Thursday, April 14, 2011

Locker Rentals

We've discussed the idea of customer locker rentals for a couple years. I've dismissed it out of hand a bunch of times. The idea is similar to what some cigar shops offer to their customers, a place to store their stuff for both convenience and to keep their hobby a bit under wraps from prying eyes (alright, their wives). Gaming isn't stigmatized like smoking (any more), but still, the demand for convenience seemed to be there, and yes, wives are occasionally mentioned.

For a locker to be convenient, you would have to be one of the 15-20% of our customers who actively use our Game Center (I revise this number all the time). If you're lugging the same army, the same tub of D&D miniatures, the same half dozen board games or the same RPG library to the store every week or every day even, locker rental might be a godsend for you. Those 15-20% probably make up about half our sales, in case you wondered why game stores spend so much time with their events.

What got the locker rental conversation moving was the acquisition of staff lockers. We now have five people working at the store and the amount of random junk that each of us brings and keeps in the back and scattered about became incredibly irritating. There are reasons for some of this stuff, including a ton of gaming paraphernalia, but it became impossible to organize the back office without having a specific place to put all this stuff. Yes, as one business partner pointed out, I could have done this with plastic bins of some sort, but lockers are a space efficient solution that has the added benefit of security, if we want it. They are far from cheap, true, but the advantage as the owner is I can now issue proclamations about keeping your junk in your locker or else. Alright, the main reason is they're cool.

Patrick beginning staff locker assembly

Once we began chattering about staff lockers, customers began expressing interest in locker rentals and that old locker discussion was resurrected. I waited until our staff lockers arrived to make sure they weren't a nightmare to assemble and that there was enough room in them to be gamer useful. Books, CCG boxes and card games would certainly have no problem fitting in almost any size locker, but the locker litmus test was your average 12"x12" board game and the Battlefoam PACK 432 case (the GW base case is smaller than a 432). If we could fit those things in a locker, we were golden.

The rental lockers will be an inch deeper (and blue)

As you can see above with our staff locker as a test, there's plenty of room for all that stuff. Sure, you can't fit the bigger miniature cases in there, like the PACK 1520 but that was never going to fit in any size locker. Also, in case you were wondering, one of those mega sized Fantasy Flight board game will fit, but it takes up the whole locker. As for the details of the lockers, we crowd sourced them on Facebook.

My initial prices were way out of line, basing it on returns I needed for prime retail space. After I put down the crack pipe and realized the price was way too high, it naturally meant that lockers had to occupy otherwise dead space. Yes, using dead space was not my first reaction, which would have meant I was somewhat clever. Instead, it came from necessity when I realized I wasn't going to make retail level returns on the space they occupied. So my initial gym membership pricing dropped down to fast food lunch pricing of $80/year.

The photo sold it once everyone knew exactly what we were talking about. When I finally ordered the lockers yesterday, I got slightly deeper ones: 24"x12"x15". I also ordered a more premium locker in a beautiful blue color and with commercial grade latches and number plates (which were promptly back ordered). We began advertising that the first person to reserve a locker would get number plate one.  That honor went to Dave Richardson with Jon Finch reserving his over the phone while Dave was signing his contract.

If you want to learn more about locker rentals, including the rules, please visit the locker rental webpage. It's the first time I've created a new web page in about three years. We've tried to address all the possible concerns with our rules and contract. I think one thing we haven't mentioned is that I'm leaning towards contracts that are at least semi-annual, preferably annual to reduce the administrative headaches. I can't see dealing with a bunch of people on a monthly basis trying to pay for their lockers at the register or worse, not paying for their lockers and disappearing. For the moment, we're only accepting annual payments until the unit is full so we can immediately offset the costs of purchasing the lockers. After that, we may get additional lockers.

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