I hate to borrow a phrase from Games Workshop, because I might get hit with a cease and desist letter, but I'm borrowing this one anyway.
Why am I talking about this today?
Well, two Saturdays ago I was sitting in the store running a Prerelease when I got this message from a friend of mine.
"I heard someone say today that game stores are afraid to actually make money. Thoughts?"
I responded with "Long conversation, but thanks for the next blog post I'll be writing!"
And here we are today.
The fact is that I think he's right. Too often I hear game store owners say "I want to serve my community," or "I'm afraid if we make things profitable people will desert us." So, today, I wanted to shine a light on this horrible thing and say, to each and every person reading this.
It is possible to both serve the community and make a living doing this, you just have to be willing to balance those things. The fact is that if your customers don't believe that you should make a profit than you probably need new customers. So, let's talk a little about those customers. They're really easy to recognize because they say things like this.
"But I can buy the new Magic box on Massdrop for only $80.00."
Or this one...I love this one.
"Will you price match Amazon on this?"
Both of these are the trademark question of people who are NOT, and NEVER will be, your customer. It's also easy to answer these questions.
"I'm sorry, but the people supplying Massdrop don't provide you play space or, for the most part, even maintain a retail store, so it's okay for them to be freight forwarders."
"I'm happy to match Amazon prices on anything that they are listing above MSRP, like first edition Gloomhaven. Thank you."
(That one is a little tongue in cheek, because the customer that asks you to match Amazon prices is the same one that comes in looking for that hard to find game hoping they can "rip us off" on it.)
But we shouldn't talk about people who aren't our customers, they're just a frustrating waste of time. Let's talk about our customers, because they're why we're here.
Our customers understand we run businesses and that in order for us to continue to do, we must pay our bills.
Our customers appreciate the effort we put into community building, and love spending time in our stores even if they're not shopping for anything that day.
Our customers know that they can probably buy just about anything we sell cheaper, and they buy it from us because we've given them a value-add that is worth the extra money to them.
Value-adds are easy, and beautiful. If you're reading this chances are good you're involved enough in the industry to understand and appreciate the value-add. Sometimes the value-add is as simple as the fact that we know our product. Please, just try to get the average Barnes & Noble employee to explain Pandemic Legacy to you.
No really, try it. I provide a personal guarantee that it will be hilarious.
But ultimately, this is yet another thing I blame retailers for. There is this overriding sense of self-preservation that tells retailers "If I make money people will resent me," and we need to nip that thought process in the bud. The fact is that as business owners we NEED to make money. I don't want to live in my store, it doesn't have a shower. I don't want to subsist on ramen noodles and snack-sized bags of Doritos I but at CostCo for resale. I want to drive a car that I enjoy, and put gas in it, and license plates on it. I want to work with charitable organizations and do good things in my community. The Maker knows I want to hire staff, pay them fair wages, and take the occasional vacation.
We can't do those things if we aren't making money, and if we're resented for doing the same things that our customers want to do with their lives, I argue that they are not our customers.
We talk about learning as managers and owners. We talk about training our staff to provide better customer service, and to know more of our products. We talk about all the things we want to do for our community, both in our stores and outside our stores, but to do any of those things we need to think about the bottom line. If you're opening a store and going "I never need to make a profit because my mommy and daddy are paying for this shit" than please just find another way to spend their money, you are ruining the industry.
Much like our customers we have mouths to feed, children to send to college, and retirement goals (like a nice 35 foot sail boat). I find it nigh improbable that our customers would begrudge us those things if we remember to treat every person with respect, strive to be fair in our buying and selling practices, and foster a sense of community, and fun, inside of our four walls.
We, as retailers of game stores, sell a luxury product. It may not come with the price tag of a BMW, but it's in the same class. We are not purveyors of the cheapest white bread and plastic "American" cheese, but rather we are curators of fine wines imported from all over the world, which we then test to better understand, so that we can match the enthusiast with their wine of choice.
Are too many retailers in this industry afraid of profit? I think the friend that asked me that question is dead-on correct. The answer is a resounding yes.
Should they be? No.
Be of service to your communities, inside and outside your stores, but remember that to keep being of service to your community you must be of service to yourself, and to your family. Those things require that we make a little profit.