Sunday, March 20, 2005

Brick and mortar game store angst - Cash Flow problems

I stopped by the Houston Gamers last night (learned Maharajah and HellRail, both interesting-I'm jazzed up about HellRail). That's not what this post is about.

At my request, John, the FLGS owner, checked to see whether he had a copy of a Magic card I have been vaguely thinking about grabbing (Future Sight, if you must know). He has two, marked at $5.54 a pop. I had to think about it, and said so. The card costs less than $2 online, although I'd have to pay for shipping, etc.

One of the last few guys in the shop casually asked him if he had made up his mind on the lease, and if they were done negotiating with the landlord. He said he hadn't, for certain. However, if he decides against it, my FLGS will close by April 30.

Now, I'm in Houston, so if I want to fly the flag at a different store, there are a dozen. Some are too far away, some suck. This one is close, and is good.

However, not a year ago, John the FLGS owner was asked this question: There are 8 people in the room. We spend a total of $15,000 on games, every year, like clockwork. What kind of discount can you cut us? His answer: Nothin', flat out, discounting doesn't work. We buy sodas and snacks (okay, when people aren't bringing in their fast food drinks and burgers), and a few games every now and then.

I'd love to be able to help him out, but as the person present who contributed the least to that total (my yearly game budget's more like $100-200, except for now, when I am not buying games), I CAN'T just buy a bunch of his inventory at full retail.

My upcoming games party is drawing gamers away from his store for a day-in essence, I am definitely hurting his gross sales, because I want to have my own party. I can't get my other friends over to the Houston Gamers meetings, and we typically end up with four or five tables of gaming for a long time. Snacks and drinks -communally provided. The Yu-gi-Oh and D&D folks that are at the FLGS don't come to my party, so they're not cluttering up the place (they're mostly well-mannered and odor-free, but I'm not playing their games and they're not playing mine).

At the same time, I'd estimate that his inventory is 50% Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh, 15% boardgames, 20% Clix, and 15% comics. He's got longboxes of Magic cards, and full Magic booster boxes (at least 6, probably worth $150 or more retail). He mentioned about kids buying Yu-Gi-Oh packs at Wal-Mart, and then coming in to trade away cards. "Wait, you didn't buy it here, but you'll trade it here. No way, beat it!" He's removed his credit-card POS machine, because it was eating hundreds of dollars a month... $200 a month to have it, $.40 a transaction, $.40 a batch nightly, 3% of the take, if I remember correctly.

Mainly, I admire him for doing something he enjoys, and I appreciate that he's coming to terms with the numbers. Would the Houston Gamers be able to change those numbers enough to make it worthwhile? If we could find a way to make everyone happy, that'd be great.


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