Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

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Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Ricardo Anderson » 22 Jul 2014, 14:25

Well, as I sayd, I'm thinking of opening a gaming store, with another 3 friends that studied with me in uni.
It will be a store that sells anytipe of tabletop or trading card game, but with a special place for Magic The Gathering.
We will also design games in the store, then sell them, fix, recycle and resell old, rundown games, sell some store merchandise like tokens, t shirts and playmats, organise tournaments, have high fantasy art exhibitions, as well as the occasional book launch of a high fantasy novel.
Its a very broad concept, I know, and I might be trying to do too many things all at once,and that's
Precisely why I'm asking for some advice and/or suggestions.
Thank you very much guys. :-)
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Deedles » 23 Jul 2014, 04:00

I wish I could give some advice, but I've never ran any business what so ever, so I don't have any experience to really give advice from, but I still want to say that I think that idea sounds awesome, and I wish I had a store like that nearby. =]
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Ricardo Anderson » 23 Jul 2014, 04:21

Aha!
That's good enough for me Deedles MacDeedledoos! :-)
Thank you very very much! :-)
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Volafortis » 23 Jul 2014, 04:34

The best advice I can give is on how to run it. This is mainly focused around Magic, but most game stores I know of are mainly focused around Magic and Warhammer, and Magic has resale, so it typically makes up like 80% of the market at those stores.

You'll want to run the store so it's inviting for new players and it has enough to keep regulars around. Be willing to listen to ideas for fun events, etc... that your players want to run.

The biggest thing that separates the good game stores from the bad ones is the community, and that applies to both the customers and the employees.

Make sure someone is always available to attend to customers that may walk in, and make sure they don't seem distracted by something else happening, but at the same time, you'll have to be able to micro-manage your attention so you don't dismiss your regulars.

Having a good stock of Magic singles and a good variety of packs certainly doesn't hurt, but if you have a good community, you can get to that point even if you start with basically nothing other than your own personal Magic collection. Having a regular community ensures a healthy Magic singles economy, but you need more than just regulars, or you'll notice business die down quite drastically in between sets.

If you personally know any game stores you'd consider great, think of it this way; what makes the store so great, and how can you emulate it?

I've been to a lot of stores where the owner seemed too focused on his regulars, and failed to properly assist me (I've been to almost every game store on the Wizards locator in Minnesota, because I always stop by them when I pass through a town with one.) Even if I don't need help (typically I just browse), I'd still like to be acknowledged. If the owner doesn't do that, I leave, and will never return (which in my case, is a VERY bad thing for the business, since I'm a legacy/modern player, and a cube owner, so I've been known to drop 700+ dollars in a single visit to game stores, and similarly, have been known to drive 2+ hours to go to a store I like if they have a rare card I want, or are offering me a good deal on something, or hell, often I'll find myself just passing through, and on the hunt for some revised dual lands for a legacy deck, point is, you never know who'll walk through your door, or what their Magic buying habits are).

On the other hand, and the this an issue I have with my most recent new game store interaction, the owner treats it solely like a business. They're great with new customers, and at first I was excited to return. Then I went for an event, and it was awful. The regulars went unattended, there were frequent long waits between rounds, even if it was completely reported... not a good time. I'm done with that store too.

It's a major exercise in micromanagement of everything. Your time, your attention, your money.., everything. Make sure you understand that this all needs to be balanced, or you'll be dismissing a lot of potential business.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Ricardo Anderson » 23 Jul 2014, 04:51

First, thank you so so much for your advice / personal opinion Volafortis!
Secondly, that's a lot to take in, but I think I can manage covering all the points you mentioned.
The team of people with who I work are all passionate gammers, as well as people persons, and last but not least business inclined.
I have a knack for people, been told to have "the gift of the gab" , am completely obsessed with mtg, in a good way, and have a entrepreneurs mind.
The only thing that is woring me is 1- the first 2 months of the business being open.
2- I have no idea of how the gaming community is in the place I'm opening the store, and despite all my efforts, can not get in touch with them.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Mums » 23 Jul 2014, 06:14

Oh, I've been wanting to do that as well. From my point of view and what I would have liked to do if I were to start the store would be going for the setup that card kingdom has. If you have chance to check it out, do so. Connected to the game store they have a cafe/bar/restaurant. Which allows for people coming in and playing their games, if you have a hard time getting gamers in you may still be able to keep buisness up through the restaurant/cafe part. You might also get people who just come for some food or a coffee to be interested in games if they se people sitting at the table next to them enjoying a game of Resistance or something. It's also good to have some place with enough space to allow bigger groups to sit down and play, making it a natural place to go for your gaming evenings wih your gaming group.

I would try my best to get a feel for the community when you start up, if there isn't any real community there you would have a hard time starting up. Then you'd need to be extra special to make people come a long way for just your store. I don't know how big Magic is in Portugal or how dedicated shops are to the game but it might help a bit to become an expert in magic and have the best of the best. You probably want starting money that allows you to run te store with not a lot of customers for a few months, but marketing, competence and word to mouth should probably catch up and you will hopefully bring the customers.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Ricardo Anderson » 23 Jul 2014, 06:57

Thanks Mums!
Well,I do know of Card Kingdom, and I love the concept,but the amount of permits and equipment I would have to buy and get would be way to steep for a start off company,somewhere along the way I would love to open up a gaming caffe!
But for now, I don't think I can pull it off.
About the gaming community of where I'm opening the shop, I know it exists, they are active and they organise tournaments from time to time.
How ever, I cant seem to actually get in to contact with them, and that sucks.
Magic is pretty big in Portugal, but in the right circles.
Not everyone is mad for it, and there are a lot of ex players, and not so many new ones, but its been fairly easy to convert gammers in to magic players so far. :-)
And yes, money to keep the shop going for at least the first 3 months is a must have for sure. :-)
About being a "expert in magic", I know a lot about it,flavour wise,like a Vorthos should, as a player I'm a mix in between a Johny and a Timmy, but I'm no level 3 judge. :-)
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Mums » 23 Jul 2014, 13:38

The first rant was basically what I would like to do myself with unlimited funding. But yeah, I think it's a good thing if the funds would be there, maybe start with a few grilled cheese sandwiches and see where it takes you. Though you might need permits to serve any kind of food?

Seems like there is a good community, then hopefully you could make your shop the location for their tournaments, maybe create some tournaments yourself and make sure to let people know.

In regards to expertise, there are always people that will know more than you, the important thing is that you know what you're talking about. That's what helps me get back to a store for my interests. I stopped going to my local game shop partly because the personel didn't seem to know what they were doing and couldn't recommend anything. Might sound snobbish from my part, but I want people to know what they are selling.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Lord Hosk » 23 Jul 2014, 14:06

The most common trend in small businesses that succeed is that the person did it for someone else first.

The most common reason a business fails is a lack of understanding of the business.

The second most common reason a business fails is the founders/owners disagree about what the business is and how it should operate.

With these in mind here are my recommendations.

1. Work in another store for at least a year before you really start planning on opening the store. (this goes for everyone in a "founder" role in this case you and the three friends.)
2. Get in contact with distributors, you need to get your product from someplace and a new store is a big risk to a distributor, they may require you to pay for all your product up front and still not give you much. Most Magic distributors wont get a new store more than 1 case (6 boxes) of cards per set.
3. Try to get in contact with MULTIPLE distributors.
4. Have a firm contract written up about who does what and when. Dont just go in and say "we will all work all the time and if someone needs time off we will give them time off.
5. Before you get a loan, figure out what fixtures you will need (cabinets cash register...) calculate rent, utilities, Product, loan payments and worker pay for 18 months. Your loan should cover you for the first 18 months, it is unlikely that you will be profitable before then.
6. Canvas the area, figure out if there is even a customer base to support a store. Just because people tell you "yeah it would be great if there was a store here" doesnt mean they will spend money there. Another reason to work at another store first. If you open too close, you will be cutting into their customer base, if they are just getting by you will not only fail but take them down with you.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Pimpin J » 23 Jul 2014, 15:16

http://www.emeraldtaverngames.com/

This place in Austin has gaming tables set up and sells food and beer. So its a great casual place to hang with friends.

You might think about incorporating different ideas into the store.

Good luck!
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby betsytheripper » 24 Jul 2014, 14:36

My dad has owned a gaming store almost my entire life, and about twenty years ago rolled it into one store with my grandmother's comic book shop that she's had since the '70s. These are my experiences based on growing up in the shop and the fact that my hometown is not very big (~70k people).

When the store was downtown and in commonly-traversed areas, there was more business. When rent went up and it had to move, regulars still came in, but it was harder to get fresh faces from the college, since it's on the other side of town. Location is key.

As Hosk said, 18 months to 2 years, plan to not turn a profit, or break even at all.

Diversify. The more you sell, the more likely you will have customers. My dad's store sells: comics, manga/anime, CCGs (MtG, Pokemon, YuGiOh, etc), RPGs (D&D, White Wolf, etc), Mini games (Warhammer, etc), Minis for RPGs, some harder to find board games (he keeps Catan in stock, along with some others like that), D&D related fantasy books, figures/maquettes, dice, paints, shirts related to all these things, and stuff I know I'm forgetting.

He always has candy/snacks/sodas/water available to purchase, at FNM sometimes he'll order a pizza or two and charge a little more than even split between players. He always offers to special order stuff at no extra cost (no fee past the standard retail markup). About half the store is just tables for playing, and he pulls out more tables for event days. He often buys 1 or 2 of a new game product (card or board) just to have on hand next to the counter to get people interested.

One thing we've had to deal with is there are two other comic/game stores in town, both in areas with high foot traffic, and at one point or another they have both spread rumors that our store was closed/closing because both of the owners of these stores are just nasty, awful people (I have lots of evidence of this, but I don't need to go into it here). Make sure you are not stepping on toes to open your store, and that you have good relations with the other stores in your area.

Lastly, in my hometown, my dad is the only store sanctioned for FNM, but FNM has died out. As in, WotC is pushing specific formats for the sanctioneds and no one there wants to play those, so no one shows up. My dad hasn't had enough people for a FNM in maybe a month or two. Something to keep in mind if you're running sanctioneds, they're not guaranteed.

With all this in mind, my mom isn't sure that the store has turned profit in years. It's probably breaking even, though.

That's my experience growing up in a nerd shop, learning to work the register when I was 3.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Lord Hosk » 25 Jul 2014, 06:44

Make sure you have plenty of space for what you want to do.

Nothing turns players off faster at a LGS than being cramped.

A standard "folding table" that almost every LGS I have gone to uses is 30 inches or about 76 CM wide. You then need to allow another 20-24 inches (50-60 CM) for seating PER SIDE PER TABLE.

I have gone into so many stores where you have to sit almost on top of the table you are at and the person behind you is doing the same thing and you still bump into each other every time you move.

So to set up two tables you need over 10 feet, or 3.5 meters. probably a little more than that. It looks like you are wasting space when the store is empty and if you move the tables a little closer you can squeeze one more table shelf, or display in (shakes head)

When starting out, offer too much prize support, and try to stagger it down to lower levels. If 10 bad players win a pack once every 4-6 weeks they will come back because "THEY WON!" if all the packs keep going to the same 4 players, only those players will want to come to your store.

Important to any business, Consistency. Your customers need to know what they can expect from your store every time they visit, and every employee should be on the same page. If you and your partners agree to sell packs for 15 Złoty 3 for 40 but your partner says 3 for 35 when a customer comes in, the customers will get irritated when you charge the price you agreed because he/she charged less.

Lastly, never forget that this is a business first, too often people open up (insert hobby) stores and think "wow Im going to get paid to (play games, knit, do art, make necklaces) and then wonder why the store failed. As someone said earlier you have to be available for the customer, if you are playing a board game with someone and a new person walks in, you get up from your game. If they say "im just looking around" you can go back to playing, but your focus needs to be on them, if they linger at a display case for more than a few seconds, you need to stop again. Customers should never have to wait on you to finish playing so they can give you money.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby RytelCSF » 25 Jul 2014, 08:59

Lord Hosk wrote:Lastly, never forget that this is a business first, too often people open up (insert hobby) stores and think "wow Im going to get paid to (play games, knit, do art, make necklaces) and then wonder why the store failed. As someone said earlier you have to be available for the customer, if you are playing a board game with someone and a new person walks in, you get up from your game. If they say "im just looking around" you can go back to playing, but your focus needs to be on them, if they linger at a display case for more than a few seconds, you need to stop again. Customers should never have to wait on you to finish playing so they can give you money.


Very much this. To quote myself from a different topic:

Now, for most stores I don't really care about customer service. But a game store, to me, isn't just a store. It's a community. It's not like any other retail location where you go in, get what you need, and leave. You're coming there not just to find new games to play but people to play them with, and you're going to stay to hang out with other people with similar hobbies long before and after you make your purchases.

Maybe I'm asking too much. I don't know. But it seems to me that it should be common sense that I didn't stumble into the store on accident. I'm there because I'm interested in games and I'm interested in finding a new place to play. As such, it's probably worth your time to ask what I play or what I'm interested in, or something that makes me feel like I didn't just interrupt your playtest session and you're waiting for me to leave.


Also, an important thing to note for game stores in general: online retailers will always be able to beat you in terms of prices due to their lack of overhead. Therefore, you need to give people a reason to buy from you at what is effectively a markup at MSRP. Whether that's a welcoming place to play, knowledgeable staff, regular events, whatever, but people aren't going to buy from a brick-and-mortar store solely out of the kindness of their hearts (at least, not in large enough numbers to keep the lights on.)
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby AdmiralMemo » 25 Jul 2014, 11:42

If you haven't, please read Acts of Gord, which can get you an idea of the funny/crazy/stupid stories that come out of gaming stores.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Darkobra » 25 Jul 2014, 12:08

Ok. As someone who does run his own business, I can give you the following advice:

Keep records of EVERYTHING! In double. In two separate locations. If your store was to burn down, you'll need proof of transactions for the tax man.

Introduce yourself. Not as "The manager" or "The boss." As a human being. Your name. Ask if they need anything.

Know your market. Have you advertised well enough? Does your name say what it needs to? Do you have any fierce competition around you? What about prices and location?

Is your stock flexible? Do you have what the customer wants to buy? Buying 100 of the next big game is fine but what about people who want to try something new?

How experienced are your staff? Do you have everyone specialised in one subject with a weakness in another? Do you have a broad variety of knowledge that you can refer to others if you need to? Maybe take a day a month for researching and learning any weaknesses.

Check CONSTANTLY for health and safety issues. One loose cable, one box in the middle of the floor, one bad fall and you've cost yourself a lot in injury claims from a customer.

Customers buy from human beings. Customers are fickle. One bad experience and money will be taken to another place, even if the price ends up higher overall. Greet new people as you would a regular.

Tournaments, events and staff dressed up as well-known, related characters advertising outside your store can bring people in. Every window shopper is a potential customer. Even if they don't buy, they may tell another who would be interested in your store. Once you get a bit more established, you can even reward prizes.

Have music on in the background. Seriously. People tend to relax more with music on and in a place of silence, the interest goes down fast. This should be in the background and should never drown out any conversation.

Chairs! Sofas! Comfort! Some people want to sit down and examine a book or you've got the bored girlfriend waiting on the overly-enthusiastic boyfriend talking shop with you. You'll thank me!
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Ricardo Anderson » 25 Jul 2014, 17:21

My Dear Ladies & Gentleman, first of all, many thank you's are in order.
Thank you very much for dropping by and taking the time to honestly reply and give me all your opinions and advice!
I'm soaking it all in, reading and re-reading it, taking notes and writing stuff down, also sharing it with my team mates.
What you guys gave me until now (and I hope there is more to come) is a small crash course of opinions, experiences and insights that I truly need and appreciate. :-)
I carefully read all of your posts in the thread, by some I was baffled, others slightly shocked, and others encouraged.
All in all, I needed that, and i received nothing but good information and data from you people.
Thank you very much for that.
Mister Mums, Pimpin J, Rytel Csf, and Admiral Memo. Thank you all for you opinions and suggestions.
Also, a Special thanks to Lord Hosk, for giving me a "slice of reality" and pretty good advice,
One for BetsyTheRipper, for having an awesome dad and grandmother, and an awesome childhood,
And possibly growing up to become a transcendent homo sapiens. :-) (I want my kids to grow up like that if possible),
And last but not least, one for Darkobra, for giving me information in first hand, and also good advice. :-)
Anyway, hope that wasn't one to many thank yous, might have gotten a bit carried away there. :-)
I will keep you guys posted on the developments of the business and the ups and downs.
:-)
Sincerely, the human Ricardo Anderson
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby Dutch guy » 04 Aug 2014, 03:34

Hi Ricardo,

another bit of advise:

Be prepared to be flat broke, working your ass off and seeing very little return for long periods of time. If you don't think you can manage that, opening a store is not for you.

I agree with Hosk that actually working in a store for someone else will give you a much better sense of what is going on. I've worked some retail myself and I quickly realized I'm not a salesperson at all. (Or a people person in general for that matter).
If things do start picking up, INVEST. Invest ALL the profits back into the store. Only allot yourself and your partners enough to get by (this should be agreed upon beforehand), the rest should go straight back into the store. I've seen too many starters buy a big car from the first profits, then go broke when things take even a slight downturn a few months later. Basically even though you are the owner, you should consider yourself just another employee of the store when it comes to pay.

Make a business plan. An extremely, exhaustively detailed, business plan. For one, no bank will even touch you with a 10 foot pole without one, let alone give you a loan. Secondly, you'll need it when it comes time to locating a possible space to rent, to decide how to fill it, how to stock it, how to run it, who to expect, what kind of music to run, where to advertise, how to advertise, what games to run, what tournaments to organize, who will be your customers, what do you offer your customers they cant get elsewhere (This one is important, its your reason to exist), etc, etc? All these things should pretty much be clear before you even go to the chamber of commerce to register the business.

Make a financial plan. Again, extremely more detailed than you would EVER think could EVER be needed. Make a precise estimate of (in no particular order) rent, insurance!, stock cost, shipping costs, utilities, music royalties (If you're a commercial business you'll need a license to play music), taxes!, food, employee salary, owner salary (for you and your mates), cleaning costs (Customers are filthy beasts) etc for at least the first year. Make an estimate of shop furnishing, a cash register, a PIN/Card machine, first stock, shelves, tables, display cases, card sleeves, shop promotional items, flooring, wall covering, lighting fixtures, store front dressing, paint, cleaning supplies, etc, etc.

When it comes to cash coming in and going out, be prepared. Have a reserve. You'll never know if that utility bill next month is going to be just that bit higher or if the drinks fridge goes on the blink and needs replacing. You wouldn't be the first business that goes under because they come up just a few hundred bucks short at the end of the month. Make a reservation on the balance sheet for unexpected expenses. You can set a maximum, but keep in mind, if this money is used fill it back up ASAP. (For my personal finances I keep 2 months of salary on reserve minimum)

And finally, after you've made all those plans, set a budget. Especially for the first outlay of setting up the store, set a budget and whatever you do, don't go over it. Because if you spent more on that first outlay than anticipated you are eating away at your own livelyhood at the end of your "do or die period". Meaning that extra 2000 you spend at the start could put you into bankruptcy after 12 months.
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Re: Thinking about opening a gaming store! any advice?

Postby CSt » 04 Aug 2014, 07:19

Dutch guy wrote:Make a business plan. An extremely, exhaustively detailed, business plan. For one, no bank will even touch you with a 10 foot pole without one, let alone give you a loan. Secondly, you'll need it when it comes time to locating a possible space to rent, to decide how to fill it, how to stock it, how to run it, who to expect, what kind of music to run, where to advertise, how to advertise, what games to run, what tournaments to organize, who will be your customers, what do you offer your customers they cant get elsewhere (This one is important, its your reason to exist), etc, etc?


Darkobra wrote:Know your market. Have you advertised well enough? Does your name say what it needs to? Do you have any fierce competition around you? What about prices and location?


I wanted to quote those pieces of advice because I think they are especially important. Forget everything you are planning in terms of games and shop and anything and get a good picture of your situation. Are there other stores in the area? Don't just look at your city but at adjacent cities as well.
What would worry me most is that local community you described. Because you would have to go to them and basically tell them "You got on fine by yourself, but now I want you to buy my stuff." Which might work, if you could make contact with them, but they seem to avoid you. So, before anything else, do research.

And once you have come to a decision, maybe have tentative signals from a bank, go to a lawyer (or your local equivalent). Do not be cheap, get a specialist in corporate law and have him (or her) counsel you. And then do what you were told to do. You have to make sure that everything you do is solid and can stand up in court and make sure you or any of your partners could get out if he/she wanted to. Otherwise you might end up having your business ruin your friendship or the other way round.

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