The perfect gaming store?

Hey folks!

My friend Justin Zimmerman over at Gamer's Gambit  in Saddlebrook, NJ asked me a question:

If you do not mind taking the time, what would a perfect game store be like? What would it have? What would it NOT have? In your opinion and what you think most of the gamers out there are looking for. Thanks

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!



A.G. Christensen said...

I agree with everything said. One thing that I would think should go without saying is "have a friendly staff". When I moved to a new state and was looking for a new game store there were two choices, both fairly popular and busy. When i walked into one i was ignored and when i asked questions of the owner or staff was given brisk answers and then they would walk away leaving me alone while they chatted with their friends, when i walked into the second i was immediately welcomed by the owner who asked what games i played and took time to introduce me to some of the local players, as well as see to it that I got a game in that day. Now guess which one has my loyalty.

Jawaballs said...

Nice A.G. I forgot to talk about Staff. It is one of my biggest pet peeves to encounter poorly trained staff who are more focused on their cell phones than the customers. Absolutely the management needs to spend a lot of time training the staff. Sometimes the management could use training themselves! Good suggestion!

MascisMan said...

The most important thing a gaming store needs are gamers that are friendly, willing to help each other, and accepting of new gamers.

Second is a friendly and helpful staff.

Sure stock and tables are important, but like you said, products can be sourced from other places and gamers are willing to play on anything. These are "icing on top" features.

The solid foundation is made up of the players and staff.

Jawaballs said...

Mascisman, one thing that cannot be controlled is the players. However, a good staff can over time have an effect on the player base. With good examples of friendly interaction, people will learn how to follow!

Xzandrate said...

Yes, that's right, the players can't be controlled . . . . . think they bought it?

It comes down more to behaviour enforcement and the atmosphere you provide, rather than controlling.

I've been in stores where it felt like a business and you went in and were respectful, if someone was vulgar, they were politely asked to refrain from that in the store. I've also been in stores where it seems like a teenager's basement, so there is little respect and much more vulgarity.

Another important factor I find missing in a lot of stores is communication. If you only carry core stock, let people know if the store is doing a special Forgeworld order, or if Wednesdays is Warhammer night, post it someplace.

Ideally a website and/or newsletter goes a long way in my mind, it's the 21st century use the technology. Do not use Facebook as your primary website, it isn't an accessible medium for everyone and there are many privacy concerns that keep users from using Facebook. It may be cheap, but it also comes off as such and doesn't build confidence. You can get a domain and a wordpress site that looks half decent for very little. On the flipside though, Facebook and Twitter are both powerful communication tools that allow instant information download and can be great when leveraged properly, so don't overlook them.

Drathmere said...

You hit it on the head with teh stock issue. I hate hearing "I don't have it but I can order it for you". I have never ordered in that situation, and it produces a little mental note to just order everything online in the first place!

So my list:

1) Noise control (love the idea of sound deadening)
2) Smell control (have plenty of air flow--think vegas since gamers tend to stink)
3) Minimum Age Limit (hey this is for my ideal store right?)
4) Bar with food
5) Dediccated painting areas with airbrushes and vaccum chambers and other odd equipment that games might not own. (but could buy)
6) Longer hours on the weekday so I can leave work and still get ther on time.
7) Awesome tables. These should be WHW awesome.
8) Rentable display cabinets for storage of armies at the store.
9) Good assorment of impulse buy items e.g. forgeworld
10) Casting supplies
11) no card games (I know this is not feasible)
12) Distinct space between stock and bar/gaming area
13) Paint supplies from other manufacturers
14) ....whoops spent too much time on this.. back to work!

Jawaballs said...

Haha Drathmere, the card games are a huge profit maker. I like a lot of your ideas though... a dedicated painting station with airbrush! Good idea.

Jeff F said...

Concur with what has been said before, staff and stock are huge.

Also Drathmere mentioned store hours. I don't know age statistics on Warhammer customers but having later hours during the week is a big bonus for me and my group; we are all working professionals. Hobby/gaming time in the evening after work is more consistent than weekend gaming during the day when people have kids or a Mrs who needs some time.

Argentius said...

My FLGS has most of what Drathmere posted as his "ideal." I believe there is a hobby store in Seattle, WA that has a built in bar area, which is a phenomenal idea, especially after a really great game or among friends; that said alcohol and tournaments never mix well. As for a minimum age limit,I think that deters a lot of family gaming. I myself drop f* bombs from time to time on snake-eyes, but when kids are around I don't think it's that hard to watch the language. All in all, a very interesting article.

MascisMan said...

Jawa and Xzan, you are right, a good group of quality gamers can't be controlled/created per se. Which is why the "perfect" game store can not be created, per se. It really involves a "perfect storm" that combines as much luck as it does proper management and fantastic creativity.

This was kind of the idea I was aiming at with my post. When a perfect (or near perfect) game store materializes or matures it's almost like catching lightning in a bottle. Don't take it for granted!

Regardless though, the question was, "What would a perfect game store be like?" Maybe the more appropriate question is, "What would make an ideal game store?"

I once belonged to an "ideal" game store. It wasn't perfect but had near everything I was looking for. The staff was very involved with repeat customers and gamers. They were also active in participating with games going on (if they were off the clock). Respect and a decent amount of maturity was expected. Everyone knew each other yet new gamers were constantly encouraged to join in. Sounds cheesy but it had a very "Cheers" vibe. Sadly, the owner eventually needed to move out of state to pursue other endeavors and I haven't quite found anything similar since.

artstthms said...

PILLS HERE!!! seriously, have headache meds. and have a water fountain or just buy the bottles and sell em for a buck each.

breng77 said...

I agree with most of what has been said. For me the the top of my list would be.

1.) Playing space, you need tables and terrain that are as good or better than what I have at home, otherwise why go to the store?

2.) Stock, I always mention this to my local store Which has in the past kept low stock because it was not selling, which was a catch 22, if you don't have it I can't buy it. Sure it can get ordered, but I have had lots of bad experience with store based orders, they don't come in on time, or I don't get called when they do etc. If I need to order as has been said, I can do that myself at home. often for a better discount than what I get in store. I like to buy local because I can get it now and support the local stores. But if I can order my self (or better yet drive 20 min elsewhere) to pick it up I will.

3.) Consistent scheduling. If a particular day is open gaming or hobby night or whatever, don't constantly have it moved by other events. If that day is hard then maybe another night would be better. If things like open gaming are frequently moved...they die.

4.) The store should have an online presence. This in many cases is what allows those stores to discount in store, and offer better prize support at tournies (My local store actually goes Entry fees + 10% for the prize pool and then discounts stock 10%) this as I was told by the manager is because they make most of their money online, so in store sales are not forces to be highly profitable to keep things running.

4.) Easy access to food options, whether the store has food, orders food for events, or just has multiple close restaurants, nothing is more annoying than needing to rush out on a lunch break to find food.

Andrew G said...

Most of the good ones have been said, but I'll toss in my .02 on a personal pet peeve -

Keep the store clean, including the restrooms. I've been part of many game stores in different regions over the years, and this has been a recurring problem at many. Excessive trash, dirt, filth, and in general foul restrooms. I realize this isn't the stores (typically) creating this mess and is rather their gross gamer patrons, but it's the stores responsibility to keep things looking nice and/or enforce policies to make sure they stay that way.

Honestly, I used to work night shift at a crappy gas station in the middle of nowhere and even we had to keep the place clean, had a schedule for who cleaned what and when, etc. It's always amazed me that some game stores don't do this.

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