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Behind the Counter

What It Takes To Open a Game Store

by Marcus King
Oct 15,2004


What It Takes To Open a Game Store

By Marcus King, TitanGames.com

Some time ago I asked for suggestions for what readers would like to see.

I got -1- email suggesting something, so this month I will write on that topic: What it takes to open a game store.

The barrier to entry to this industry (Adventure Games) is very low. Lower than opening an automotive shop, because you need no experience. Lower than opening a restaurant, cause you really need no money. Lower than becoming a paperboy, cause nobody interviews you first.

Shocking, really, when you think of it that way. ANYbody can be a retail game store owner. And, unfortunately some would say, just about anybody IS a retail shop owner.

For the bare bones, I want to sell games from my basement operator, you only need to get a business license (not required in some states), a resale tax license (not required in states with no Sales Tax) and a "Commercial Address". For those who plan to operate by going to conventions, you can usually just have things shipped to the local UPS hub, and pick it up there. Or a UPS Store mail box will suffice. Will you make money? No, not likely. You will, of course, damage your local legitimate retailer as you sell things out of your closet or trunk.

Now, to become a real retailer, you need - probably - the following:

A. License, tax id, and rent a retail spot from which to operate. There is so much that can be said about location that I will not even go into it. There are books written on the subject. Read one. I will mention that I think that a town of less than 100,000 people is NOT a good location for a game retailer.
B. Contact GAMA (the Game Manufacturers Association at GAMA.ORG) and ask for a MENTOR to help you get started. The mentor will be a long time established retailer who will help you with advice on issues ranging from product mix, to store hours, from finding insurance to getting set up with distributors).
C. Attend GTS (The GAMA Trade Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is usually held in March (it is March 14-17 this year), and attend EVERY seminar you can. Seminars range in topic from how to lay out your store, to how to determine your profitability, to how to buy and sell used games, and dozens of other topics.

If you are not ready to travel to Vegas, spend the bucks to attend GTS, and learn - do yourself a favor and keep your day job. :)

Now, to be "fair", I was a retailer for 12 years before I attended GTS. But, I was a struggling to make $100K in sales per year guy for those years. After, I have been successful and relatively enjoyed growth each year. GTS saved my company, and if I had learned those lessons 12 years earlier, I would be a LOT better off financially now.

The Game Industry is fun. I even think exciting (but, dude - I am a serious geek), and I love working in this industry. It is exciting when Peter Adkinson knows me by name, or the owner or author of a company or product I know of says "You're THE Marcus King?". Meeting people and making deals is my "apex" of existence. Perhaps that sounds silly, but I like it.

But, like any business, the Game Industry takes a lot of learning to master, and retailing is not for everyone. Long hours, low pay, no benefits and juggling too much work, too little pay and multiple problems is the norm for a new store owner.

Over the past 18 years I have faced too many "employee quit without notice" to even count that anymore. But, some of the "out of the norm" problems I have faced is:

A. Employee took $1500.00 cash from a deposit.
B. Employee stole all the rare cards out of multiple sets of Alpha and Beta magic cards.
C. Break ins.
D. Armed Robbery.
E. Computer Virus'.
F. Convention Truck caught fire.
G. Going 65MPH when both back wheels came off the con truck (this past weekend).
H. Slanderous things being said about my shop online.
I. Filed for bankruptcy.
J. Partner quit with no notice, crashing our computer system and taking a LOT of merchandise with him to start his own eBay thing (1999 or 2000, don't remember which).

It's been a wild ride, these past 18 years. And, if you are not discouraged yet - then perhaps YOU can be a retailer, too.

It has it's moments, like:

A. A mom coming to me and saying that her son has quit cursing at home because we won't let him curse in the store during Magic night.
B. A father coming in to say his Son is getting married, and wanted to ask me to be the best man at his wedding (a customer who had gone into the service - sadly I could not fly to Korea for the ceremony).
C. My kids learning about business. My youngest daughter is a heck of a store employee!
D. Getting dozens of emails, phone calls, a few cards, and even some flowers, from other retailers when we had some family tragedy.
E. Meeting people I always wanted to meet, only to find out they knew of me, of my company, had done business with me online.
F. Giving some excess inventory to a local grade school, and getting a bunch of cards and such from 1st through 4th graders for the games we donated.

The second list is actually MUCH longer than the first, but I am getting a bit tired, and don't want to share everything all at once.

So, what's it take to be a retailer? Determination, stubbornness, hard work, and patience. Luck helps too.

Anyone seriously wanting to learn more about being a retailer should contact gama.org and get into the mentor program. Anyone just wanting to have another question answered is welcome to contact me directly with your question at: titangamesinc@aol.com

Anyone with more suggestions on what to write about in this column, can contact me at my direct email address, above.


Marcus King

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What do you think?

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All Counter Talk columns by Marcus King

  • On Discounting by Marcus King, 15dec05
  • Think Different by Marcus King, 11oct05
  • GENCON, August, and TitanGames by Marcus King, 29aug05
  • Another Month at Titan Games by Marcus King, 06jul05
  • The Past Week at TitanGames by Marcus King, 10may05
  • The GAMA Trade Show by Marcus King, 13apr05
  • Con Jobs by Marcus King, 08mar05
  • Don't Skip The Retailer by Marcus King, 11feb05
  • How To Open Your Own Game Store by Marcus King, 14jan05
  • The Christmas Crunch by Marcus King, 22dec04
  • Light at the End of the Convention Tunnel by Marcus King, 15nov04
  • What It Takes To Open a Game Store by Marcus King, 15oct04
  • The Big 3 by Marcus King, 13sep04
  • Discoveries by Marcus King, 11aug04
  • Con-Man by Marcus King, 19jul04
  • Turmoil by Marcus King, 16jun04
  • Business is Business by Marcus King, 12may04
  • GAMA On! by Marcus King, 09mar04
  • On A Serious Note by Marcus King, 10feb04
  • Predictions for 2004 by Marcus King, 20jan04
  • Game Retailer or Game Club? by Marcus King, 11dec03
  • The Weather Changes... by Marcus King, 11nov03
  • The Deluge of Dead Products by Marcus King, 14oct03
  • The Conventional by Marcus King, 11sep03
  • Solutions to Problems and Good Feelings by Marcus King, 11aug03
  • Two weeks in the life of a retailer by Marcus King, 16jul03
  • In Store Gaming, and our love-hate relationship with it by Marcus King, 12jun03
  • Raising a Good Retailer by Marcus King, 28apr03
  • The customer is always right (right?) by Marcus King, 02apr03
  • Introductions by Marcus King, 24mar03
  • Jumping the Grand Canyon with Pikachu and Friends December 20, 1999
  • GTS'99 April 20, 1999

    Other columns at RPGnet

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