Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Opening a Gaming Store - After action report


I got a request to do an after action report on my experience of Siege Tabletop, so here it is!

I don't care who you are, as hobbyists we have all dreamed of owning running and a successful hobby store. The truth is, running any kind of independent shop has its own set of issues you have to consider before taking on such a project. The dream isn't to run an unsuccessful shop after all.

The first thing I did was to look at what is already out there, see if you can open up a niche and exploit it. I decided my angle would entertainment, I would make the place completely relaxed. I gave anyone who walked through the door the amount of attention they deserved and built a re pour and friendship for people.

The next step was to offer them something they maybe didn't have at home. Gaming tables were built with great looking terrain to play on. Even Xwing had proper star mats, to hopefully add that little bit more game immersion. I was charging people to play and the only way you can justify that is to give people a place they WANT to come and use. So I went all out on the terrain (also bumping into Rich really helped as well as he took on projects as well!).

I had the luxury of being able to dip my toe in and not going all out with a massive ton of stock or extra rent/rates etc to pay. My situation wasn't as risky as other people but being apart of successful independent retail for ten years, its something I'm am well versed in.

I feel I successfully fulfilled the friendly and great terrain part of the plan. The next part is probably the most important.. Social Media.. I never really used or liked Facebook before all this so I had to change my thinking. I tended to have a good laugh with people over the forums and blogger, so it was a simple case of transferring that to a facebook page and more importantly a closed group. This was the lifeblood of running the place. I ran events, let the customers design there own events. Everyone felt apart of the place and the customers slowly snowballed gathering pace to a point where we were busy every time we opened. We even had people happy to put some mileage in to visit the place.

Now this is where my plan falls down a little bit. My hope was that because we had an awesome gaming venue people wouldn't mind paying a little more for the models than the online discounters. I started out with Xwing as at that point it was by far the most popular game. On the whole people did buy without a massive discount, but it was always a conversation point. A negative that I got a tired of. The next issue I came up with and something that 99% of gamers wont see as a negative. People are not just playing Games Workshop anymore!!! In fact I can count on one hand the amount of 40k games that were played. I wasn't forceful enough on deciding which games that were going to be supported. The most popular games being played were Bolt Action and Xwing. These two systems were probably the worst ones to buy in. Xwing waves are a nightmare. Customers who would happily have bought models from me had to go elsewhere as I couldnt get the stock in. A kick in the nuts when you are enabling players. Bolt Action, its a tricky one. Very popular around our area (I dont play personally) and I was hovering over making a massive order, but then I had a niggle in the back of my head that not all the armies people are using are Warlord models... in fact most players had a big mixture.

I was also about to start up a Magic the Gathering friday night that Im sure would have brought more people in. All the hobby store owners I had spoken to pretty much said its your bread and butter. I think it was at this point I decided I would just run the place as a venue until the building sold as I could only see pit falls and no real payback for the amount of work I had to put in to sell systems, run events, keep the social media going carry the HUGE amount of stock required for the amount of games people are playing at the moment.

If I was starting again, I would make sure I worked on the bread and butter games like Magic. I would also choose a select few games that were able to be played in store, then stock those. That seems limiting but the reality is when you have invested in building a ton of terrain and a load of stock, then young Joey brings in a new game that suddenly everyone wants a part of you have a load of dead stock and unused terrain... Now the inventory of games would be wide and I would go about selling them not as badly as a GW staffer, but certainly in a way that would help push sales for the shop. I would however keep my first key points as a mantra... A place people WANT to use and full game immersion on the quality of terrain!

Twas a great experience..!
That was wordy - sorry...

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