Two weeks ago I published a blog entitled You Need Another Zero, when a Go Fund Me came across my desk where someone was seeking to open a game store on $10,000. I tried to build a $10,000 game store in that blog, and ended up with the most shameful looking $40,000 game store I had ever seen.
That led me into discussions all over the internet, and some people encouraged me to write a real budget for opening a game store, so over the last two weeks I have set out to do that. Those conversations lead to this, the very first four-blog week, as Monday through Thursday this week we look at a realistic opening budget for a game store we're not ashamed to own.
Let's start with the space.
How big do we want our fictional store to be? My example store was 2,000 square feet, something I don't particularly like. We're going to go with 4,000 square feet today, the approximate size of my current store. In our last example we used the national average rent for retail storefronts, $17.67 per square. I pay less than that, but the national average makes for a good example.
$17.67 * 4,000 = $70,680 annual rent
The most common CAM fees (Common Area Maintenance, and until you understand that, please don't try to negotiate a lease) are 15-20%. We'll split the difference and call it 17.5% added to your rent in CAM fees.
$70,680 * .175 = $12,369 annual CAM fees
$12,369 (CAM) + $70,680 (Rent) = $83,049 annual building cost
We divide that by twelve and get $6,920.75 per month. When we open our store we're probably going to have to pay first and last, and we want to make sure that the bills are taken care of for some period of time while we build a clientele. Let's go with three months of rent in the bank so that we don't have to worry about it. That means I need to have five months worth of rent built into my opening budget.
$6,920.75 * 5 = $34,603.75 (Building expenses for five months)
We'll call it $35,000 so that we can keep these numbers rounded a little for our readers.
But look! We've negotiated our lease, and we've got space! It's four thousand square feet that used to be a laser hair clinic, but it's ours! Now we have to build it out and get it ready for customers! Most landlords will remove walls, and some will do flooring, painting, etc., but for the sake of ease we're going to give you a 4,000 square foot box that doesn't need walls removed or electrical added. Those things aren't always true, and as I like to say around here, your mileage may vary.
Floors & Walls
We sell a luxury product, and I said it a few days ago in a Facebook group, and I'll say it again here, don't sell luxury products in a dungeon. Just...don't. Please. While the hobby market is growing, it's growing because Muggles are becoming hobbyists. We must make them comfortable in the transition. My current store is carpeted. I hate it. I'll never lay carpet again. We are event centers. We host numerous events in premium game spaces, and carpet, no matter how nice, just doesn't stay premium.
I like wood. I like commercial grade, low gloss, manufactured hardwood. I want it to be a little darker than the fixtures I'll be buying, and I'll be spending a lot of money on maple later in this segment, so we're going with this hardwood, and having someone else install this shit, because while I'm capable, I'll have other things to do during opening prep, and what a team of professionals can do in one night will take me and my poor, over 70 year old father, several long, hard, days to do.
We're going to pay $2.73 per square foot for this, plus the super low price of sixty cents per square foot for installation.
$2.73 * 4,000 = $10,920 (buying the floor) $0.60 * 4,000 = $2,400 (having it installed)
$10,920 + $2,400 = $13,320
I also have to deal with my walls. I'm happy to paint. Because my fictional space only has three walls to paint (the front is all glass, just a little framing to paint at the top) I'm happy to take a day laying down paint. I do a lot of painting around here anyway, because I kind of enjoy it. I'm weird, deal.
But we do need to get two coats of good quality paint on the other three walls. Our fictional store here is 50 feet wide (street facing) and 80 feet deep, the 4,000 square feet we've talked about. The average ceiling height I've seen is ten feet in retail spaces. This means, according to Glidden, I have 2,100 square feet of wall, and each coat will take six gallons of paint, for a total of twelve gallons of paint.
We want something semi-gloss, with a primer. Color rarely affects the cost of paint, so just remember that you don't want to sell luxury products in a dungeon and pick something nice. I've had a lot of luck with Glidden Diamond, at about $26.00 per gallon.
$26.00 * 12 = $312 for paint
We also need to buy the stuff to put paint on the walls. I don't want to bore you with the details of brushes, tape, rollers, etc, let's just plan on another $100 for that stuff, bringing our paint total to $412.
$412.00 (walls) + $13,320 (floors) = $13,732
You can do cheap commercial grade carpeting cheaper, and buy cheaper paint, but do you want to spend more time on those things later? How often do you want to be touching up paint? How often do you want to pay a professional carpet cleaning company, or replace the carpet? My chosen hardwood has a 15 year commercial warranty. I'd replace carpet three times in that period, so this will be cheaper over the life of my business.
You now have a shell! You've rented it, set aside the money to stay open while you build a clientele, painted your walls, and had floors installed! Now you need to have displays to sell your product!
As stated, I'm partial to Maple. I like that it isn't so dark it's depressing. Black can work, if you make sure you're well lit, get plenty of natural light, and your floors and walls aren't overly dark. If you want black fixtures go for it.
If you want white fixtures, just no. Don't do it.
We'll start with the walls. I'm going to slat wall the first 32 feet of each side of our fictional store. That will be our, colloquially, 'retail section'. The area behind that will be our gaming space. This requires eight sections of slat wall per wall, and we want a hard maple. I've dealt with a softer, maple-colored, slat wall, and you will experience tearing in it with some of the heavier products we carry. I can get a product I'm happy with at $65.00 per section, and hang it myself.
$65.00 * 12 = $780.00 (slat wall)
Then we need other fixtures. I love the maple slat wall gondolas I used in the bad example store from before. Of course, I only bought four then, and I actually need ten for this store. They're super flexible in usage, since I can put hooks or shelves on them. They're still about $200.00 each.
$200.00 * 10 = $2,000.00 (slat gondolas)
I also need a cash wrap, which will be two display cases, and a slat-fronted cash wrap. I love the slat-fronted cash wrap because it allows me to stock one of two things; food or impulse buys, silly little things that people go "Cool, I want this too" while they're checking out.
The beautiful maple cash wrap I want, with slat wall fronting, is 48" long, and will get added to two 48" display cases to create my front counter. The display cases I like are not the uber cheap ones I used in my last example, but they're not too much more expensive. My two display cases are $400.00 each, and my cash wrap is $500.00.
$800.00 + $500.00 = $1,300.00 (front counter)
I haven't bought shelves for my RPG section yet, I should fix that. We need to find something that provides enough space, allows me to display both spine out and front out, and looks nice. My current store uses seven feet tall, single-sided, book shelves for this. I hate them. Let's buy what I really want, 60" tall, Adder, double-faced, library shelving. They're only 36" wide, so I'm going to need three of them, at $650.00 each.
$650.00 * 3 = $1,950 (RPG shelves)
They're the only department that really requires a special purchase. My minis displays will be on my gondolas or slat wall (or on the proprietary fixtures some companies will send you, I hate the Games Workshop fixtures, but you're starting a new business, take the free shit).
Now that I have all my fixtures, I need the stuff that lets me use them.
We're going to need slat wall hooks, hundreds of them, literally, hundreds of them. I currently keep them around in 4 inch, 6 inch, and 10 inch. I rarely use the 10 inch and we won't buy a ton of them.
4" hooks = $0.50 each 6" hooks = $0.55 each 10" hooks = $0.65 each
I want 300, 600, and 100, respectively.
I also want shelves, because they display boxes well on my gondolas and slat walls. A 13" deep, 24" long, Duron shelf (which is a nice retail, durable, shelf) costs $11.50 each. How many shelves do I need? Well I hung 64 linear feet of slat wall, and bought ten gondolas that are each 8 more linear feet of slat wall. That means I have 164 linear feet of slat, if I'm just counting one row. Some of that will get hooks, and some of it will need a lot of shelves. I'm going to buy three shelves for each gondola, a total of thirty, and twenty for walls/spares. That's fifty shelves at $11.50 each.
I also need to buy brackets for them. Don't fall into the two bracket trap. Remember some of what we sell if VERY heavy. You want three brackets per shelf, at $2.35 each.
That's a total of $1,472.50. We need to add what we spent above on fixtures, which is a total of $6,030.00.
$1,472.50 + $6,030.00 = $7,502.50
There are some other things we should talk about here in regards to fixtures. You're going to want some acrylics, because they're good for customer education. Stand-up acrylics, like the one pictured, help customers understand a unique product, or can be placed on demo tables to explain a game briefly. Slat wall acrylics can be filled with eye-catching art, or can be used to hang things like a board game sleeve sizing chart.
Most acrylics aren't horribly expensive, unless you choose to go with the displays I use for Chessex dice, and even those are all of $50 to $60. Let's just set aside $500.00 for acrylics, because when you don't have them and really wish you did, you'll be sad.
We're up to $8,002.50 on retail fixtures, but two paragraphs ago there was the very first mention of something that is vitally important to your build out; demo tables. We'll start modest, and get you four of them. There are a ton of options out there for demo tables, and you can get super fancy and buy $1,000 tables. That's not smart to start your new business. There are options out there that are attractive and modular. We use tables where the bases are three heights, and the tops are available in four sizes, and they're completely interchangeable. A good package to get you four demo tables for your store will set you back about $1,000.00. Those demo tables, with proper curation, will pay for themselves before you can do the math, and are vitally important to the success of a game store (as opposed to a card house).
We're going to wrap part one here. We've got a building now, we've set aside three months of rent, and we've accomplished our retail build out. If you're keeping track we've spent or set aside for future expenses $56,798.25.
Come back tomorrow and we'll build out the section of our store set aside for gaming space! The community building aspects of our industry can't be overlooked, third place theory is why people continue to come back to us while we're getting hammered on price by our online competitors. We're going to build a gaming space tomorrow you can be proud of.