Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just Showing Up

"Ninety percent of success is just showing up."

--Woody Allen

It may come as a suprise to some of our customers, but stores are in the business of selling stuff. Events and game space exist as a means to promote games and build community, which ultimately must lead to better sales. If you don't believe this, just look at stores that charge for their game space. They found this indirect sales model not to work in their area. So who is responsible for running these sales driving events?

In an ideal world, game store employees would do run all in-store events. A company like Games Workshop does a good job of this because their expenses are lower; they're the manufacturer, distributor and retailer of their product, so they have much higher margins than the average game stores. Game stores in the Midwest can also do this, as their overhead is a fraction of an urban game store. Having an extra staff member on hand is no big deal for them. However, for stores like ours with higher overhead, we rely on customer run events.

As urban store owners, we are at best event facilitators. The best event is supported by the manufacturer and run by a recognized volunteer. We have press-gangers for Warmachine, certified judges for Magic, and approved Dungeon Masters for D&D. These people are like independent contractors with an external system in place that gives some form of compensation not involving us. Some companies also offer prize support, such as free product (Games Workshop) or promo cards or products (Wizards of the Coast).

The companies that offer the best support have the most successful events and thus the best selling product. However, the core to success for events is that customer volunteer, who does this for the love of the game along with a bonus, like product discounts or swag. I mention all this because many people come to the store expecting us to host events, when in fact, we're expecting them to host events! We will ocassionally hold larger events, such as mini-cons, auctions, release tournaments and the like, but for bread and butter events, stuff that takes place weekly, it's the customer volunteers who make it happen.

If there's an event you would like to see us provide, consider becoming the organizer. You were gong to be there anyway, now you're just responsible for a small amount of administration in exchange for a store discount or minor compensation. This does not include your D&D group or weekly game, we're talking about open to the public events that promote the games we sell. Right now we're hoping to find coordinators for some of our more popular miniature games, like Warhammer Fantasy and Flames of War. We have no volunteers to run these events, therefore there are currently no events. We're mostly interested in promoting popular games that inexplicably lack organized play, as opposed to some new, untried game, although you're welcome to give that a shot. We're always looking for demo people to promote games they love.

At the end of the day, many games live and die on their in-store play. Those that are promoted in-store sell better and show us customer interest. Those without events are always on the fence, looked at suspiciously when it's time to restock product. There are exceptions, with role-playing games and board games bucking the trend, but most collectible games and miniature war games are looked at more closely when nobody cares to play them in the store. So if you want to see an event in the store, just show up and run it. We'll make it worth your while.


  1. There is a large difference between being a customer (or non-customer) who just shows up to play, and being an actual member of the community.

    That extra 10% is crucial.

  2. But how does someone make that breakthrough? Is it a community defined by 'them' and 'us' or a more welcoming community?

  3. Being a member of the community means doing more than just showing up.
    Get to know people, learn the rules and mores of the game room - what is and isn't acceptable, talk-up your favorite games, recruit new players, welcome and help out new players, try new things, bring friends in, schedule an event or two - and follow through on running them...

    all the while keeping in mind that this is a business, and not your own living room.

  4. As the store owner, I'm happy to have all levels of participation at the store. I'm especially happy when customers make an event profitable, but even better than that are volunteers who make such events happen.