Tales of a Former Game Store Manager
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
Recommend
481 
 Thumb up
8.52
 tip
 Hide
After one of my tales of having been a FLGS manager for a game and hobby shop received positive feedback, I thought I'd archive my stories in a Geeklist here.

These stories come from my brief stint (less than a year) at a gamestore located on an East Coast suburb.

I'll be adding items as I have time - and as my memory recalls more things.
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: FLGS [+] Store [+] retail [+] must_read [+] [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Monopoly Junior: Lemonade [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
The first story to tell about my game store management job is that the owners were all younger than me. Nothing new, right?

Well, they were in the 11th, 9th, and 6th grade!

The boys' father had a very high-income job, and when they expressed interest in trying a business, he set them up with a rented storefront on main street.

In short, I ran a rich man's lemonade stand.

The owners' being so young did have certain advantages, though. The 6th grader was in prime position to spot trends and had the entrepreneurial sense to see how to capitalize on them. For instance, that particular year, Yu-gi-oh was hot, and the first edition tins were made. Kmart even had a sale on them for $17.99. My boss heard the buzz in school, and pleaded with his father (VP of the company) to order several cases. His father only consented to 2.

Six weeks later, Christmas was upon us and we were sold out - as was everyone else. I was even taking orders for customers for us to procure them on ebay for them - and our price was $80 per tin!
97 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: Pick Up Sticks [Average Rating:4.20 Overall Rank:11148]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
The downside to the young owners? Oh, there were a few...

They ran the shop on Saturdays, which could at times be slow. They got bored.

One Monday morning I arrived to find the floor covered in splinters. One of the older boys had engaged in some swashbuckling adventures with his friends using the entire stock of balsa wood over the weekend!

The vacuum was pretty much useless. I consoled myself with the fact my money was not tied up in the store.

In case you were wondering... Why did we have balsa wood? We sold not only games, but hobby and modeling supplies.
54 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: Auto-Scooter [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
It is worth a brief mention that one of our items we sold was electric scooters. Certainly cool, but expensive.

Three thing to learn if you are going to open a store and are deciding what to stock:

1) Can you sell it competitively? The scooters we sold for $799 - $999 were sold for under $300 by Sharper Image. Once, I found them for $75.

2) Does it fit your store? An entire quarter of our ~1000 sq ft store was scooters. And one of our two bay windows in the front had a scooter.

3) Is it legal? As it turns out, self-propelled scooters of the sort we sold were illegal in our state. shake
105 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Beat the Experts [Average Rating:4.61 Overall Rank:10061]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
But what of the perks?

One of the best perks was the ability to go to Toy Fair. For the laity among you who have no interest or knowledge of it, imagine a boring con with lots of swag, but being able to see stuff months (or years) before it hits the market. It's also rather hard to get into, as you need to send paystubs, advertisements from your company, newspaper clippings, etc proving you really are in the toy business.

We were close enough that I could take public transportation most of the way to and from NYC and make a day trip of Toy Fair, but during a horrible blizzard. Traveling nightmare aside, the highlights (which I believe was in 2002) included:

1) Seeing Adam West as the guest speaker for the day in University Games' booth, where they were touting their new game Beat the Experts. I was bummed that I had missed Buzz Aldrin by a day though.

Oh, and I saw prototypes of toys University Games was planning on releasing, but never did (as far as I know). I still wonder about them to this day...

2) Wizkids (pre-bubble) private showing. As we sold quite a bit of WizKids' stuff, I got to go to their suite and get a guided tour of their upcoming lines. They were quite excited about the Shadowrun Duels , and had 3 series worth of figs up (one of which, I understand, I am one of a minority to have ever seen).They really were pushing CreepyFreaks, talking about the Saturday Morning Cartoon series they hoped to have syndicated, and the yet-to-be released Crimson Skies, which I was very much looking forward to. However, I never bought any CS minis because the free plane they gave me broke in my swag bag on the way to the train, and I realized then the game pieces would be too fragile. But seeing the new figs for Heroscape, Mage Knight and MechWarrior was thrilling.

Wow - all the highlights were games that were terrible.
30 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Sharp Shooters [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1676]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
Being a hobby/gaming store, we had an entire wall of a certain company's product. I can't really say what the name is on BGG without incurring the wrath of said company, but I think you know who I mean.

I must say that in our area at least, the staff was very gracious. We were offered 180 day terms, they bought back an entire line of slow-moving stock, and had we invested a bit more (eg buy 3 blisters of the line that was actually selling) they would have helped us run a grand tournament employing their mailing list and giving us prize support. This was one of our best selling products as the local kids had big allowances, divorced parents, and lots of time and money to blow on it. But of course I can't add a positive experience of dealing with this much-loathed company to the collective experience of BGG, because they might take offense.

It was suggested by the district rep of this certain overseas miniatures gaming company that shall not be named that I visit their local company store in the mall to get some selling pointers and intel on local players.

Anyway while at the mall store in the neighboring county, I got to see an employee do a demo game with a walk-in customer. After the movement phase, the employee handed the customer a fistful of dice and said "Roll these and we'll see how many Space Orks of my guys you hit"

The customer whipped back his arm, and let the dice fly with shocking force, taking out not only several figures but also some of the elaborately detailed terrain.

It was incredibly hard to stifle my laughter.
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:1834] [Average Rating:6.09 Unranked]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
Stores are all the same, right? One retail outlet is just the same as another, and all products equate like apples to apples.

Our VP (the owners' father) had a friend who owned a chain of men's clothing stores. This friend was the #1 source of information on how to run a store.

Even when our distributor tossed in a self-published book on running a gaming/comic/fantasy store, the advice therein took a back seat to tips from a guy who sold suits. shake

If you are planning to start a store, or work in one, I highly recommend Dave Wallace's book, "The Specialty Retailer's Handbook" if you can get it. Wallace is the owner of a chain of stores in St. Louis, and the book is illustrated by Dork Tower comics by John Kovalic. The book covers unique issues comic and gaming stores have to deal with - issues that no other book I have come across addresses or handled well, including the financial aspect, location, and geeky customers.

(Side note: Ask distributors such as Alliance about the book, as I cannot find it on the internet anywhere. As I run a publishing company now, I would love to get it back in print.)

Another solid source of information proved to be the GAMA, who runs a message board for retailers to compare notes, review business plans, and share experiences and tips. They also offer group health insurance.

The worst advice our VP acted on from his friend in the upscale apparel business? Banning unattended kids & teens from the store. He thought the regulars who came in to play clix, miniatures, and the Magic CCG (among other things) detracted from the store's appeal to others.

As it turns out, the after-school crowd that came in and dropped anywhere from $200-$300 a week were our best customers and our most solid base. Once they were given the boot, the store lasted only a few months before closing down.
62 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. Board Game: Return to Oz [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
Some bizarre customer return experiences:

1) We had a lady buy a $100 "EZ Fly" remote control airplane (this was before the days of Air Hogs) and try to return it because her 12 year old son crashed it. Her case: it shouldn't crash, so it must be defective. When we wouldn't take the return, she initiated a chargeback, which cost us $25 just to fight. The VP handled the paperwork so I can only hope we won - otherwise I'm going to go use an Amex card to buy a car and return it after it gets in an accident.

2) Store policies are sometimes based on actual cases - such as the woman whose child paid $20 - $30 for an Exodia piece Yu Gi Oh card in our singles display, and a booster pack. Amazingly, he got the same piece in the pack. Since we had a 30-day return policy, she fought me tooth and nail that she should be able tor return the single. I caved as it was minutes before closing time and I was tired, besides it was still the height of Yu-Gi-oh fever and I knew we could resell the single.

If it sounds like entitlement ran rampant in this town, I would have to agree. The median income was about $94K and we have had several professional sports players live in the town.

On the plus side, that's how the after school regulars bought new 40k armies ever few months.
28 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
8. Board Game: Buy Low Sell High [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:2358]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
But not every exceptional moment worth retelling was about what went wrong. There were a couple moments of awesome.

1) The VP apparently new someone at a up-and-coming (or simply not yet well known) game company called Front Porch Classics. We got about a dozen of their Classic Baseball games in, and they sold slowly but steadily despite the $100 price tag. (Having one out on display for people to play was great, convinced many a father to buy one "for his kids.")

They sold slowly until Christmas, when apparently Front Porch Classics got some national media attention and the games started flying off the shelf. Somehow, when every other store was sold out, The VP kept getting more.

Oddly enough the BGG database lists Classic Baseball as coming out in 2005, but the Christmas that we were selling them was a few years earlier. Sorry, my memories are warm and fuzzy.

2) I discovered an odd benefit to stocking hobby supplies and board games when Heroclix's Xplosion set was released. There were distribution issues, and the week of the marquee release tournament many retailers were reporting insufficient product for their events. Even our shipment came up short.

Oddly enough, one of our R/C model distributors had Heroclix, which I saw briefly mentioned on a flyer of theirs. I called our account rep, and she was very happy to send us as much as we wanted - they had experimented in carrying WizKids products, but hadn't told enough of their customers that they had them to sell them well. We had plenty f Clix for our customers until the rest of the distribution kinks worked themselves out.

This same vendor was also clearing out Mage Knight stuff they couldn't sell.. for 60-80% off the wholesale price. Dragons and castle pieces started at $3, even Mage Knight 2.0 was far from anyone's minds at that time.
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
9. Board Game: The Totally Insane Card Game [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:8702]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
Alas, even I am at fault for some of the store's insanity.

Shortly after starting the job, and noticing that Yu-gi-oh fever was in full swing and there had not been hardly any local tournaments for the kids, I set one up.

I read over the rules, and having played MTG, 7th Sea, and Decipher's Star Wars CCG I figured I could handle judging. After all, it's a gimmicky kids' game, right? An I was a CCG veteran.

I can't remember if we charged a fee or simply required a purchase of a certain number of boosters to enter, but we started a list, set a max age (16 I think) and started taking signups. Prizes were more booster packs, wit ha box for the winner, 1/2 box for second, etc. All was carefully calculated that we would make a tiny profit overall, just to cover our rears in case interest was lackluster.

Quite the opposite was the problem. Since we had not set a limit on the number of entrants, we ended up with over 40 kids. Many parents and siblings stuck around as well. Table space was far from adequate, just about every square foot of floor space was likewise occupied by Yu-gi-oh games.

Fortunately no one seemed to mind; the kids were excited, the parents were happy, the siblings looked bored but were browsing the store. The owners had even come to help, and brought their parents. The 6th grader was giddy as a schoolboy, despite being bummed that his father forebade him from entering. The oldest owner was wide-eyed when he looked at the sales and saw we had more revenue in 1 night than the previous month. (profits, of course, were diluted by the fact the prizes were actually heavily discounted sales)

I was confident in my CCG ability as well, as there were few if any disputes. Despite 1000 sq feet of kids playing cards, just about every round played out and they came to report their results.

All except the last round.

The final game dragged on and on, due largely to the players taking their sweet time each turn. We were hours past closing, and way past the time I thought we would have been done by. So we set a timer on the game.

As the buzzer sounded, the current player slapped down a couple cards and cheered himself. The apparent loser protested. I scrutinized the cards for the first time and realized, to my horror, the game was a mess.

Later I would realize that a 35 page errata sheet existed, and even it was not enough to deal with the terrible translation, lack of balance, and overall poor game design.

But in that my moment, I had a bunch of tired elementary school kids arguing and taking sides on the game's final play. I made my ruling, declared the final play as valid, and we distributed the prizes.

The father of the boy who had just lost, who I am certain understood the game less than I did, pitched a fit. A 6-foot, 250 pound roaring fit, while his son looked both hurt and sheepishly embarrassed at the same time. Thankfully, the owners were still there so the matter could be escalated - to the VP, who kicked the guy out and banned him from the store (the only time we had to take such action, as I recall).

Despite the explosive ending, it was agreed tournaments were a good idea (with limited slots for entrants), and the store was kept open later on tourney nights to accommodate the popular events for Mage Knight, Heroclix, MTG, YuGiOh, Pokemon and even 40K and the occasional MechWarrior Marquee.

Unfortunately, I was salaried.
19 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
10. Board Game: Adverteasing [Average Rating:4.21 Overall Rank:10905]
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
mbmbmbmbmb
Free advice for those interested in starting a retail store: ALWAYS have a monthly budget for advertising and don't be afraid to spend it all each month; rather be afraid NOT to spend it.

Our store advertising was limited to ads in one of the community newspapers. Perhaps you know of these - the one with the sports section for the youth leagues, and maybe high school sports that gets mailed to everyone for free.

When I brought up other advertising venues, the VP would say they were too expensive, although the papers he sank the money into were hardly read.

As Christmas approached, I employed my PR experience and wrote a press release about the store, despite the fact it had been in business for over a year. Asa result, we had stories in 3 big newspapers: the County paper, the tri-county regional paper, and the nearby Metropolitan paper. Two of them sent out photographers, and all of them ended up being multi-page articles.

We even got a call from the local UPN affiliate's evening news team, wanting to do a story on the store and sending out a camera crew- the fist week of December!

Unfortunately coming to the store with his kids when the TV news crew could come was too much trouble for the VP, and we lost the story. The news crew tried once to reschedule, but when that didn't work either they dropped the story. shake



17 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.