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Starting a specialty game and toy store?

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Anonymous

I came across this forum just a couple of weeks ago. It is great.

I am in the initial stages investigating the possibility of starting a small retail specialty game and possibly toy shop in our town. I am wondering if anyone can point me to some good resources to research the viability of such a venture.

Ideally any input from an existing retail game shop owner on the forum would be wonderful. Obviously I would have no interest in competing with the Wal-marts and Toys-R-Us', however I think there is a growing market for German style games and specialty games and toys. I would assume that a small retail shop would have a very difficult time competing with internet sales for these types of products unless they have developed a market niche of some kind.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

I'm not sure that's entirely true. I'm not an owner, just a consumer, but I buy almost all of my games from a specialist shop for several reasons:
1. they know about the games
2. you can actually pick the product up and handle it! (and sometimes even play a game first)
3. it's a friendly place where I know the staff
4. they actually know about games (did I mention that? :-)

It certainly costs more than it would buying on-line, but I much prefer it.

Trickydicky
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

I've thought about doing the same thing in my town. But another one just opened up , so I'll see how it goes. My comments in no way reflect my research into or success with the topic. They to me are just "good ideas".

One of the things that I think would help bring people into your shop is to have games being played in your shop. Especially if you are located in an area where a lot of people will be walking by your windows, i.e. the mall or outdoor shopping area. When people see something happening they often gather around. Sometimes, even crowds form. This could do wonders for a shop full of different and interesting things, like a specialty games shop.

This could be done by having tournaments for established games and demonstrations for new ones. Obviously advertising these events would be important. It could also be done by letting would be customers try a store owned copy of a game in your store. I think it would be nice to be able to go into a store and try a game out before committing to buying it. You might lose a few sales but you would probably game some life long customers.

I think it could also be beneficial to try to create some kind of gaming club for the area. You could have the club meet in the store's playing area, to play games, discuss games and possibly design them. This would give you some life long customers as well as a lot of word of mouth advertising.

Hope some of those ideas help. I know I didn't help you with any of the financial issues involved in opening your own store. Sorry, and good luck!

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
Some quick ideas:

- Definitely have enough room in your store to have smallish tournaments or to host 'game nights'.

- Don't compete with the Internet game stores.. Embrace them! Start an internet storefront to suppliment your Brick & Mortar sales. You are already going to be keeping these games in stock anyway, so why not sell them at a discount online? Perhaps even pass on the discounted rates to people who purchase the games online but want to pick them up at the store to save on shipping. You might need a decent bit of storage space, but I think this is a great idea. Most of board game sales occur during the christmas holiday, so the income generated from a discount internet store front will help you stay afloat. And hey, why pay that college drop out (no offense to any, as I am one) to sit around and do nothing! He can box up and prepare shipments during store 'down time'.

- Carry 'cash crops'. By this I mean games that are easy to display, are popular and sell often and fast. These means Yu Gi Oh, Pokemon, Mageknight, Magic the Gathering, etc. If you can sell this stuff to help support your board game niche, then more power to you! Also carry a healthy supply of classic stand bys; I.E. party games and monopolies, clues and risks to sell to the soccer moms.

- Always allow people to play the game in the store if they are uncertain whether they will like it, if they don't you could always reshrink it and still sell it at a slightly reduced rate.

- To further my first point, it helps to be in a location within walking distance of inexpensive quality food (food court is golden) and restrooms. If people want to come in and play games from the time the store opens until it closes, let them! These are the folks that will consistently buy games from you and refer their friends to you.

That's all I have for now. Good luck, I hope it goes well for you.
-Darke

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

I have also considered opening up a game store. My two bits of advice are:

- Consider doing a mentorship program. There is a program ogranized by the GAMA association. Seee http://www.gama.org/index.pl/programs

- Don't underestimate the cash requirements for your business. This advice is true for all businesses.

Jonathan

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

Depending on your locality, you could do very well with a small game shop. Keep in mind that small is a relative term. I have seen huge gaming super-stores packed into a tight space with everything almost impossible to find. Keep everything well organized and neat.

Are you looking at a mall location or a plaza site? Malls can be very tricky to negotiate with. I would suggest talking to other store owners in the same mall before trying to negotiate a contract with the mall. There are usually a handful of stores opened that are owned and run by the same person (who's almost always there). As for location, go to the mall and watch traffic patterns. You will want to be as close as possible to the food court (like Darkehorse said) or a large and popular anchor store. You want to avoid end of the mall where there are empty stores or little traffic flow.

If you're looking at a strip plaza location, then get a good one with good accessibility. They just opened up a huge department store locally. They put it on a major road with TONS of traffic, but they didn't put in a traffic light. Cars wait forever to try and get out of the plaza.

Needless to say, a retailer gets most of their income over the 4th quarter (holiday traffic) when shopping is at a frenzy. Get your store open before then so you can get it open and start reeling in the customers. Otherwise you may have to be capitalized enough to survive on that until the next holiday season.

Best of luck to you! I'm hoping you're in the Rochester NY area (we need more cool game stores). ; )

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

Thanks for the replies. That has given me a couple of new ideas. The mentorship idea is a good one. As I said I am in the very very early stages of researching the feasibility of such a store. I feel confident I could make a store that gamers would love coming to, but does that translate into a viable business idea? That is the key question.

I will need to look at all benefits of mall vs plaza type sites. I know the mall is going to be expensive, but obviously you need traffic. My idea, which is similar to other suggestions is to have a place where you sit and play to demo the games, having a sort of Barnes and Noble bookstore type of feel to it. The concern is that in a store, especially in a mall, you pay per square foot and it can be hard to justify "non $ producing" space. I am wondering if a non mall location would provide more flexibility for a more affordable rate.

So many thinks to think about and research. Again thanks for the ideas and advice. Hopefully more will follow.

Zzzzz
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Starting a specialty game and toy store?

One thing I will add to the topic, which I was told by a couple of store owners at GenCON, many store startups need to be able to have enough starting cash to survive for about 3 months.

Main reason, you need time to build a customer base. You need enough time to get a core group of people that will help you make the monthly bills. Many stores can do this in 3 months with a good marketing/advertising plan.

And besides that I would just start making your list of costs for running the company. Keep in mind these reoccuring bills and plan for at least 3 months of extra money for these types of bills, and dont forget all the overhead and cash needed to initially get the business set up (furnishing the store, buying products to sell, etc).

Best of luck and I hope my input helps a little.....

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

pelly wrote:
My idea, which is similar to other suggestions is to have a place where you sit and play to demo the games...

You could take advantage of BSW or other online board game engines so that customers could try out games against online opponents as well as other customers or employees(who may be busy). I haven't used BSW at all, but it sounds like a cool option you could add to your other ideas to help your store realy stands out.

Anonymous
Also opening a store

Hello All,

We are opening a board games n'puzzles store too, it was great to read all of your input here.
I had other people suggest we put tables to let customers try the games too, and I understand how it may be a great way to get people to come into the store and to come back again and again.
I would still hope to hear from other store owners here - my concern is that a lot of game parts will be lost, coffee spilled, and generally that the tables will always be occupied by kids [I am a mom myself and I KNOW what my son does in game shops - poor owners!]

Any advice very welcome!

Leulia

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

Something else to consider, have computers that give customers access to boardgamegeek or similar sites to look up games, etc. I have always thought about the connection between a huge site dedicated to games and a game store.

The trick would be to get the system set up so that customers can only access the geek (or chosen sites) so that the computers don't become free access internet portals.

Alternatively, you could use BGG as a great resource for game related materials (lists, top 10's, summaries, reviews, etc)... all with full credit of course! Great material to fill customers with knowledge.

Best of luck (any chance you're in the Rochester, NY area??)!

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

We will be in a very tiny town on Oregon coast, Manzanita. Our customers are likely to be predominantly bored tourist families.

Leulia

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

leulia wrote:
Our customers are likely to be predominantly bored tourist families.

Sounds like you'll sell quite a few copies of the more popular family games. Let us know how it goes!

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Chiming in late...

From what I've seen both here in Orlando and from talking to people at ToyFair, one of the keys to the success of small game stores is to have the staff know the inventory and be able to make recommendations.

It's amazing how much more likely someone is to buy something if they're talking to someone who can say "yeah, I played that. Lots of fun", or "Mmm...that one's aimed more at small kids", or things like that.

I'm not devaluing playing areas and things like that, but if you can't afford the real estate (or the problems of overseeing them), simply having a staff that know the games will give you a huge step up.

There are some resources out there for you. ASTRA is an association of specialty toy retailers that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Also, talk to your suppliers! Many of the smaller companies like mine (Live Oak Games), are willing to break packages for first time purchases (so you don't have to buy 6 or 12 copies of a game that you're not sure will sell), and sometimes even include demo copies.

Finally, look seriously at the small players. I'm not just saying this because I am one. There's a wide variety of games out there that are much more fun than they get coverage for. Anagramania is a great example. And I know people on this forum could recommend dozens more.

Anonymous
Tooting own horn - skip if annoyed with that sort of thing

Hello,

For anyone running a store containing board games, might I recommend you check out the Web site of the distributor I work for - Global Games Distribution - www.globalgamesdistribution.com.

I am the board game buyer for them. (Woot!) [Oh, and we just got in Anagramania!]

We are trying to become THE board game distributor. You can check out the site to view our selection, but you need to call us to get the password to view the prices. (425.778.2091)

Oh, and if this was against the board rules... sorry about that. This is mainly posted as a good resource for a huge variety of board games. (I get to begin importing from Germany in the next 2 weeks. Woot!)

Best regards,

Rainsford (known at work as Jeff Wilcox)

Anonymous
Starting a specialty game and toy store?

Rainsford wrote:
I am the board game buyer for them.

Very cool! Especially since you're trying to become the premier distributor of board games!

I'm sure that there are plenty of small and self publishers of games on this site that would be very interested to know what your policy is regarding acceptance of submissions.

Anonymous
Product admission

All,

Good thinking.

Okay, so, all of you out there ready to publish a game (or currently publishing a game), yes, I am the board game (and card game) buyer for Global Games Distribution (http://www.globalgamesdistribution.com).

The submission policy is fairly easy, but acceptance is a little harder - especially as we come out of the high volume time of the holidays. I ALWAYS review submission material. ALways. I WILL read the information about your game. Bringing a new product online may happen quickly, slowly, or not at all - based on a number of criteria - most of which are out of your control. Some are as basic as "I don't have the budget this week to bring on a new line/product." But I keep info on all products and I do have a stack of "I really should contact these folks to ge their games" paper right next to my desk. :-)

If you have a game you think we should carry please email me the following information:

1. Your company name
2. Your contact info (including email)
3. Product titles
4. Distributor pricing - this should include: MSRP, the price I will pay, shipping fees along with a purchase threshold for free shipping if available.
5. Case lot size (if you care about selling at the case size. Many, many small publishers don't care and that is fine for me and them.)

If you want to include promo flyers and the like please MAIL me the info instead. Sned it to me at:

Jeff Wilcox
Global Games Distribution
2027 196th St SW
Suite A-104
Lynnwood, WA 98036

Please do NOT add my info to any mailing list and/or email list.

My email address is (remove "NOSPAM") jeff@ggdiNOSPAMstribution.com

Best regards,

Rainsford

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
Re: Product admission

Rainsford wrote:

If you have a game you think we should carry please email me the following information:

1. Your company name
2. Your contact info (including email)
3. Product titles
4. Distributor pricing - this should include: MSRP, the price I will pay, shipping fees along with a purchase threshold for free shipping if available.
5. Case lot size (if you care about selling at the case size. Many, many small publishers don't care and that is fine for me and them.)

Rainsford,

Quick question: do you require UPC codes?

-Darke

Anonymous
UPC codes

Hello,

No, we don't need a product to have a UPC code.

Additionally, I suspect (this is a gut feeling, not a studied conclusion) that retailers willing to take on a small publisher are also willing to take on a product with no UPC code... as many, many small publishers don't have them.

Best regards,

Rainsford

phpbbadmin
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Joined: 04/23/2013
Re: UPC codes

Rainsford wrote:
Hello,

No, we don't need a product to have a UPC code.

Additionally, I suspect (this is a gut feeling, not a studied conclusion) that retailers willing to take on a small publisher are also willing to take on a product with no UPC code... as many, many small publishers don't have them.

Best regards,

Rainsford

Cool! Next question: Does your company distibute desktop publishing quality games or do they only distribute 'professionally' printed games. Was your game Phantasy Realm a DTP game? Will / does your company distribute Phantasy Realm?

-Darke

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