My friend Justin Zimmerman over at Gamer's Gambit in Saddlebrook, NJ asked me a question:
I figured I would throw this one out to you all to give him some great feedback!
First, this question is a lot of responsibility for little ole me to answer alone. :)
What do I think all gamers out there want?
Well first is good tables and terrain. Most guys will play on any thing, but players really appreciate being able to play on a pretty table that is not just a bunch of foam insulation boards all chipped and broken set up on a folding cafeteria table with some unpainted cities of death terrain and craters. This might not pop out as a huge deal, but tables are usually one of the first things people talk about when they reference good, or bad GTs. "Oh the tables sucked!"
Mechanicon has the best table I have played on at any GT and they are proud of that distinction!
How many? That is up to a store's space. One particularly nice setup I have seen is at Brothers Grimm on Long Island. They have two long rows of tables that run the length of the store, that are raised fairly high so that us out of shape dudes don't have to constantly bend over a low table. The tables there serve double purpose since they work well for Card Games as well as 40k.
Another good thing about those tables is that there is usually space below them to store our stuff on shelves. You can never have enough space to put your transports and army displays!
I say six dedicated gaming tables should be a goal. That allows for a 12 man tournament of 40k, or that can accommodate probably 24 card gamers. Then space for more break down tables allowing for a 30 man tournament.
It is every gamer's gutt instinct to say "Couches with Xbox" when thinking about what should be in a game store. But I disagree. Truth is, whenever I have been to a store that had these things, I have found it mildly annoying! Unlike 40k, video games are uninteresting and actually annoying to watch. Plus the guys playing them are enraptured in their own little worlds, way more so than table top games. They put their back to the room and enter their zone just like they do in their moms basement. And while it would be nice to sit and drink scotch with my gamer buddies and talk 40k on a comfy couch, that is not the case as they are uber camped by 12 year olds eating chips, spilling soda and treating the space like some one is there to clean up after them.
Mike Clark from Showcase Comics in Media, PA put it into words. The couch attracts the wrong crowd. It takes up retail space and populates the store with guys who are not spending money who are more likely to loaf around as they have a comfortable place to park. But worse, creates a situation where your store is providing daycare for free, and on top of that, when walk ins come in, they get turned off by the rowdy crowd associated with it. I concur on all counts.
That is not saying that Xbox does not have a place in a gaming store, especially if that store has a used game market.
A discount program? Stores don't like hearing this, but when gamers run the numbers, it is very tempting to use guys like Spikey Bitz who offer a 20% discount with no tax vs paying full price in a local store plus tax. I used to break it down by box sets. I could buy a Land Raider and two assault squads at the LGS or I could go online and buy a Land Raider and THREE assault squads. Pretty easy decision for most folks!
No that doesn't mean you should just throw a discount at every gamer that walks in though. Dean at Clockwork Comics in Orange, CT has a gamers club. I believe there is nominal yearly fee, and you have to maintain a couple of comic subscriptions, but if you do you get a 20% discount off 40k and Warmachine.
The details are unimportant. What does matter is that a game store can use this approach and individualize it for their own distinct population. Gaming ETC. in Stratford, CT offers a flat 10% discount to every one. Bottom line is that our addiction breaks us, and while we want to support our LGS by shopping there exclusively, I believe you would be hard pressed to find a handful of adult gamers who do not save their big purchases for the interwebs and instead exclusively pay full price at the LGS.
Separate gaming area and retail area. It is annoying to try to shop or browse a store that is full of gamers. I have played at tournaments where we were lined up tight against the clamshell racks. Every time I turned around I was knocking a blister off a hook. What made it worse was shoppers asking me to let them pass through the space. "I'm playing a game here!" I have walked into a store as a shopper to find they were running a Yu Gi Oh tournament.... and just turned around and walked out.
Noise control. Thats right. install noise dampening materials on the walls and ceiling. Sound baffles to redirect the echos, etc. Some places get so loud that you simply cannot hear the guy across from you while you are playing. That sucks. Especially if you are playing three games in a day. You leave wanting to die. And don't play music over a sound system. Even cool stuff like the Conan soundtrack. It just adds to the noise.
Stock. I dislike when I go to a store to buy something I need, like a Chimera I need for a tournament in two days, and they are out of stock. Then the next time it is a terminator squad. The next time a speeder. Eventually you just stop trying to go to the store and instead drive further to the next one.
Whatever it is, have it in stock. More people will come to the store that has the reputation for always having what you want. Sorry store owners but "I don't have it but I can order it for you" is just not good enough in this case. I think just about 100% of the time whenever I have heard that I declined and just went and ordered it myself.
I know I know, it is impossible to keep EVERYTHING in stock. But you did ask what I thought a perfect store was like! But you should endeavor to try. At least push for what you are known for. If you are a 40k store, your 40k stock should be complete. Skimp on the warmachine and even the fantasy, but if some one comes looking for a Tau Broadside, or Space Marine Chaplain with Jump Pack blister, it should be there.
This is especially important for hobby supplies like spray primer and plastic glue. Always have them. And more than just GW. Army Painter makes nice primers and there are several other brands of glue. Always have at least one can stored away so you can please that guy who NEEDS IT NOW! He will definitely come back next time.
Dedicated space for RPGs. Set up a comfortable area off in the back for Dungeons and Dragons and make sure there is a place for the DM to get set up with his stuff, and 6 to 8 players to sit comfortably.
Cool stuff, like Jawa-Banners! Every store needs a Jawa-Banner! :) But shameless plugs aside, make your store unique. Decorate it with banners, artwork and suits of armor that add the cool factor. Rob Baer at Spikey Bitz has a suit of Storm Trooper armor standing in his store, and a Jawa-banner on the wall! Cool!
:) I am sitting here chuckling to myself.
From here I will open this up to the readers. Feel free to chime in here peeps. Lets give Justin some good feedback on this great question.
By the way I have Comment Moderation on to silence the douchebags. Be patient, your comment will post as soon as I get to it!