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So You Want To Open A Game Store

If you’re a gamer then there’s a fairly good chance that opening a gaming store is on your bucket list. It wasn’t actually on mine, but it was on my husband’s and his brother’s so about ten years ago we pooled our collective resources and opened our own store. I was involved mostly for my retail management experience and they were the geek masterminds. Really, you all know who the real mastermind was, but let them have their glory. Since then, I’ve been asked a zillion times for advice, so I thought I’d lay it all out for those of you considering taking the plunge.

We opened our store in an old mill building in Manchester, New Hampshire and it was called Dakka Dakka Gaming. It was a website before it was a store and the site is still around today although we sold it years ago. You 40K players out there know where this name came from, but for the rest of you, it’s the sounds the guns make in the game so it made perfect sense for a store that carried Games Workshop products. That’s what the guys loved, so that was our focus, and that brings me to my first tip.
1) Be Passionate About Your Products
I knew zilch about tabletop wargaming when we started, but the guys were absolute nutters for those little toy soldiers. If someone asked how they should allocate points for an army, they gave advice that came for experience, not from what some sales rep told them they should sell. They loved the game and wanted new players not just to grow the store but to grow the game. It’s hard for customers not to get excited about products when you’re honestly excited to get them playing

2) Manage Your Inventory
I know this sounds stupidly easy, but trust me, it can make or break you. If you blindly buy every last thing any sales rep suggests then you are going to have all your money tied up in stuff collecting dust and none to buy the stuff your customers want to buy. Especially when new things are coming out, be careful you don’t get carried away and buy the super mondo cool deal that saves you $2 a box, only to realize you’re now sitting on 300 boxes of something you can’t sell.

3) Customer Service Matters
There are not a lot of game stores out there, but you still have to give people a reason to walk in the door, buy something, and then want to come back again. If you’re not a people person, then it’s time to learn how to be one. Say hello to everyone. Offer help. Engage your customers rather than just letting them wander aimlessly. This doesn’t mean you should stalk them, but they should know you’re there and that you’re happy to help. Get out from behind that counter and mingle.
4) Be Ready To Work
This is not a 9-5 job. It’s every day and all the time. Even if you’re not physically there, you will still be thinking about things you need to do like make a return, call a supplier, run to the bank, call in payroll, reorganize shelves, clean the stockroom and on and on. It is work running a game store. Yes, it’s a lot of fun playing games and selling games, but if you think it’s just fun, then you’re in for a nasty surprise. The good thing, though, is that the more you put into it the more you get out and the results of your work are easy to see.
5) Don’t Take Things Personally
This is your dream. The thing you’ve been wanting to try since you were a kid. It means more than anything to you, but people don’t always see the person behind the counter. They see a business and they will treat you like one. So, when someone has a criticism don’t let it stab you in the gut. Take it for what it’s worth and shrug it off when it’s just Cranky McCrankyPants. He’s a jerk. Don’t let him get you down.

6) Build Your Community 
You don’t play games in a corner all by yourself. You play games with people. Sometimes it’s hard for people to find other gamers, but your store can be the solution. Run tournaments. Run themed nights. If your store has a playing area, introduce people to each other if you think they’re looking at playing the same kinds of games. Gaming is a community and game stores are where that community comes together.
7) Make Your Store A Happy Place
There’s nothing worse than walking into a store where the owner is cranky, the customers are cranky, the shelves are a wreck and the floor hasn’t been swept in a month. On the other hand, there’s something wonderful about being greeted with a smile, seeing happy gamers and a neat, organized store. Make your store welcoming. Keeping it clean goes a long, long way.

8) Know Your Limits
You may thing you’re a superhero, but even those guys take breaks. It might be as simple as getting out to a movie and dinner. Maybe you decide to just slow down one morning and have a leisurely cup of coffee and a donut. Perhaps it’s a little shawarma after a particularly crazy  weekend. Whatever it is, make sure you take the time to breath or you’ll burn out. A little time away sends you back to the store ready to go. 
9) Stay Focused
If you’re trying to open a gaming store with miniature wargames, boardgames, console games, PC games, a cosplay shop and a snack bar, then you might be stretching things a bit thing. It’s great to think big, but don’t jump on every new shiny thing that grabs your attention. Figure out your focus and then add slowly as your business grows and you learn what your customers most want from your store.
I can type that in all caps because it’s my blog so no one can tell me no and because this is important! You  are opening a gaming store. You’re doing something amazing, challenging, daunting, rewarding and thrilling. Don’t let the business take over so much that you forget why you did it in the first place. Go forth, open your store, and HAVE FUN!!

3 Responses to “So You Want To Open A Game Store”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like the advice. Now … if I could just win the lottery!

    – Cranky

  2. jmezz382 says:

    Awesome advice. I wish our local stores were better at greeting customers and such and not playing games.

    I have not been back to 2 stores because the staff were busy playing games, building things or holding conversations … never acknowledging me.

    The store that has and offers great customer service still gets my business

  3. jaklumen says:

    I've heard #8 in other contexts, one I remember was a music grad student telling undergrads more or less the same thing– do other stuff, have a side hobby, don't do music all the time 24/7– or you will BURN OUT.

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