Friday, April 28, 2006

Of Bricks, Mortar and Rays of F'ing Light

If you are going to read the things I post here you are going to need to learn to read past the smarminess and sarcasm. When you do I think you'll find that there might be a small nugget or two of useful information tucked in there...or maybe I just sharted, not sure. At any rate my true feelings on this subject can be understood and felt underneath the flaming arrows I'm about to throw. That being said let's get on with it.

Gaming is a fickle hobby and gamers are bunch of jerks with fickle attitudes who speak in an endless string of contradictions. I know I'm a contradictory throwing jerk who loves playing games and if you're a gamer reading this chances are you are thinking "But that's not all gamers, I'm not one of them." To which I say..."yes you are, now shaddap!"

How many times have I seen the post somewhere about "Oh woe is me, my local gaming store where I play and meet new gamers is closing"? I see it a good bit, more than is comfortable for me someone who see this as a loss to his hobby. ***Does a quick search for the poster's name on the forum*** Ahhhh here it is the post where that SAME person said "Hey look at this huge $631 order I just put in with some online distributor, man I can't wait to drag these games into my local store and play them."

Hmmmmmmmm and you were saying gamers are not contradictory.

So we've got this situation that has arisen that pits two opponents against each other. The Brick and Mortar stores (We'll call them BM's from here on out) and the online retailers who's sites are made up of Rays of F'ing Light (you got it we'll, call them ROFL's). But THoiA, what ever can I do to help out all those poor little children living in tree house tribes in Indonesia? Well I don't know about them but I can tell you what I see is going on between the BM's and the ROFL's.

ROFL's offer HUGE discounts.
BM's usually offer play space.
ROFL's throw in free shipping at price break points.
BM's give you that "touch-n-feel" experience.
ROFL's you can place an order while in your underwear.
BM's you can order in your underwear as well and usually not be thrown out.

That's really the big points now isn't it? How much money am I spending and a place to play/meet gamers. So where to start? Well let's rewind a bit. Game stores...ahhh yes it's a nice world with stores that sell games, everyone's happy. Internet come along and low and behold ROFL's appear and what do you know due to low overhead they are offering discounts! Now the BM owners are freaking out...calm down fella. Did VCR's put movie theaters out of business as they screamed would happen? Did Amazon squash retail bookstores? Did online prescription buying put Eckerd’s out of business...well maybe that's not the best example (see most Eckerd Drug stores have been bought out.) The answer to my question there are all YES. YES they did shut down some of those businesses...the one's owned buy people who refused to change their business model. You can not open a business today and expect it to be run exactly as it is being run 3 decades down the road. If that were true we'd be buying our euro games from the Sears & Roebuck Catalogues we get in the mail.

Take heart, there is certainly room in this world for both BM's and ROFL's but there will probably be some casualties taken here and there. So *sound of sucking wind* BM's are going to have to make adjustments if they intend on being here for the long haul. Can they afford to give their customers 35% to 40% discounts off of MSRP prices? Hell no, they've got way too much overhead to do something like that.

So where can they wiggle in and make some money? Well first of all they throw me "Joe Shopper" a fricking bone already. Do you know how insulting it is to me to walk in a store and see a game that I know has a MSRP of $49.99 and see a price tag on it of $49.99. Read my lips BM owners...NO ONE pays full MSRP these days. I just checked the price of a popular Day of Wonder title who's MSRP is $ ROFL has it for $31.45...that's $18.50 in savings. If I know I'm going to order enough games to get free shipping why would I throw away that extra $18.50? This is what I'm talking about. How about if the BM offered me 15% to 20% off of MSRP? Well now they sell said game for only $39.96, compare that to the ROFL's cost of $31.45 and guess what? I'm going to buy from the BM simply because as a greedy American I've got that "instant satisfaction" thing in me and it's worth it to me to pay a FEW dollars more to have my game RIGHT NOW!

The next thing I see that BM's can do is diversify their stock. It's time to stop be a pretentious "gamer than thou" store who stocks only obscure titles that no one not registered on BGG has any idea even exists. That's right I'm talking about being a "sell out"! The common thread with all the popular sell outs is that they now make (or have made and are living off of) an obscene amount of money (Metallica springs to mind.) Cha-Ching. The point is BM's need to carry items that are going to sell. Is it some variant of a classic (read boring like; Stratego, Risk, etc.) that now has a LotR or Star Wars theme on it...pick up a couple copies. Chances are good some 40 something aunt will wander in sometime and know nothing of gaming except her little nephew just loves Frodo and she'll buy it. Boom sale. Let's face it, the slew of games like these keep coming out right? Well that's because people keep selling them. If they didn't sell you wouldn't see new ones hit the shelves.

Next, go collectible. I personally hate collectible games and feel they are the bane of western society but they sell like a $2.00 whore outside the dock where US Navy vessel port for shore leave in Indonesia (see they working hard to feed those children, we don't need to worry about them anymore, now we can all breath easier and buy another game.) D&D Minis, Axis & Allies Minis, Heroclix, obviously MtG and other established games can be picked up and then host a weekly DRAFT tournament. Not just an open tourney, no no, do a draft! That way the players who want to play in said sanctioned (and yes do the paper work to make it sanctioned so they can be "ranked") tourney will be forced to BUY product from you. Wow clever.

Another though on collectible games is to offer large quantity discounts. If someone is interested in buy an entire retail display of boosters don't make them pay full MSRP for each pack. Obviously again the BM's can't sell for the ridiculous prices they can find on eBay but making some sort of effort to lower the cost makes a huge impact to the end buyer. They feel special!

My last thought is something I've seen in some smaller game stores here and there but nowhere near enough of it. Sell used games. Give someone about 30% of what a game is worth in trade dollars in your store, then sell the game for about 65% of what the game is worth to others. Of the 2 stores I've seen doing this both said it's very successful. Can't get gamers to come up off of their games? Well then go consignment. Same thing as above but now let the person owning the game name his get a say 25% of the sale. This could be a bit more risky though as if you are buying the games outright you don't have to buy the games that you are currently selling new copies of.

I've got other ideas for the BM's as well but they start getting more difficult to manage and possibly just hair brained ideas that won't work so I'll stop there.

What can ROFL's do? Well not really a damn thing. They get the business already and even if the above steps are taken they will STILL get plenty of business. You are not going to make all the ROFL's go out of business, it's just not going to happen. The BM's just need to make sure they stay not only afloat but are profitable. If the BM's treat their customers with respect and are little more kind to their wallets they will generate die hard fans of their stores who will always buy from them first.

Now the next time you see that "going out of business" sign in your local BM's window don't cry about it on the forums. Just think back to that big assed box UPS sent you last week and think to yourself "It's all my fault, I should probably go kill myself."
and you are most likely right.


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