FLGS Research

Glyfair

Explorer
The "destination store" thing is something John and I have been arguing ever since he first broached the subject to me. I have said, much as you did, that comic and game stores are the kinds of places a person means to go; therefore, stores off of main thoroughfares are with lower rent or a more attractive/iconic facades are valid choices.
Perhaps the issue here is that while gaming stores might be someplace you mean to go, it's not the sort of place you often look up. If you know where one is, you will investigate and periodically return. If you don't know where one is, you don't often search for one.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
Personally, I HAVE sought out game and comic stores. My take on game store/comic shop location is this:

1) a high traffic location will be easier to find and thus establish in the market, but will have higher operating costs and a smaller profit margin. Unless it gets to a certain critical size, it will be more sensitive to market fluctuations. (The Dallas/Fort Worth area where I live has lost several good stores in such locations in the past 2 years.)

2) a low-traffic location will be harder to establish in the market, but will have lower costs of operations on average, meaning it has more time to reach a stable position in the market, and may be less vulnerable to market downturns.

A trick that may help in a low-traffic location is to find a space near a relatively location-neutral business- restaurants, bars, dry-cleaners, laundromats, etc.- that people WILL actively seek out.
 

guildofblades

First Post
A game store may indeed be a destination location...to established customers. And so you don't need to pay a premium to be at the crossroads of a busy shopping district just to get repreat business.

However, never underestimate incidental discovery.

For instance, our store is almost 4 years old and we actually sign up more new customers to our rewards card program per month now than we did back during the first year or two. We track how these new customers find us.

#1 Word of mouth/Friend
#2 Drive By
#3 Google
#4 Neighboring businesses

Drive by is almost equal to word of mouth and is double what google gets us. And we have a very dynamic website with most excellent google rankings in our area.

Neighboring businesses are things like the local comic shops, game stops, who send customers to us when they end up there but are looking for stuff they don't offer but they know we do. Without having a location within a mile or 2 of many of these other businesses, I also would not get referrals from them.

I suspect drive by entries have grown stronger over time because those drive by customers are actually hearing about us first through word of mouth of have stumbled upon us online, but not having visited the store yet. Then later they happen to be driving by and having heard of us before, now stop, so having not "intended" to come to our store, they list that they found us by "driving by".

We don't get much "walk by" foot traffic, but are located on a fairly busy road. Accessability and visibility is the key. If located on a well trafficted road, I don't think you need to be in the "downtown" shopping area per se. Just so long as you have good parking, good street visibility, are on a well travelled route and are in a nice enough area that people aren't worried about stopping, getting out of their car and spending some time there.

Ryan
Gob Retail - GOB Retail - Great Selections for Your Gaming.
Guild of Blades Publishing - Guild of Blades Publishing Group - Great Games since 1994.
 

Another customer thought . . . sometimes I'll go to a game shop and find nothing much that I feel like buying (because I run an out of print edition in an out of print setting, but I buy Paizo stuff because it's close enough).

It helps to have something for the casual "just browsing" customer to buy. It used to be Dungeon or Dragon in the old days. Kobold Quarterly is what I'd buy now if they weren't either out or not carrying it (living in Puget Sound, I'm blessed by having 5 different FLGS nearby).

I also like old, out of print stuff, which nobody seems to carry anymore (perhaps it's not profitable).

One of my friends is the same with gaming shops . . . he doesn't like to leave empty handed, so he'll buy a pre-painted mini or dice bag or something if there's no books he's interested in and no magazines.
 

Thondor

Explorer
The "destination store" debate is one that is very important to have. In my research when discussing location decisions with owners over 50% mentioned that they considered there shop a "destination store" and that affected their location decision.

We like to categorize things as a dichotomy. Putting things in nice buckets. Sometimes its better to realize that something is in between. For the purposes of this discussion I am proposing three types of store achetypes: 1. Destination Stores, 2. Shopping District Stores, 3. Stores of Convenience


1. Destination Stores
An example of a true destination store is a furniture store like IKEA. People will travel long distances to visit IKEA if they need to purchase a piece of furniture. The primary purpose of their shopping trip is to visit IKEA, any other shopping is ancillary. For a true destination store, location is almost irrelevant. What matters is space, rent, parking etc. Other stores benefit from locating near destination stores.

Clearly hobby shops don't have the same level of of pull as IKEA, but customers are willing to travel specifically to visit a hobby store.

2. Shopping District Stores
Their are "shopping district stores". These are stores which benefit from grouping together in a Mall or downtown area. A good example is a small-sized shoe store. The customer heads to the shopping district because he needs new shoes, and knows he has a broad selection at the shopping district. There are several shoe stores in the area and some larger retailers which carry shoes and other products. A "Shopping District Store" needs to locate near other stores.

In my research I discovered that their used to be such a district in Toronto where hobby stores clustered together. But there has been a dispersion over time, with stores deliberately moving away from each other. (A major reason for this is increased ease of finding such stores because of the advent of the internet.)
You might find benefit in locating your store in close proximity to a store which shares some interests. But not in close proximity to an store which carries identical product types. For example, here in Toronto, a Comic Focussed store and a Games Workshop store have happily located within a block of each other.

3. Store of Convenience
There is a third store type, which is a Store of Convenience. This store needs to locate where people are going to be. And will do better if closer to the concentration of people.They get a lot of walk-ins who did not plan on coming to (specifically) their store when they left. In short, for this store the location of people matters most. Being a block closer than the nearest competitor can make a big difference. A good example would be a news & tobacco shop.

Would a hobby shop benefit from being close to a population hub such as a major transit node, downtown offices, a university or a major mall? Sure, but would it be worth the higher rent - not as much as it would to a true store of convenience.
Games Workshop initiallly had a policy of opening in Major Mallls in North America. They have abandoned this an begun moving to more ancillary locations, the initial awareness has been achieved and the higher rents are not viable for the extra traffic.


Where you perceive hobby stores in relation to the about achetypes should effect your location decision. Your connections to the market, how you plan on marketing to your customers and your location all play a role with each other. If you have strong connections to the existing gaming community, perhaps through leveraging a "Meetup" or organization to hold events at your store, then being highly visible is less important.

Here's a quick chart that should help illustrate the "continum" I was speaking about:
 

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Thondor

Explorer
khantroll I'm curious if you and your associate have moved forward on this.

I recently went on vacation in Victoria, BC (A city of 80,000 or metro area of 350,000). I was surprised to discover that 4 local comic and game stores (including a Games Workshop) had located within a single block.

This is the opposite of my experience in the Toronto area, where stores used to cluster together but have since deliberately dispersed through space.

The 4 Victoria stores were fairly differentiated based on product and only the GW and another store "Yellowjacket" had game space.
 

khantroll

Explorer
Actually, we are still discussing it. As I understand it, pressuming nothing goes wrong, he intends to move forward with this after the first of the year.

It's interesting that you found a cluster of game stores. In all of the places I have been, stores are confined to neighborhoods or zones of the city.
 

TheObserver

Explorer
(living in Puget Sound, I'm blessed by having 5 different FLGS nearby).

I also like old, out of print stuff, which nobody seems to carry anymore (perhaps it's not profitable).

Just curious which 5 FLGS are near you, I frequent Fantasium in Federal Way, The Game Matrix in Lakewood and Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacy. Olympic cards and Comics is the best one for me but also the longest out of my way.

On subject Olympic C&C is off of a main drag, has parkng and is next to a large shopping complex. The owner is very nice and if she doesn't have something in stock knows people that can get it for you.
 

Mishihari Lord

First Post
I'll throw in my 2 cp even though a lot of it's been covered already.

Opening a game store is something you do because you like games and want them to be a big part of your life, not because you might get rich doing it.

There are a couple of reasons I'll go into a store rather than shopping online. First, and this is the big one, if I want to buy a game, I want to buy it now. I don't want to wait a few days to play with my shiny new game. Because of this, a gaming store needs to have a good inventory to get my business. If they need to order it for me, I can go online and get it quicker myself.

A second reason is to talk to folks about games, both to get ideas and reviews, and also just for fun. The staff had better be both knowledgeable and friendly if they want my business. I also strike up conversations with other customers for the same reasons, but you can't do much about that.

The third is that it's just easier to check out games in person than online. I'd far rather page through a book than squint at my screen any day. Only shrink wrap the stuff that you have to.

Demo games are a good idea. Have an employee pull out a game and play with whoever wants to once a day. (Have another minding the shop, of course) This increases demand for featured products and starts to build a community. Post a schedule of what's played when and if demand is sufficient make a sign-up sheet.

You probably already know this, but do a marketing analysis and figure out who your target customers. If you don't, get "MBA for Dummies" or something similar to pick up the basics. I would guess that the obvious target, college students, isn't the right one. Many are so strapped for cash that saving money by purchasing online is going to be very attractive.

I was going to say that promotion online is key, but someone who knows more about it than I do said it was one of the less important methods. Talk to people who've opened game stores and find out what worked for them.

Good luck!
 

khantroll

Explorer
Alright, I tapped it from my phone, and I realized that my last post came out kind of strange. What I meant to say, Thondor, is that in my experience, game stores don't cluster like that. Generally, one store serves a collection of neighborhoods or city zones, and in a larger city another store might service a different section. People will cross boundaries if they like another store better, but for the most part they tend serve different crowds.
 

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