (for you or for regular customers?).
Personally I don't drink coffee, but it would be nice to be asked.
Although an old shop I used to go to would offer a glass of sherry and mince pie or piece of cake at Christmas. Very convivial.

Gary, Glynis, and Alasdair (there are three of us, but we are too mean to have more than one login)

Offline Cory

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2016, 10:05:31 PM »
I have never owned a game store but I have helped liquidate several and as a commercial real estate agent handled the sale of a few others as well as bank appraisals/SBA loans on some others. Here are some ideas from the thirty or so game stores I've visited in the last year.

First thing is to understand the difference between being a pure game store and a more general nerd store in terms of what your customer base will be. Next be careful not to segregate the stock in such a way as to relegate any group to the corner, such as the corner gaming "niche". the store should feel unified instead of like a bazaar with a single pay point.

Gaming and other specialized merchandise should be in the back so that the customers for those pass through more general interest merchandise. For examples T shirts and clothing that might interest anyone up front.

Be aware that you need plenty of light in the store but be careful of natural light. Travelling around the US I am amazed at how many stores have collectibles, books, and even magic cards that have been sunbleached and thus rendered undesirable. If you have large store windows it is worth the money to have them tinted, but be careful about how dark you go as too dark makes a place look creepy.

The first person of the day needs to be scheduled a half hour to hour to prepare the store, especially cleaning. This is so important but I see quite a few places that the person opening shows up with customers waiting and so never gets time to do the basic tasks. Also the store begins at the street. A clean parking lot takes only a few minutes in a small strip mall but is worth it long term - see the "broken window" theory. Related to this, if in a small strip mall make sure all lights are operating and ask the landlord if you can fill any window space of vacant stores with posters or signs so the place has a more vibrant vibe.

There should be an outside ashtray about six to seven feet outside the door, preferably one with a lid. That is about as far as the average smoker will go and the lid discourages leaving a cigarette burning.

Don't forget the importance of impulse purchases - sure it is nice to sell the $90 game but many folks who stop in will be looking for anything rather than something - small purchases are best for this which is why so many places have dice by the entrance.

Used products may not demand as much shelf space as new ones, but they should be displayed with the same pride, so make sure any used items are as clean and attractive as possible.

All employees should wear name tags, and as the owner yours should say owner underneath. Customers will relate better, know who to complain too, and feel loyalty.

A smiling girl (real, not an anime cut out) at the counter will bring in 10 times more customers than the most knowledgeable male.


Offline Gracchus Armisurplus

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2016, 10:24:50 PM »
Thanks Cory, there's a lot of food for thought there! When you say the store should feel unified instead of like a bazaar with a single pay-point, what specifically do you mean? Like, all the Dr Who stuff should be in one area, and the Star Wars stuff in another? Or like all the games should be in one area and the collectibles in another, regardless of IP?

Offline Cory

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2016, 11:13:32 PM »
It is easy to have a game store - its all games, but a nerd store takes a little bit more, so when I say unified it is something I have seen some places do better than others but is hard to define.

As a point of example as what not to do would be the store that when you enter is quartered off into a games, comics, magic, and general. The shelf aisles do not match each other, the high shelves act as walls fencing people out, so that customers don't feel welcome crossing over into other areas.  Often there is a pathway that is more a hallway in intent than an aisle.

You can see this yourself in your neighborhood businesses  - grocery stores are a good example of segregated merchandise in different areas that still flow well together. The store logo or even just font ties everything together, aisles line up, the high ceilings allow for signage that can be seen across the store. Now think of the crappy old video store that used shelves like fences to create areas by genre. People there browsed small areas and tended not to look at different things.

Many nerd stores are just like that crappy video store. Sometimes this is a circumstance of the location because of dividing walls in an old location, but often it is intentional. When a person walks in they are forced to choose what part of the store they want to go in, and tend to browse only there. This makes it easier to stock items, but also doesn't let a store shift shelf space to accommodate changes in popularity. Dead end aisles contribute to this feeling - make sure there is room to flow.

Related to the store plan issue is shrinkage or theft. From what I have seen most theft comes from employees, but a sizeable amount can still come from people walking off with stock. Wide aisles, low shelves, well place counter and visible cameras can go a long way.

Offline throwsFireball

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2016, 05:08:23 AM »
It's the same as the "coffee shop dream". People imagine they'll be exchanging witty repartee with customers whilst sitting around drinking expensive coffee. In the end, you're just a combination of barrista, cleaner and accountant and not getting paid that much for any of those jobs.

If you're in it for the love of it and have plenty of disposable cash, go for it. If not, it's very much not a recommended business. One big purchase mistake can wipe out any profits you're going to make. Imagine buying like ten copies of Age of Sigmar and then not selling them.

Keep in mind I don't know how much stuff goes to retailers wholesale from companies, so I can't really estimate profits. From what I know of GW, they charge between 55-60% of RRP which then every online retailer ups to 80% and somehow makes a huge profit. You really can't compete with those prices.

I'd suggest focusing on constant income games to start with. Namely CCGs. They'll bring you in plenty of easy revenue.

Also, always have an online presence. I've had two separate shops close to me shut down because they were in a back alley and didn't have websites. Even after I went in and offered to set one up for them for VERY cheap.

TL;DR: Probably don't do it. If you are going to do it, make sure you have a good catchment and you have no competitors nearby.

For advice on this business: One of the big places near me runs a different game each night. It's a cost to enter (very low, 1-5) and it enables them to make a small but reasonable profit. They basically just let gamers game upstairs. So one night they're do MtG, another night they'll do D&D. I'd give them a poker chip or something personally and allow them to take the cost of entrance off the first purchase they make. Just try not to do any gambling. :p
« Last Edit: April 11, 2016, 05:26:52 AM by throwsFireball »

Offline Daeothar

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Re: Opening a game/nerd store.
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2016, 09:01:02 AM »
Back in the day before the whole internet-store boom, I was planning on starting my own brick and mortar store as well. In my business plan, I stated that I planned on selling both miniature gaming materials and board games, with the board games being the gateway goods.

Literally; with the board and card games located in the front of the store, with the miniature stuff located in the rear half of the store. The plan was to create a store that would draw in general public with the board games etc, to create the bulk of the revenue; the (miniature) gamers would very likely find their way on their own, as long as I kept up relevant advertizing in the right places.

The location of the store was calculated to be in a city with a lot of 'hinterland'; at the time, the entire province of Zeeland and most of West Brabant were a gaming wasteland; no stores but one, in the city where I lived (and that was run poorly and closed shortly after). The plan was to place the store very near the train station (preferably within view of the platforms), as that was the place where anyone coming from Zeeland would have to change trains to get to the large cities where there were gaming stores, and it would be easy for them to walk in.

My dream was to make a living selling the things I love; miniatures. But I had seen and experienced all the pitfalls of the great majority of dedicated gaming stores. Most were dark, elitist, creepy, smelly, unfriendly, cramped, messy and/or located in seedy, out of the way alleys. Not a few of them all of the above! I found I wanted to get in there, buy what I wanted and get out asap; they were everything but inviting, even to me; a hardcore miniature gamer...

So; the idea was to first and foremost provide a very good and friendly customer service, so people would be coming back. The store was to look inviting and warm, and at the same time light, airy and welcoming. I was aiming for a style emulating an Art Deco library (personal preference; I just liked the style and still think it matches well with a gaming environment). There also was to be a seating area next to the counter, styled like a regular sitting room, where casual customers would have the possibility to try certain games. Refreshments would probably have been part of the package as well.

All miniatures and games on display would have to be displayed in an attractive and uniform way (large, well lit display cabinets along the walls, in the aforementioned style) and shelves would have to be full or at least filled out.

As I was planning on building the inside of the store myself (woodwork, mostly), I had a plan laid out to make the rear wall of the store (relatively) easily removable. The idea was that, especially when starting up, stock would be small, simply due to the capital not being available to fully stock the entire store at once. So the back wall would be installed forward at first. This would make the store space smaller and would allow me to have full shelves from the beginning.

When the revenue would become steady and consistently positive, eventually the rear wall would be moved back, to allow for more and diverse stock to be displayed on the shelves. there was to be no 'stock in the back', which simply is dead stock not being sold. Depending on the location bought or leased, there could be as many as 3 different steps in the positioning of the back wall. Appearance is everything, and a store should also instill confidence in its customers; it gives them piece of mind and will inspire the trust required to spend their cash. A well stocked store does just that.

Miniature and RPG gamers would have their own areas upstairs, the basement or in the back from the start, with 'proper' gaming tables set up, even though there would obviously be one or two demo tables in the store as eye candy and gateways. As stated; the front of the store would be to draw in casual shoppers and passers by, (christmas) present hunters and the boardgame crowd in general (which is more mainstream and widespread to begin with), but with attractive displays of miniatures, I was hoping the miniature gaming crowd would eventually grow.

Key in the plan was the right advertizing though. Adds in school papers would be a major avenue, as would be flyers, a good website (even then, yes...), presence at events (even far out in the provinces) and generally being as visible as possible, in as many ways as possible. Obviously, the starting up of a club would be key as well, to gather a regular crowd.

In the end, I was just 10K short of my intended starting up capital of 120K. The bank was willing to finance the largest part and their experts (as well as those at the chamber of commerce) were both impressed and convinced by my business plan, and confident that it would work.

Still; in hindsight, it may have been a good thing I couldn't get the financing worked out. My girlfriend and I would be buying whatever store building we deemed right and would be living above it, selling our appartment to do so. And looking at how the market developed just a few years later, I don't know if the store would have remained profitable, having to compete with online retailers and Ebay which were both booming then.

On the other hand; just such a store has opened up just last year in my city and is doing extremely well (having opened 3 other stores in different cities in short succession). I think the time is ripe again for stores with value added services. I think many people have had enough of huge, impersonal stores and online discounters and are yearning for friendly, small stores with a personal touch and friendly service again.

So; this may be the time again to start a brick and mortar gaming store, as long as you avoid the many pitfalls mentioned above. Stay realistic and don't delude yourself into just thinking 'it will work'. Do surveys, do the math, make a good plan, have that checked and then do the math again. It'll be hard work and it may be years to get to the point where you want to be, but don't overstretch yourself to get there sooner; a solid base is worth its weight in gold and will pay out in the end.

I hope you do manage to realize your dream; so go out there, make it happen and let the rest of us live the dream through you... ;)
Miniatures you say? Well I too, like to live dangerously...
Find a Way, or make one!


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