Saturday, December 8, 2007

I was looking at a blog of a comic guy visiting a Japanese shopping district. Simply astounding design and ambiance. Entire stores dedicated to Peanuts, for instance, or TinTin, toys stores to die for. I don't think stores like that really exist in America; maybe in New York, maybe....

So, it always sends me into planning my dream store. I figure if I buy a dollar lottery ticket once a week, I should win a million eventually. So I need to plan my dream store in advance. I'd take, oh, say, only half the million (I'd prudently invest the other half a million, of course) and use it to create the best pop-culture store in America.

I figure I would need about 10,000 square feet to do the job right. I'd create entire boutiques within the store, dedicated to retro-sci-fi, fantasy, comics, books, games etc. etc.

Pure foolishness, of course.

Back in the late 1980's, Linda and I had a good run on sports cards. We were booming. So, once, while visiting Sisters, we saw a little 150 sq. foot niche in the side of a building right at the center of the downtown, and I envisioned a little card shop in there. I figured, we just needed to make money in the summer.

The first summer absolutely boomed. But of course it was only 150 sq. ft. so when the space next door came open, and we could knock out the wall between, we grabbed it. We went from 150 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft. I brought in used books, comics, etc. to add to the sports cards. We'd just visited Seaside, which looked like a coastal version of Sisters, and we saw entire stores dedicated to pewter figures, with a heavy emphasis on fantasy; dragons, wizards, unicorns, pegasi, and so on. No one else seemed to be doing them.

So, we created a nifty little store; same basic location, addition product, much more inviting.

Sales dropped like a stone. We couldn't sell the pewter to save our lives. Used books were ignored, comics ignored, cards sales actually dropped.

Lesson learned: expansion and diversification and improvements don't always work. Especially if the bottom line product just quits selling. Looks and ambiance and all that are great if you're selling product; they don't matter at all if you aren't. And brutal truth, the opposite is also true. If you have product that's selling, ambiance and looks aren't all that important.

You have to sell something.

When sports cards stopped selling, for reasons outside our control, the store in Sisters became untenable, period. And so did the store in Redmond.

So whenever I think of my dream store, I know that I probably wouldn't do it even if I could, because it simply wouldn't pay for itself. It would be an ego trip.

Maybe, if I looked at it as a work of art, like a garden, then maybe I could see doing it.

Or I could take the whole million, invest it in safe investments, and travel to Japan to visit awesome boutiques.

7 comments:

Duncan McGeary said...

I figure I'll get an argument about looks not mattering in sales.

But I think stores look the way they do because they reflect the nature of the product.

There is a reason that most comic shops and card shops and game stores look tacky.

They don't make enough extra money to gussy up.

There's a reason that jewelry stores and high end clothing store look so nice: because the product, if it works, makes money.

I'm afraid, if you have a fancy card shop, you're just gilding the lily. You'd be more likely to drive away your prime demographic than attract them.

Duncan McGeary said...

This isn't to say that you shouldn't create then nicest store you can.
But product comes first.

I always use the example of window display.

I could have an artistically thematic window display, tasteful and intriguing.

And it don't do nothing.

Or I can, frankly, clutter the window with examples of the product inside the store, and every day see a customer walk in the door because of what they saw in the window.

I could create a little artistically thematic boutigue selling a single product line that would get all kinds of ohs and ahs, or I can take the same space and stack it, stuff it with product.

Ohs and ahs don't pay the rent, but the 12th box on a pile might.

I wish it were different; I do try to create fung shi with the material at hand.

Jeff said...

"I was looking at a blog of a comic guy visiting a Japanese shopping district. Simply astounding design and ambiance"

While Japan is famous for a thrifty older generation who buy next to nothing, it also has some of the most detail-oriented, finicky, and trend-setting consumers in the world.

Japan can't compete with Hollywood, but it's a pop-culture leader in certain segments ... maybe Tokyo should be the location for Duncan's 2nd store?

Ray Kuratek said...

Japan can't compete with Hollywood, but it's a pop-culture leader in certain segments ... maybe Tokyo should be the location for Duncan's 2nd store?


That's it, Duncan can bore the Japs to death, and we'll win WW'V.

Ray Kuratek said...

Japan can't compete with Hollywood, but it's a pop-culture leader in certain segments ... maybe Tokyo should be the location for Duncan's 2nd store?


That's it, Duncan can bore the Japs to death, and we'll win WW'V.

Ray Kuratek said...

Japan can't compete with Hollywood, but it's a pop-culture leader in certain segments ... maybe Tokyo should be the location for Duncan's 2nd store?


That's it, Duncan can bore the Japs to death, and we'll win WW'V.

Duncan McGeary said...

That's it, Duncan can bore the Japs to death, and we'll win WWV.