FLGS Research

khantroll

Explorer
Hello. I have an acquaintance who is a sort of serial entrepreneur, and he has asked me to do some research into the possibility of opening a game store which would deal in board games and RPGs. I have already explained to him that the vast majority of such enterprises fail, that the margins are terrible, and that (to borrow a joke from KoDT) RPGs and board games are more of a niche hobby then model railroading.

He still wants numbers and suggestions.

So, while I am tracking down research on distributors, contracts, and operation costs, I thought I'd ask the community for some market research:

1.) Does anyone have any product suggestions? (beyond the common things such as M:tG, white wolf, Savage Worlds, warhammer, etc?)

2.) Smaller companies that have good products you'd like to see carried in (or least available to order) from your local FLGS?

3.) Any name suggestions?


I may have more questions as I research other aspects of the business, or as he sends them to me. I appreciate any input anyone has on this (except for "Tell him not do it", which I've already done ;) )
 

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ahayford

First Post
The only FLGS that I know that succeed, are ones that were a digital storefront first...and who's brick and mortar storefront is largely funded by the web sales.
 

Yora

Legend
He would have to find a way to sell at lower prieces than amazon, which will ship to your home for free. I think that's the main problem.

A decade ago, you'd go to a store to check what's actually inside a book before deciding on buying it. But now it's much more efficient to look up some reviews on the internet, which will actually be more useful than flipping throug it for two minutes.

There isn't really any reason to go to a store and not order online, which I could think of.
 

the Jester

Legend
The biggest fault of most FLGSes is that they try to run a business using geeks with no social or work skills as their staff.

The staff must be competent and give good customer servicer. Having the guy behind the counter focus on the Magic game he's playing instead of the customer is lethal to an FLGS. The only advantage the FLGS has in these days of Amazon is service.

Service, service, service.

This means having space for people to run games; actively engaging customers; fulfilling their special orders (I finally gave up on the FLGS closest to my home because they never got new 4e stuff in, even when I asked about it, and they failed twice to order stuff for me); not being afraid to get the stinky guy to leave instead of malingering for hours in the shop; keeping the place clean, stocked and organized; and, again, most of all, GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.

The ideal staff are both good workers with decent social skills and gamer geeks, but if you have to choose, get good workers who are able to engage the customers and learn the products, even if they don't know a darn thing about gaming when they are hired. Enthusiasm and charisma are more important than 20 years of gaming in the basement. Your friend isn't hiring people to game, he's hiring them to sell.

IMHO, of course.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
He would have to find a way to sell at lower prieces than amazon, which will ship to your home for free. I think that's the main problem.

I don't agree with this. If you can beat Amazon's price, then great, but price alone is not the best method of competition (just don't over-price), and chances are you probably won't be able to beat their price.

As a business man in digital printing/graphic design price isn't everything, however as Jester said, and I'll add - service is everything.

Online stores can only provide a possible cheaper price and inexpensive/free shipping - this is all they have in favor, other than being accessable to anyone with an online connection. A brick and mortar shop can provide gaming space in store, special events, personalized ordering, a place to network with other gamers, etc.

Be agressive as you can with pricing, but put more of your concern in your staff, the appeal of the inside and front of the store, provide gaming tables for your customers, serve candy, chips and drinks - provide good service and you have a good chance at success.
 

Yora

Legend
I would pay a bit more if I think it is worth it.

But so far, I don't have seen any gaming store that would be worth it. And I don't see what they could be offering that would make it worth.

What I might personally be interested in would be a section with good chairs that make it clear "you are invited to get comfortable for half an hour with some books that look interesting to you".
But with my winter jacket and my bags, standing in front of a shelf with a book in my hands really isn't anything I am looking forward to. Especially when it's unclear at what point the clerk would start asking "are you going to buy anything?", so I have to make that descision before that happens.

The last time I bought something at a gaming store was when I was on the street anyway and they happened to still have that one out of print SWS book I'd been interested in. But that was an unexpected accident.
 

Herschel

Adventurer
He would have to find a way to sell at lower prieces than amazon, which will ship to your home for free. I think that's the main problem.

A decade ago, you'd go to a store to check what's actually inside a book before deciding on buying it. But now it's much more efficient to look up some reviews on the internet, which will actually be more useful than flipping throug it for two minutes.

There isn't really any reason to go to a store and not order online, which I could think of.

Except that most online reviewers are nothing but a bunch of chucklehead bloggers with no more depth or experience in rating games than you or I. And Amazon (or the like) reader reviews are even worse.
 

Herschel

Adventurer
The biggest fault of most FLGSes is that they try to run a business using geeks with no social or work skills as their staff.

The staff must be competent and give good customer servicer. Having the guy behind the counter focus on the Magic game he's playing instead of the customer is lethal to an FLGS. The only advantage the FLGS has in these days of Amazon is service.

Service, service, service.

This means having space for people to run games; actively engaging customers; fulfilling their special orders (I finally gave up on the FLGS closest to my home because they never got new 4e stuff in, even when I asked about it, and they failed twice to order stuff for me); not being afraid to get the stinky guy to leave instead of malingering for hours in the shop; keeping the place clean, stocked and organized; and, again, most of all, GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.

The ideal staff are both good workers with decent social skills and gamer geeks, but if you have to choose, get good workers who are able to engage the customers and learn the products, even if they don't know a darn thing about gaming when they are hired. Enthusiasm and charisma are more important than 20 years of gaming in the basement. Your friend isn't hiring people to game, he's hiring them to sell.

IMHO, of course.

Jester is good, Jester is wise.

You can't beat Amazon in a price war, so don't try. Beat them by what they can't give the customer: personalized service.
 

Yora

Legend
And how would you do that? It's basically a book store.
You could ask them to order something that is not in stock. But then you could also order it yourself and then you wouldn't have to return to pick it up. And as said, it would also be cheaper.
 

khantroll

Explorer
Thanks to everyone who has comment so far.

To tell you the truth, Jester, I hadn't really thought the floor people in those terms. Obviously, I know that customer service is important, but the concept of personality really hadn't occurred to me to be something mention or recommend.

As Herschel said, Jester is good, Jester is wise ;)

ahayford: Maybe I am confused, but I really don't get that. You aren't the first person to have said as much, but it would seem to me that standing out in the amazon and Powell's based internet would be more difficult. I mean, yes, your customer pool is bigger, but so is the competition.

I am a business/IT consultant by trade. Working locally, developing working relationships with my clients and providing the services they need, I make a pretty good living. If tried to compete on the internet only, or even primarily, support.com, hp, and others that I can't even think of would crush me. I understand that's an apples and oranges comparison, but the principals of local, on the ground service vs larger customer pool seem similar.



Yora: a local game store isn't a comic shop (usually). There should be chairs for your to use as you chat with the staff, other gamers, or peruse the wares for sale. There should be refreshments available. The person on hand doesn't need to know everything about every game, but they should be able to help make recommendations based on what the distributor says. It should be a place you want to come to, not just to shop, but for camaraderie. The store should provide you with things you've maybe never heard of, or at least be able to point you in that direction even if they don't make that sale.

You personalize service in many ways. It's remembering what you like (hopefully better then Amazon's recommendation engine). It's showing you new products you may not know are coming out, or waiting on you if you need to a few minutes more then closing time. It's having your order waiting for you when you come in. It's personal touches that make it personalized. In short, it's the difference between being a friendly local game store and being booksamillion.

As to cheaper...maybe. Price usually isn't my primary motivator when I make purchases. In fact, I am much more aggressive in this regard when online shopping then I am locally. Good example: Pathfinder Bestiary. Hastings (sorry, closest thing we have to an FLGS) had it for about $30 + tax. In stock, ready to rock. Amazon had it for about $22, plus $5 shipping. So, $33 inc tax vs $27 plus 3 days. I bought my copy at Hastings.
 
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