Friday, August 29, 2014

What Landlords Want (Tradecraft)

I've gone through three, about to be four lease negotiations and I've helped other people with this. I've been turned down for at least as many properties, if not more. When you're starting a game store, the lease seems like one of many items in your project plan, so it's natural that it doesn't get your full attention. Your busy with a business and marketing plan, inventory and fixture selection, insurances, and many more things. Choosing a site is critical though, it's the one and only irreversible mistake you can make. All the other mistakes can be fixed with more money or even selling your business, but a bad lease is terminal. Nobody can help you.

Finding a location is hard, but even harder is getting a landlord or property management company to give it to you. This is especially true with your first location, as you don't have a track record and you're considered high risk. If you can't get a prime spot, you could end up in one of the grubby, starter business locations in the bad part of town. The guys who rent retail spaces like apartments with one year leases, first and last months rent and a guarantee that no parent will leave their children with you.

I found after just one completed lease I was a shoe in for many locations. Landlords courted me. Site selection and lease negotiation are important, but I'm going to talk about what they're looking for. What does the landlord, and the city for that matter, want from you?

Money. They want to know you'll last your lease, which could be three to five years. Money means a couple things, but primarily you can dazzle them with cash on hand.

If you've raised $50,0000 or $100,0000 for your business, even if its a loan or money from family, leave it in the bank until you have your lease negotiated. Show it up front. Flash your cash. Consider a cover letter with that number in bold.

The landlord wants to see that. I recall doing an entire presentation for my business and the landlord said, "That's well and good, but do you have any money?" He never asked for forms from my newly opened business account with a six figure bank roll. Once that was disclosed, they were happy to separate me (the fool) from it (my money).

Experience. I've said it before, you need a lot of experience or a lot of money to survive your first couple years in business. If you've got retail experience, especially management, show that off. They want to know you have a chance of making it through your lease and that you won't be a pain in their butt during that period.

New commercial lease holders are likely to ask a lot of dumb questions or make requests not covered in their lease (like asking for anything, really). Who pays for the garbage? I used my neighbors garbage for two years before they yelled at me to stop. I didn't know. Who pays if someone breaks in through your front window (probably you, hopefully you have plate glass insurance). Experience says you'll be smooth sailing through this period.

If you don't have retail experience, show some business education, SCORE classes, or management in other areas. It can't hurt, but retail is its own animal. Most MBA graduates would be hard pressed to run a game store, especially with their own money. After completing the lease on my first business, my property agent confided in me that she talked to the property owner and they both concluded I would never make it through my lease, due to lack of experience (see Money above).

Tranquility. That pretty much sums up what they're looking for. Gaming means a lot of different things to different people. It might mean a card room, for example. Card rooms, legalized gambling, are horrible for communities, attract crime and desperate people and generate trouble. Gaming means gambling to most.

Gaming can also mean an arcade, especially if you have an older landlord. Arcades were often associated with selling drugs, juvenile delinquency, and hooliganism (again, if they're older). Imagine teenagers on bicycles littering the parking lot and painting graffiti on the wall. Damn vidya games.

With gaming comes consumption of alcohol, and if you've applied for your proper permits so you're zoned for "public assembly," they might see you as a social club which would include alcohol consumption. Our current building permit approval was very clear we were not going to sell alcohol on the premises.

What I recommend is you stress the community focused, family friendly nature of your business. If you're going to sell board games, make that a focus, even if it's 10% of your sales. People don't quite understand how you'll sell enough of them, but they know what they are. If you lead with Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, because that's where the money is, you'll alienate people and possibly bring up their prejudices. Focus on family games and educational value in your presentation.

That also leads to age and gender issues. Show that the demographics of the game trade are primarily men in their 20's, not teenagers. Stress that half the people that buy board games are women and that women make up the majority of family purchasing decisions, and you'll be creating a store catering to them.

Just about every game in a game store has an age range on it, and they all range from 6-14 years of age. They wouldn't be wrong in concluding that your customer base will comprise of a bunch of marauding 6-14 year olds, riding their bikes, graffitiing the parking lot and leaving Yugioh wrapper everywhere (that last one is probably true). Show that you're family friendly and you cater to intelligent adults with disposable income.

Finally. Understand your tables and charts, your ROI, your break even analysis, the difference between gross and net and net gross. Know your expenses like the back of your hand. Research the heck out of your expenses. Your sales projections are already made up, fairy tale numbers. Nail your expenses and you won't look foolish. I honestly had just a sliver of understanding of many of these things when I started, but that extra research ensured later success. Anyone looking at your plan will see that.

One more thing. They're going to compare you to local game stores. If those stores are bad, you should distance yourself from them in advance. If there are good stores around, tell them how you plan to be a local version of that store. If there aren't any good stores around, include aspirational photos from stores across the country, showing the great things you hope to do in your location.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Deciding What to Buy

This post answers one of our Kickstarter backer requests. How to decide what games or game lines to bring in, what to pass on and what to discontinue. I'm going to focus on purchasing.

Deciding what to buy starts with the budget. My budget is the Open to Buy worksheet that I use daily to track how much I have available to spend. In reality, Open to Buy is an after action report, since most of my buying decisions happen long before I pull the trigger and the product arrives. Stuff that gets placed on a purchase order today was often ordered weeks or months ago.

Solicitations come in nearly daily from distributors for products that won't be available for 30-90 days. If I were to divide the total SKUs in my system by the number of days I've been in business, there would be eight SKUs added every day. And get this, purchasing is only around 10% of my job. How long do you think I spend analyzing those eight SKUs during my day? Doing some bistro math (minutes in the day, times ten percent, divided by eight SKUs), no more than eight minutes per SKU. Some dude just poured his entire creative existence into this new game. He's got eight minutes to impress me somehow. You can see how I might be a bit jaded after a while, contracting "widget fever."

How do I decide what to bring in?

Alliance lists over 430 manufacturers in their online catalog, but 75% of my sales comes from only 30 game companies. Solicitations from those companies are more along the lines of quantity, rather than deep research to determine if I want them. Magic alone accounts for about a quarter of our sales. Half of what we order tends to be of the "fire and forget" variety, items we bring in a single copy. sell, and never see again.

But how to get on my radar? There are a number of ways. A solicitation from a distributor puts it in front of me, lets me know a buyer stands behind it, and hopefully provides me enough information to make a decision. I probably pick up 20-30% of what I'm presented.

If the product is a board game, I'll be looking on boardgamegeek for reviews and checking to see if it's a Kickstarter project. If the reviews are good, and I mean really good, and the funding was high ($50,000+), I'll pre-order one. Just one. If you're one of my 30 top companies, that number can be much, much higher. I don't do deeper research than this, such as trolling forums and the like. I don't have time.

When it comes to roleplaying games, the level of hand selling in that area means I generally have a person or two in mind who will buy the book I'm bringing in. Of course, about 75% of sales in that department is D&D and Pathfinder, so that takes a lot of the work out of it. Anything FATE is also a no brainer. If I were more indie focused, I would need to do far more research (sales are pretty low for us in that category).

Kickstarter projects in the RPG department rarely meet my backer metrics, but I'll often waive that for a well known author, either by supporting their Kickstarter beforehand or stocking it after the release. Kickstarter RPG projects, in general, are not getting placement in the sales channel any longer. The board game market is far more profitable to the consolidators that once represented small RPG publishers to distributors. They're generally not accepting new RPG clients. This is a bit alarming and the flow of quality, indie RPGs in the distribution channels seems to have slowed quite a bit.

Miniature games are complete systems in need of large scale adoption and have very little chance of getting picked up without a vocal customer base. That has happened recently with Relic Knights and Wild West Exodus. If you want me to pick up a miniature line, my customers need to sell me on it. Even then, it's high risk and low reward, and as the flavor of the month recedes, we're left with a lot of unsold stock. They still play, but they have what they need. I think miniature games are inventory freeloaders that only exist in stores on the backs of more profitable departments. They rarely pull their own weight. I love them, but they're bums.

Collectible card games? Forget it. CCGs require communities and they don't develop overnight. There has been some success with anime games of late, but I'll generally get left holding the bag in the end. CCGs are the only product that will ever get tossed in the trash. Nobody wants a dead CCG. Nobody. Customers need to drive these requests, and I'm much happier taking a chance with a pre-order of a booster box or two of the game in question.

Where else do I learn about new games? Besides sales reps, I like to go to trade shows, when I get the chance. Shows are excellent sources of information, but costly to attend. The annual Gama Trade Show in Las Vegas is always worth the time and money for me, although I generally only go every other year. Various Games Day events from distributors are useful. Regional game conventions often generate buzz and I'll listen to customers as they return from these shows.

Social media is where I tend to focus, namely Facebook. I follow over 500 pages, many of them gaming and game community related. It works for me because I intensively use Facebook for marketing the store. Actually playing the game rarely happens. Noting buzz about games and a general fluctuation in the matrix, is what I'm looking for. That also means listening to other retailers through private groups and listening to customers in our local and regional gaming groups.

I listen. That's my biggest purchasing skill. Whether I like a game. Whether I play a game. Whether I've read the book, turns out to not be all that important. It helps. I can sell the heck out of the things I like, or the games I've played, but from a business perspective, it doesn't move the needle. My ability to sell things is not dependent on my ability to use the product. Eight SKUs a day, every day, for ten years.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Product Pyramid (Tradecraft)

One of my investor friends is a partner in another game store in the Midwest. I've been giving him advice over the last year on how to choose stock. It turns out to be an excellent mental exercise, because although I have a lot of good theory ideas, I haven't always had the opportunity to put them into practice. Sure, I have a store, but I'm set in my ways. With his new store, I'm asked what to stock, how much, and most importantly, why. The why has me thinking, which leads to changes at Black Diamond Games.

One of the bigger changes is the product pyramid. You can get really obsessed with inventory metrics, which I discuss incessantly, but there are important exceptions to metrics. One of these is the product pyramid. A product pyramid has several meanings in retail, but in this case, it refers to a broad pyramid base of slower selling product that's necessary to accelerate the sales at the top of the pyramid. Pathfinder is an excellent example, with three quarter of the sales compromising about 5% of the books (hardcovers). Those three quarters of sales from 5% of the product line couldn't happen without the bottom 95%. Chop the bottom 95% and the entire pyramid collapses.

And the tendency is to chop the base, since it fails to perform under standard inventory metrics. This type of inventory works as a complete system, so you either accept the broad, bottom of the pyramid, stagger along with slow selling top only items, or you drop the line entirely. Knowing which product lines work in this fashion is mostly trial and error. This week the product pyramid strategy was applied to dice.

How much dice should a game store carry? Well, how much money do you have? The answer is as much dice as you can afford. You can't have too many. The broader the selection, the higher the sales rate. That bottom of the pyramid will sell poorly, but customers want selection, demand it really, even if they only ever buy 20% of what's available.

Today we put this into practice one more time by completing our selection of Chessex polyhedral dice. Say it's in honor of D&D 5th Edition if you like, but we now carry every set. Before we were using standard metrics, keeping only the top selling sets. When we first did this, we noticed that sales fell pretty sharply. It took a few years for us to realize why. And a few more years before we rectified the problem (as in we're fixing it now).

The product pyramid doesn't work in every category, but it's another tool in the toolbox to apply to special cases. I wouldn't have thought to apply it in this case if I hadn't been helping out my buddy.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Failure Opportunities (Tradecraft)

My real job is process management. That means I create policies, procedures and work flows that maximize customer satisfaction, reduce errors, increase efficiency and allow for increased "mind-space" for additional processes to feed back into this system. I'm no expert at it. In fact, I've got a management style that's looser, more egalitarian and less ordered than most, which makes my job a little bit harder. The longer I stay in this business, the more process management will be my focus.

In stock Tuesday
I really hate when our processes break down, when we fail to perform. Hopefully, we've built in enough safeguards to counter a process failure, but sometimes we just can't win. Our job inevitably comes down to having stuff, having customers to sell that stuff to, and having the facility to make that sale. Any break down in that multi faceted process and everything comes to a halt. That's what happened yesterday with the release of the new D&D Next Player's Handbook.

That failure looked like this. Someone sitting in their living room last Sunday afternoon used my stolen business credit card number to buy airline tickets at an online travel site. The $1,300 sale instantly set off alarms at the credit card company. They texted me alarm. I texted back my denial. The sale was declined and a few minutes later, the card canceled, another card promised in a few days. This happens about once a year, but that's another story about the American credit card industry.  Monday morning our D&D order should have auto shipped from Wizards of the Coast with my credit card on file.

The card was obviously declined. Wizards let me know later on Monday. I called early Tuesday morning with a new card. The order was confirmed and it normally would have shipped that day. A Tuesday ship means a Friday delivery for me, so I hedged by buying a bunch of product through our local distributor, just in case.

This exception at Wizards didn't go well, with a process flaw on their end, since my order was now an exception to their process.  The order never actually shipped. Our local distributor order didn't cover all the pre-orders, mostly because I was hedging, knowing I had 40 copies of the book arriving that afternoon. Big mistake. The whole system collapsed after our Fedex order arrived with no books and that uncomfortable phone call to WOTC was made. Failure.

Not only would I lose sales over the weekend, but I had promised people this book, people who had given me money and trusted me. This is an opportunity of sorts. Before I talk about that, let me say I truly am sorry about what happened. I don't want to make light of a broken promise or a process failure in all its complexity. It sucks. I'll do what I can to make it right. I've contacted each of them. I'll pay a price for sure. But here's how failure opportunities work:

It's generally believed that good customer service should be the norm. Not being a screw up, besides what others might tell you, is expected. Nobody talks about how they didn't get their coffee order screwed up today. However, they will tell, on average, about ten people, if their coffee order was screwed up  (mine was messed up last night at the Barnes & Noble cafe in Emeryville). People like to talk about their drama. Everyone does it. So screwing up and not fixing it is an enormous negative hit, essentially anti advertising.

Now, what would it take to fix it? Make me another cup of coffee and you've inconvenienced me further and made the experience less than great. Could you take an extra step to fix the problem? You tell your friends your coffee order was screwed up and they make you a new coffee, and give you a free muffin? That's conversation worthy, although, I'll admit, the corporatization of this process will take the sincerity out of the equation. Manager on register four! Muffin compensation override!

How about an apology song sung by the manager? Just change the words to Happy Birthday. You can't really overdo this. I read a business book about a very successful bicycle shop. They screwed up an order for a kids birthday. The owner took that bike, adorned with streamers and birthday wrappings, and drove it thirty miles to hand deliver it to the customers door. I might have made up the streamers bit, but you get the idea. You're not trying to pacify your customers, you're trying to win them over. Wizards shipped our books Fedex Air to get them in ASAP, which is a personal bicycle delivery of sorts.

Make it better. Fix it for the customer and it's just an extension of your process management. It's an opportunity to show you care. It's an opportunity to spread the word that this business is not just about making a buck. They go the extra mile. It feels good too. If you're concerned about cost, try to think about what that customer is worth to you. I once figured ours spends an average of $600 over their lifetime sales with us. Or put "screw ups" as a line item in your marketing budget. Whatever it takes. Seize that failure opportunity.

And I truly am sorry.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Organized Play (Tradecraft)

There is only one thing absolutely required for any organized play (OP) program, and that's available product. Friday Night Magic, which uses drafting (opening new packs) runs like a top, because there is always product from Wizards of the Coast. Sure, they have the best OP program in the industry, but the bare requirement of available product is never an issue. D&D and Pathfinder have core books always available, even 4th edition Player's Handbooks were in stock at most distributors up until recently. We run 14 events a week for games with ready stock (along with our red headed stepchild, Flames of War). Even Pokemon USA, the shadowy dark lord of hobby gaming, makes sure there's enough product in the pipeline for months after a release.

When product is not in stock, we have a problem. We cannot run events without product, and if the customers have product already, through whatever sources, the promotional element of events ceases to function. We're essentially running events for Amazon at that point. Getting an event on the calendar obviously requires customer interest, but I'll look at the likelihood of available stock and attempt to determine how much pain this event will cause.

Yugioh is an example of pain. Yugioh is a hot potato product, red hot out of the oven and handed off as quickly as possible. Distributors do not sit on Yugioh. It comes out, they sell it to us and it evaporates from their warehouse within a couple days, forever. Yugioh customers are right now driven and won't care about the new release six weeks in the future. As a retailer, I must buy all my Yugioh product up front, everything I want, until the end of time. When we canceled Yugioh events in December, we were sitting on $9,000 of inventory. That's at my cost.

To put the opportunity cost in perspective, a good store will do at least three turns a year. $9,000 buys me $18,000 of standard inventory at MSRP (a lot less if it's Yugioh; the worst margin in gaming). Three turns times $18K is $54,000. I gave up $54,000 a year in gross sales so I could run steady Yugioh tournaments with product rarely, if ever, out of stock. With the profits, that's a new car payment (around $400/month). Imagine how much money I had to be making to say, "No, that's alright, I don't want those keys. Close up the sunroof. I need product to run Yugioh." It was a lot of money.

You know who doesn't have that kind of pull? Every other game company except Wizards of the Coast. If WizKids or Fantasy Flight Games told me I had to stock model star ships 50 deep to run their events, I would be running the numbers, checking the mileage on my car, and politely declining. That's exactly how those two companies have always worked retailer stock. Forget your theoretical opportunity cost. If you don't want to be out of Arkham Horror, stock deeper. That these companies can't actually supply the demand even if we wanted to go deep, says they are not ready for organized play. They may have a great OP guy, but the production dynamics of these companies are not designed for retailer events. It's a shame too, because the demand is there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Art of Diplomacy

This is a guest blog post by Mike Webb of Alliance Game Distributors, about the game Diplomacy and how it relates to business. This is part of a series of Kickstarter sponsored posts that are helping us expand our store. If you're a local Diplomacy fan, you should check out the August Double Con hosted by the Bay Area Diplomacy Association on August 23rd.

Everything I Really Needed to Know About Business I Learned From Gaming

Hi. I’m not Gary Ray, but I play him on the internet. My name is Mike Webb, and I am Vice President of Marketing and Data Services at Alliance Game Distributors and in charge of the publication of Game Trade Magazine.

I have been a gamer since the late 70’s, and although I have had the pleasure of working in the hobby game industry professionally for the last 17 plus years. Before that I was a regional manager for a print shop and computer services chain in Tennessee, and before that I managed hotels. Gaming has informed many of my professional choices and my management style. 

In fact, 3 games in particular have made a major impact on me professionally even outside the game biz – Diplomacy, Risk, and Dungeons & Dragons. Diplomacy in particular was important in forming job related skill, as it taught me very basic principles that apply in business as well as in international relations.

How to Work With Others to Build Consensus

Okay, Diplomacy is a classic, but it is not everyone’s favorite because it is not a test of who is the best strategist in a vacuum. No, it is a test of who is the best at building consensus and offering others something they want and need while furthering your own cause as well. You simply cannot win without the help of others, so you learn early to build common cause with your competitors in order to rely on their aid in certain situations. 

This manifests in business a number of ways. Game retailers operating in the same market with the same product selection may seem to only be competitors in one sense, but they are in fact engaged together in the marketing of games as an entertainment alternative against purveyors of other entertainment products and services. Retailers in the same area can work together to create compelling and good-natured league play and competitive events, bringing in a larger pool of resources for them to compete for. It can be a win/win. 

When I work with a competitor toward a common goal, I also create goodwill that is visible to the community. Recently, a retailer in the Northeast did not receive product for a major prerelease event. Other retailers in the area – all of whom were technically competing for the same dollars – pooled together extra product they had and sent it to that store so they could also run the event. The community was happy to see such common ground among the stores, and I credit actions like this one with the strength of the gaming community in that area.

Obviously, this cooperation cannot cross the line into collusion – some areas of cooperation are off limits. But working together to build community, to build (friendly) rivalries and to help each other so you both get ahead? That is a winning strategy in business.

Richard Sharp famously wrote in The Game of Diplomacy, “The events on the board can be exciting enough at the time; but it is away from the board, during the fifteen minutes or so of negotiating time, that the game is decided. “ This is true in business as well as the game.

How to be a Gracious Loser (and Come Back to the Table to Play Again with a New Strategy)

We hear a lot in the business and in life about someone being a Sore Loser – and no doubt you have seen your share in life. These are people who can suck the fun out of any activity. They are often the most competitive, and certainly some good can come from focusing so much energy on new and innovative strategies. But in the end, a Sore Loser blames things outside of his or her control for the failure of the plan – and in so doing often make other wish they had not played together. This is especially true in Diplomacy, where loss is just part of the game and where despite it seeming like someone is your ally, they are playing first for themselves. 

Again, quoting Richard Sharp’s excellent book (and much like Go Rin No Sho and Art of War, one that belongs on every business bookshelf if you ask me) – “Few players will actually say in as many words, ‘You -let me down in our last game, so I’m out to get you this time.’ But it’s a common enough attitude. It seems to me to indicate a fundamental immaturity of outlook; good players treat each game as a new beginning, and though they will remember previous accidents and not be caught napping again, they will not bear grudges.

You see, those were the rules to begin with – we sat down to play a game, and in the end I am first and foremost trying to win. Don’t be surprised by that as the game comes to an end. We may both want to push the Austrian player out of Burgandy, and so we may work together on that. But in the end, I am trying to win and so are you. While I maintain that we can have great cooperation among stores (or hotels, or whatever business sector you may be in), we need to recognize individual goals are out there as well. Don’t take it personally if someone outplays you – in fact take it as a reason to sharpen your own skill set and to come back to play again. No one wants to play with a Sore Loser – but if I can lose and compliment you on your play while adapting my strategy to the new reality? Then I stand to win as well. And chances are you will come back to the table to play with me again.

How to be a Gracious Winner

This is the flipside of the above, but it bears mentioning. In far too many businesses I see local or regional competitors – people who have so much in common that they could be working towards – getting caught up in unprofitable competition. Winning becomes everything, and so often winning is not defined as anything other than crushing the enemy. Profitability is secondary to “winning”. Sustainability is secondary. Creating new customer base is secondary. And so often the winner can become so insufferably smug, that people outside the game walk away from the table. Customers see the vicious competition between two stores or two manufacturers and decide they would rather take their money a completely different direction.

Be as gracious in victory as you are in defeat. Congratulate others in the game on their good play. Adapt their strategies that worked, and tell them that you found those compelling. Give credit where it is due, and don’t pat yourself on the back too hard.  Which brings us to:

The Arrogant Points-Leader Gives His Competitors Common Cause – and a Big Target

Invariably in any group that plays Diplomacy, you will find that one player who thinks they cracked the code on the strategy. Big heads and bigger words follow – and suddenly that player finds people unwilling to work towards common goals – even when those goals visibly benefit both players. This happens all too often in business. And is a big reason why working with others in your play space towards common goals and consensus are so very powerful. Make your business one that the competitors know and respect by being someone they can work with. 

In short, remember Wheaton’s Law.

Good luck, and above all Enjoy the Game!

Mike Webb
VP of Marketing and Data Services
Alliance Game Distributors

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Three Types of Projects (Tradecraft)

There are three types of construction projects as I see it, related pretty closely to the three types of game stores out there. You can classify them as backyard, low budget, and professional.

Backyard construction and game stores are about flying under the radar. Construction is usually DIY. It's best suited for sheds in your back yards, hopefully not inhabited by tenants or your boomerang kids. Perhaps a chicken coop. It's nothing you wouldn't mind seeing torn down if you had your wrist slapped.

Game stores of this type tend to have month to month leases, no capitalization, and plans to undercut their competition and make it up in volume. There is no business plan and employees are paid in peanut butter sandwiches and Magic singles. They open when they feel like it, order inventory when there's money left after rent, and have no business terms to speak of, paying most things in COD. Most last about 18 months.

Low budget is the middle ground. It's going half way. In my construction example, I had a contractor suggest we get "someone" draw up some quick plans and tell the city we were using our mezzanine for storage to avoid all the zoning issues of having people, combustible and trampleable, using the space. It would be built with permits, but not for its intended purpose. Shady.

I think most game stores fit into low budget, a kind of backyard endeavor with fumbling around, attempting to bring their business "up to code." Low budget businesses shy away from the hard choices, like proper POS systems, professional grade fixtures and clean bathrooms. Low budget stores attempt to attract their core customer base at the expense of the general public, who can't tolerate the low budget store. Most game stores with event space are using their retail zoned business for this assembly area. It's just how it's done. It's questionable.

I stand up for game stores, in general, but this model does seem to be the norm. The reason is capitalization. To start with anything less than a luxury car budget is to spend years scrimping and burning the candle at both ends in hopes of making it. It's hard to justify a $7,000 POS system when you've been subsisting on ramen for the last two years. My brain would have re-wired itself for survival in half that time. Likewise, the low budget construction plan was the only model that made fiscal sense for us when we looked at expanding, although that wasn't enough reason to do it.

Professional grade construction projects are playing by all the rules, hiring architects, working truthfully with the city and your property management company, and generally spending money that only multi million dollar businesses can afford. This is what we're doing with our expansion, but only because of our extra Kickstarter money. Otherwise we wouldn't have done it at all, as even the low budget model is too shady for a profitable business.

Professional game stores exist in the top 10% of stores in the country. They're based on a business plan, are usually highly diversified, and tend towards mainstream retail in their equipment and procedures. These stores have more in common with a typical retail mall store than a backyard game store. It takes a lot of capital, and as I've mentioned many times, that type of investment is not very wise. It's a combination of someone driven by passion with the desire to run a top notch business.