Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Do Store Owners Get Along?

There is an assumption among many customers that there's fierce competition between stores. They act as defenders of their chosen business and can often stoke the flames of existing differences or create rifts through their posturing, often (but not always) without the knowledge of the store owner they're championing. Battles rage on forums and the outcome is never positive. Store owners are often put in the middle of these battles. It's garbage.

This is not to say that every game store owner gets along with every other. There can be friction between close competitors. What's close? That's going to depend on an owners personal definition, but if you're not within a 10 minute drive time of me, I don't consider you competition and I generally don't pay much attention to what you're doing. It's a benign neglect. I don't follow the schedules or read the Facebook pages of stores in Oakland, Berkeley, or Marin. I'm literally minding my own business.

This isn't to say "my" customers don't shop farther away, because they often do, sometimes because they work farther than 10 minutes away or the Other Store offers something we don't, but this has a tiny effect on my business, not worth worrying about. The Venn diagram circles hardly overlap.

For example, it's clear to me our local market can't support a diverse number of miniature games. There just aren't enough customers. If you play those games, you will need to travel to these other stores if you want regular events and inventory. I can't successfully cater to the twelve dudes who want this. I also have customers who drive an hour, past other excellent game stores, to shop with us for their own personal reasons (some because of this blog). Every store has this; I'm not special. Human behavior is perplexing and not always rational.

So to answer the original question of "do store owners get along," the answer is, mostly. We have thriving, private online communities. Part of going into business is doing it your way, so we're all very opinionated and have fierce discussions about the tiniest minutiae. You know, like our customers. Small factions naturally tend to form of those who have similar processes. It should be said that any store owner discussing being a store owner is already part of a self selecting group of elites interested in improvement, and worthy of some praise.

The common thing that unites game store owners, I think ... and here I do what I've been accused of doing for years, talking for game store owners ... is they want to be profitable while growing the hobby. Those who don't embrace those two elements tend to get the side eye in the game trade. If you don't want what's best for yourself and you don't want what's best for your community, we don't have much to talk about.

How you do that is up for endless debate. We will counsel, teach, nudge and otherwise try to move store owners in that direction. This blog is very much about that, especially when it's labeled (Tradecraft) on an article. It's why I'm happy to talk about my failures as well as successes. Failures are far more illustrative as a teaching tool. 

So to summarize, game store owners generally get along. Although every store owner wants to do their thing their own way, there are enough commonalities to work together to grow the hobby. By supporting and strengthening those with the basic values I've mentioned, the silent majority with their heads in their posteriors, breaking rules, racing to the bottom, and leaving out the F in FLGS, are put under increased pressure to improve or fail. Improvement is the desired outcome, but failure works too. It makes room for the good guys. Unlike a decade ago, all the resources for survival, for improvement, are readily available. There's no excuse but laziness not to engage them.

We're often too busy to get together,
but it's worth noting when it happens

No comments:

Post a Comment