So after being so hyped for being able to play at Board Game Nation again, I found out yesterday that one of the managers/store-owners quit, so they're only open from like Thursday to Saturday or something. Nate called and offered to send them an application to work there, that'd be cool if he got it. In the mean time, oh well, at least I'm closer to Lightning now... I'm not exactly sure what the issue is between the two store-owners, but I'm guessing it's lack of business and one of them jumping ship. They don't really seem to have a business mind-set when it comes to selling stuff. Card/game/comic shops really only appeal to a certain niche of people, and it is hard for them to survive in most non-metropolitan areas. I have seen countless comic and card shops close from the various parts of the U.S. I've lived in.
Here's a few things that I think BGN should change or do to help ensure their business stays top-side. Please note that I'm not a business major nor have I ever owned a business, but I'm simply speaking with good intentions and my experience from what I've seen from other similar businesses.
I think the most common flaw that these failed businesses had was the belief that in-store customers would be enough to support their business. If I were to run a card shop, I'd take the opposite standpoint - assume that most of your sales will come from outside sales (ie via the Internet), and whatever you sell to people that come to the shop is just a bonus. Think about it this way - if you only sell locally, then you are hitting only a very small population of people. Expand to sell online, and you potentially have the whole world of customers at your fingertips. I have sold cards to people on eBay all around the globe, including countries I've never even heard of before. BGN's site literally only has contact info and store hours. If you want to be anything like the "big guns" like Ideal808, DACardWorld, etc, gotta work on that online selling aspect.
Run Box Tournaments/Larger-scale Events
I'd also run more larger events like box tourneys; I don't know what the cost is per box at whole-sale rate, but considering it's easy to get new booster boxes for ~$60 from most big online stores, surely it must be cheaper for the businesses so that they can make a profit from selling it at that price. Running something like a box tournament for a slightly-above-normal-entry fee would not only help for a per-box profit, but it also potentially generates interest from outside people in neighboring cities. Hell even 2 old teammates and I drove all the way to Tri-Cities (about 2 hours away) for a CRV box tournament back in the day, surely people would be willing to travel a bit for a well-advertised box tournament. That, and it helps in getting rid of product. Most competitive players don't buy packs, so it would help in moving the product in general. Interest and word-of-mouth are priceless and essential aspects to a successful business. Unfortunately I don't think they have quite the space to hold a Regional, but to be fair the Tri-Cities shop wasn't exactly huge either and they held two, so something to consider.
Sell More Singles, at Better Prices
I would also sell a lot of singles right under eBay price. The problem with a lot of these small stores that sell singles is that their prices compared to things like eBay are just ridiculous. Why is anyone going to pay significantly more to you for a card that they could get on eBay? From my experience, people are willing to buy singles, in fact they're always looking for just semi-decent deals, but it's just not economically logical to pay 25%+ more for a card that they could just simply order online and wait out the shipping for. Currently BGN only has a limited selection of Magic singles they sell, a little bit over full eBay value, and most of the cards have sat there as far as I know. Include more games and shave it off to just like 5% under full eBay value, and you'll probably sell a lot more singles. It's also a lot better than selling on eBay itself since you got all those seller fees and shipping.
Remember how I've said that I think buying collections is one of the best ways to make money off card games? Well, that should hold true for stores as well who should have more money to do that kind of thing. Incorporate something like a Buy List similar to what Troll&Toad and Alter Reality Games do. Gamers are always needing cash for all kinds of stuff, so be in that position to buy their cards and just re-sell them for profit. As far as I know none of the local shops around here openly buy cards from people.
I'm not exactly sure how this would fly in Spokane, but having played in a local in Pensacola FL for about 5 months, I saw that this aspect was huge for that store. This shop had a somewhat decent menu of different foods that you could buy; stuff like Hot Pockets, egg rolls, pretzels, nachos, mini-burgers, all that kinda junk food that's not too expensive, is easy and quick to eat, and you can store for long periods of time. Set up a microwave and you're good to go. I paid a dollar for a frozen egg roll one time (and microwaved it obviously lol), it was so good that I bought another right afterward. That itself probably paid for half the entire box of egg rolls, which equals profit for you. I think the store actually had a small oven that they baked pizzas in as well - that smell will drive anyone to hand you their cash. In a 4+ hour tournament, and especially with us gamers, we get hungry and it sucks if there are no places to pick up food near by. For crying out loud capitalize on this and sell food, you got drinks!!
Again not entirely sure how this would go in Spokane, but at "Gamer's Den" in Corpus Christi TX, they had about 6-7 computers set up for Internet and gaming access. People were constantly on there for the entire day playing Warcraft, online poker, Starcraft, and god knows what else. I don't remember exactly what their prices were, but it was something like $4 for the first hour and $2 for each hour after that and they created a user account for everyone that paid to use the Internet. I myself ended up buying like 3 hours worth of access, just to look up things like eBay values, rulings, YCS coverage, and that kinda stuff during a tournament. Not everyone has fancy phones with Internet or carries a laptop with them around at all times; I think this has a lot of potential and I know firsthand it does well at Gamer's Den.
Grab Bags/Raffles/Other Gimmicks
My examples for this also come from Corpus Christi. When Eric was working at the Den, one of the first changes he made was to sell grab bags. After one person pulled one good card (don't remember what it was exactly, but some $10 card), there was basically a flock of people that went and literally bought out all of the grab bags that he had made. I was actually his supplier of jank holos (gotta love Hidden Arsenal) and commons for that initial run. It kinda died out after that, but it's just an easy way to appeal to the gambling side that people just inherently have.
Another gimmick that "Cool Cats" did in Corpus was that they constructed this large wooden board that had 25 spots, each having some kind of prize (a card, pack, store credit, etc). The objective was to pay like $2, take 5 dice, roll them, and see what sum you got and you'd get whatever prize that amount ended up being on the board. So for example if I rolled a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, I would get whatever prize was on spot #15. I believe they put up an Ulti Judgment Dragon (when it was brand new) on the #30 spot, and something else highly sought after on spot #5. Those of course are statistically almost impossible to roll (need to have all 1's or all 6's), but just presenting the illusion that people had the chance to win it, caused people to roll and pay for hours. In the numbers between like 12 and 24, the prizes were obviously much less in value. I guess it's kinda like Duel Terminal but even less fair.
Buy the Stuff that People Want, and Have it Ready on Release
I completely forgot about this one and the next since it was such a no-brainer to me, but it's not to some of these stores. To put it simply, you have to research the game at least enough to know what products people are hyping and which they aren't. For example BGN has/had really random product they're selling, I'm talking stuff like EEN Special Editions, Force of the Breaker promo blister things, and that kinda jank. No one's gonna buy that crap. No one buys stuff like Hidden Arsenal 2 any more either, so come up with a way to get rid of that kind of product and get the hot/in-demand product. It's just taking up space in the shelves. BGN also dropped the ball hard on the Wave 1 tins, which you all know were extremely hyped. I actually had hoped that BGN had them in stock on release, but since they didn't, I ended up buying 6 from Wal-Mart and I know others resorted to buying from Wal-Mart/Target/etc as well. I think they got them like a full week after release. I'd rather give my $120 to a local shop than a large corporation any day of the week, but if you don't got it when it's out and I want it badly enough, I can't really do much.
Make the prices of your product match demand, and most importantly don't exceed the cost of what one could get it from a store like Wal-Mart. This happens a lot, whether the local store charges $4.25+ per pack, $12 for a SE, or $22 for a tin. No one's going to buy that product from you when they can simply go to Wal-Mart/Target, buy it for less, and also knock out some random shopping as well. At the very least you have to match their price, if not be willing to sell for like $1 less.
So those are some of my ideas for things not only BGN can do, but other small stores as well. I don't know the logistics that go into doing some of these things (like having a Food Handler's Permit?), but again those are things that I've seen at some successful stores/things that I'm not seeing at BGN.