Thursday, October 4, 2007

Game Store Angioplasty

I used to work doing medical word processing for the UCI cardiology division while in college. Angioplasty, as I remember transcribing many times, is when they insert a balloon into your clogged arteries and inflate it to increase blood flow. That's exactly how the new store feels.

The last store was not a bad start, but there were a variety of issues that impeded success. The first was parking, a total nightmare, especially during a meal hour. The restaurant in the shopping center even made it worse when they closed their nearby business, funneling all those customers to our parking lot. Customers are vocal about how much they hated it. The longer we're away from the old space, the louder they talk about it. When I was talking about possibly moving, they would mutter, "yeah, the parking here isn't great." Now that we're gone and the problem has been solved, it's more like, "For the love of god! I'm so glad you moved out of that crap hole!"

The most obvious problem with the old place was space. The space problem was three-fold: We couldn't display everything we wanted and when we ran out of room, the stuff was compressed into ever smaller spaces or the aisles were shrunk to fit additional racks. I was very conscious of ADA considerations in the old store -- until towards the end of the lease I realized I had no handicapped customers and no stroller traffic and I flat out needed more space. I began fudging a bit on my measurements. 36" aisles became 32" aisles, and worse. The new store is well within ADA requirements now, and I hope to keep them that way. The second problem was pure shopping was impeded by the number of bodies in the space. Ten people in the old store is a crowded party. Ten people in the new store is an average afternoon. Finally, in-store gaming was an important driver of sales, but if there was a game going on, it often impeded customers trying to shop, sometimes physically preventing them from getting to the shelves! Now that we have twice the retail space, with wide aisles and the game room in a seperate area, it's like that clogged artery is flowing again.

The plentiful game space is an obvious improvement in the new store. There's always someone to throw a damper on things, so yes, we can't hold 150 person regional Magic or YGO tournaments, but those were being contracted out anyway, without an option for us to ever do them. What we can do is just about every other kind of event, and most events can be held with others simultaneously. Next Saturday will be the first test of this as we have the 40K Apocalypse release event with a Magic release tournament. Before we re-arrange things, we should be able to hold 42 people at our folding tables while holding 2 4x6 miniature games. If we get a big Apocalypse turn-out, we'll be overflowing quickly to the folding tables.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the coincidental closing of four competitors over the past months. Some have resulted in card game customers transitioning over. Honestly, they're not groups inclined to spend money. Just ask the owners of the defunct game stores they once inhabited. The real boon has been the closing of the Games Workshop store. Our GW sales have skyrocketed. For those who wonder if a GW store opening in their area hurts GW sales at local stores, I can tell you that the closing of a GW store is a miracle drug. It's angioplasty and blood thinners and a freakin' heart transplant all rolled into one.

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