We all have stories, both good and bad in regards to our local game store experiences. I for one have been on both sides of this coin and have plenty of stories to tell.
Over Battle for Zendikar release events, I revisited an old store I’ve played at on occasion. Originally I had left with a sour taste in my mouth for several reasons, but decided to give it another chance after over a year away. I was amazed at how much it had changed for the better.
So often, game store owners neglect those people that keep their stores open. Today, on the Paper Champion, we will discuss what makes a gaming store good.
1. Keep your store clean.
First impressions are everything when it comes to a retail business. So many times, gaming stores are run by owners that are a bit cluttered and messy. This also is partially to blame by the patrons of the store who have a tendency to become close with the owners and leave their gaming materials laying about in the store for extended periods of time. Food wrappers and drink cans are also a gross reminder that owners should clean up their stores. This also includes bathrooms. Yuck!
With this type of clutter and garbage around, imagine being a new customer, curious about what may be for sale inside. If your store is nasty, first timers and casual customers won’t come back. Also think about the parents of players who may be coming to your store to purchase game materials for their kids for birthday or Christmas. This type of filth may be a put off to them and that’s embarrassing for the loyal child customers.
2. Have product to offer.
So often I’ve been in stores that juts don’t have what you need whether it be singles, booster packs, boxes to keep cards in or even life counters, sleeves or dice. As a customer, if I make the trip to your store, I’m putting faith in you to have what I need. Granted, the gaming market is a fickle one and it’s hard to gauge what may sell or will collect dust on a shelf so keeping something in stock consistently may be difficult.
3. Offer players opportunities for events.
I live quite a ways from my closest store and work a strange schedule at times. My chances of getting to an event and being able to make it home at a reasonable hour is pretty limited. Consider that not everyone can make a 8pm Saturday event. Consider other events through the weekend or week and also stagger your formats and not just force feed only one format.
4. Give out freebies.
Players enjoy getting product kickbacks and I’m talking more than just promo cards. Good stores show their customer base that they are appreciated and giving products away are a great way to do so. This can be done in multiple ways of course and it really depends on what you can afford to give back. I’ve seen this done in many ways.
At the Battle for Zendikar event I attended I received not only the cards I played and paid for but a playmat for myself as well as my girlfriend that couldn’t attend. Among the usual prizes, every player also got a pack for entry which is great for newer players and kids. Everybody going home with something is a superb way to keep players coming back despite lack of skill, experience or luck and sends everyone off with a good feeling.
5. Your store is not your clubhouse.
It’s easy to make friends with your customers as a game store owner. However, nobody on the outside looking in enjoys being at a store that’s run by the owner’s cronies. I’ve seen so many bad examples over the years of inmates running the asylum when it comes to gaming stores. Theft, unfair trades, bad manners, poor sportsmanship and getting better deals on products are just some of the ill things that enter a store when the owner’s buddies start taking over the place. It’s one thing to be friendly to customers or play along side them. It’s another to keep them under a protective wing that many times leads them to taking advantage of you and your customer base which in turn pushes new customers away.
Another thing that becomes an issue is that if the store owner is busy playing games with the customers it can sometimes become a problem. I’ve been to stores where customers have entered the building and walked out minutes later because they weren’t helped or offered products they specifically came looking for. Playing with your regulars is fine, ignoring other paying customers is not.
6. Have space to play.
This seems like a no-brainer but I’ve seen a few gaming stores that had extremely limited space to play. Larger events are nearly impossible without players virtually sitting on top of one another. which leads into our next issue…
7. Customer hygiene should be a priority.
I won’t go much into this because we have all seen this. It’s a touchy topic but some store’s customers have hygiene issues and that makes other players uncomfortable. However you handle it is your prerogative and I can’t offer much advice in how to do so, just make sure that you do.
8. Offer food and drink.
Even if it’s just snack cakes, candy bars and cokes, have something for your players to refresh themselves with. Remember: Any time a customer leaves your store, you lose the opportunity to make money. Some players may even leave to get a bite to eat, saying they will be back only to change plans and not return. That’s a loss of revenue and a pain to any hungry players wanting to stay at the store. That’s the difference between your customers playing at your store and at home.
9. Keep your trade binder clean of junk rares.
I’ve been harping about this for years. Often, players will pick store trade binders clean of useful cards and eventually it will take a toll on what you have to offer your customers. Nobody wants to flip through page after page of garbage just to find something useful. The needle in the haystack approach just doesn’t work for your customers.
Go through the current formats best deck lists and put cards from each deck together in the binder. Players looking to build these decks will find it more convenient to search your collection for what they need to complete their deck. It will also tempt others who are curious about starting a competitive deck to purchase cards from you.
Follow these tips and your customers will keep coming back, I promise.
Like this article? You can contact Aiokii in the comments below or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Aiokii can also be found on MTGO, hit him up for a game sometime. Also, take the time to check out Reddit Budgetdecks for cheap discussion and deck ideas.