Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A sobering experience.

Whenever I go to Barnes and Noble, I come out thinking -- why do I even try? Why do I bother!

They have SO many books! Good books! Wow!

So I don't go to B & N very often, because I don't need to be dispirited.

Thing is, I carry a certain number of books, and I pick as good of books as I can, and people walk into my store occasionally and buy them. It really doesn't matter what B & N does.

So, today, I had the afternoon off, so I visited a few stores downtown.

First I went to Game Domain, because I had finally met the owner, Casey, and had a talk with him in my store. Turns out, we've had many similar experiences. We were both carrying sports cards at the same time, when he had a store in Redmond, through the nineties and the aughts.

So I went to visit his store, and we had another long talk. His store was exactly what it should be and he had TONS and TONS of magic cards, and packs, and sets and every other kind magic thing. Other than turning my store into a Magic the Gathering type store, I'm never going to come close to that.

But -- like above, I have people come in off the street and occasionally they buy what magic I have and that's all that matters.

I also explored Wabi Sabi for the first time. What a cool store! They had lots of urban vinyl and other cool things I wish I could carry. The level of inventory just wowed me. My brain turns into an adding machine going, ching, ching, ching, and I'm just flabbergasted.

Then dropped into Powell's Candy.

Again, lots of cool stuff and in both stores the atmosphere was prosperous and fun and I was very envious. Ching, ching, ching.

Thing is, both stores reflect a kind of investment that I don't think I can do. Well, maybe I have done, but I've taken a long time to get there and it's mostly bound up in bound up material, so to speak. They seem way more capitalized than I ever was; but I come from an era when downtown was downtrodden, and rents were cheap, and there were lots of shoe-string startups.
I'm envious, but bless them and more power to them.

One thing I noticed is that other stores tend to buy quantities of each product, whereas more often than not I try to buy just one unit. This comes from buying from my comic distributor, who because comics are sold in single low-cost units, often offers the same feature for toys, games, etc. (Not always, and not all at once, but if I hang back and pick stuff up opportunistically.)

Having batches of the same type of product gives a thematic unity to their displays that I'm often missing.

I know, in my head, that I probably have as much material as these other stores, but it's mostly in books -- graphic novel and otherwise -- that are mostly spine out. (I've estimated I could fill a store ten times my current size and not look skimpy.)

My investment is in reading material, or boxed games,-- and everything else is ancillary.

But I tell you what, I don't think my store is any more packed (overwhelming) than either of those two stores, so I think I'll quit worrying about that.

As far as the looks. I would need to clear out my store and completely renovate to compete with the feel of either store (new fixtures, flooring, walls) -- and who knows, maybe I'll be able to do that someday. But meanwhile, I've been ensconced there for 30 years, and I just make the best I can of the space.

I do what I do. I sell what I sell. Who knows, maybe they have the same reaction when they come into my store...

But it is very sobering to see how well put together some of the downtown stores are.

1 comment:

Leitmotiv said...

Game Domain has cleaned up a little bit, but I think the attitude of store operator (there is only one right?) needs improvement. His need to play Magic Online while you are shopping there is annoying.

Wabi Sabi has done a great job in their new digs. They could probably squeeze in more product.

Powell's. My son loves it. The selection is great, but it feels too corporate to me, and the prices are too high.