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The Cost of Education

I'm going to make some people displeased with me today, which must mean that it's a day that ends in 'y,' but that is what it is, because today I'm going to say something that needs to be said.

Hot product from GAMA, The Duke (GAMA 2010)

I've been pretty irritated since a few days after the GAMA Trade Show, and it's time to discuss that irritation... This year I've already attended GAMA, and will also be in attendance at ACD GamesDay and Alliance Open House. Those are the three industry shows I attend. Beyond that I'll be at CMON Expo, Origins, San Diego ComicCon, GenCon, and PAX Unplugged, with hopes to also add Essen to the calendar this year for the first time. It's a lot of travel, and when you add in that I need vacations to protect my own sanity and the safety of my employees, it typically amounts to me being gone from the store 12 to 14 weeks a year, but almost every ounce of that travel is about my store. Even the vacations always lead to game stores. I visited three in Seattle last year, and two in the Portland/Vancouver area this year on vacation, and even found time for one in Reno during the GAMA Trade Show. Seeing other stores is educational, it gives me ideas, in much the same way that attending both hobby trade shows and consumer facing shows gives me ideas, and that's where I'm so irritated since GAMA. In the weeks leading up to GAMA I saw the complaints; too expensive, Reno is no fun, GAMA doesn't provide anything of value to me. After GAMA I saw the questions; what's the hot product from GAMA, what was the most important thing you learned, how do I get this GAMA exclusive I just saw, and in responses I've been completely silent. You see, I want to see the industry grow. I want successful retailers working with good distributors, with both tiers receiving product created by responsible publishers who are pushing cool products.

Star Trek Expeditions - Hot at the 2011 GAMA Trade Show

Yet, I don't believe that success should be free. I believe that if you want to improve your business you should put in the work. My week is a never ending blur of placing orders, doing paperwork, taking meetings (in person and on the phone), and helping customers. Yet, no matter what else needs to be done there is always time for proper research. I would guesstimate that I spend twenty hours a week researching new products through various sources. I read every trade magazine (digital and physical) that arrives in my store, and every email I get from any publisher or distributor, no matter how big or small. I stare at KS projects to see which ones offer a good retailer level and fit into my store. I surf BGG to see what people are talking about. I talk to publishers about their upcoming products and see how they might fit into my store. I watch the handful of online game reviewers that don't make me want to drown in a vat of bile, not for their opinions, but to learn about the mechanics of a game I may be interested. Believe it or not, being in this industry is hard work. I recently had a customer tell me that the owner of another store in town shortened his hours and took a 'real job' and I just internally groaned, because this is a real job. When I'm in town I'm in my store between 35 and 45 hours in a week, and I'll spend time outside of it doing research. When I'm not in town I'm either at a trade show trying to learn anything I can, or if it's vacation there will be a game store before the art museum, and a café before I wander to a baseball game. So today I have to stop saying I want every retailer to succeed. You see, I'm tired of a subclass of retailers who are attempting to succeed off the hard work of other retailers. I'm tired of a subclass of retailers who want to profit from the knowledge that other people acquired only days ago through both hard work and financial cost. At the same time I remain more than willing to help any person in this tier who has done the work. Did you sit in one of my seminars at GAMA, ask questions, and then snag my business card. I'll happily share with you my thoughts on that new product that we both saw while we were there. I'll happily tell you where I think it fits in the market, and if it will work or not work in my store. You have my cell number and my email, go ahead and use it. At GAMA I sat on a panel entitled "What Retailers Want" where a small group of retailers took questions from publishers of every size, from every corner of the industry. We answered questions from small print RPG companies, and from mid-major board game companies (hopefully no one is offended by that term, but I think right now we have only one power conference board game company and about half a dozen mid-majors), and made an effort to help them get their games into our stores and markets better. Every person in that panel who wanted my business card got it, and is welcome to use my cell phone number. I could keep going, but it would get redundant, because ultimately it boils down to this. If you did the work, and I did the work, I'm happy to compare notes on the work. Every day I share the joys and tribulations of this industry with people who have done the work, or are making an effort to do the work. I share a lot with those people... But if you didn't do the work, I'm absolutely happy to share my work with you, after GenCon. No, seriously, I'll tell you what the hot product was at GAMA after I've sold every copy of it I possibly can and moved on to the hot product from GenCon...

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