Welp…it’s a new year, and post-holiday clean-up is pretty much over. For many of you, this meant reconciling paperwork and examining last year’s successes and opportunities. However, the best part of a new year is the chance to reinvent your store’s appearance and reinvigorate your customers and your staff. So, let’s get creative and take a look at some changes, great and small, that you can do to freshen up your store.
Check Your Inventory
If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to check your stock levels for missing or mis-shelved product. During the holidays, your customers were in a hurry to find that perfect gift, and certain items just didn’t make it back to their homes. It pays to be thorough. The old retail phrase “touch every item” means that when you straighten or clean, you don’t want to assume that everything that is behind that first box is the same product.
This allows you and your staff to put everything back where it belongs and become better aware of product damage or theft. This also helps to makes you aware of trouble spots in your store that might need more consistent attention.
Examine New Products
Now’s the time to ask yourself, “What did I say “no” to last year?” . If there were product lines that you were considering in the past, now is the time to reexamine them. Perhaps brands that had just made a splash last year have more breadth and depth this year and are, therefore, a safer investment. It’s also a good time to reevaluate customer requests and employee suggestions. Maybe they were on to something. Maybe there’s a trend in the genre that has proven successful.
Also, you’ll want to keep in mind that the Game Manufacturers Association (or GAMA) trade show is coming up in March, and there is always a slew of new games scheduled to debut. So, leave room in your budget for some surprise announcements. No matter what, bringing that level of observation and scrutiny to bear will help to make you a more informed manager, a more thoughtful coach, and a better salesperson in your own right.
If you don’t have a place at your storefront for new releases, you are doing your store a disservice. Designating a spot for these fresh items encourages sales by featuring them prominently. It could be an endcap near the register or a free-standing display (like the one pictured at Game Goblins in Little Rock, Arizona).
One of its most important functions is letting customers know that you are always getting new product in. It may also help encourage customers to ask about product that you don’t have. You may ask why this is a good thing. Quite simply, it creates the opportunity for a sale. When a customer asks for a product that you don’t have, you can offer to order it for them. You can decide if a deposit is required or not, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to request 20% in advance, which is refunded if you can’t find the item in question. At the very least, you made a customer aware of the additional services that you offer.
In addition to a New Releases area, having a “Staff Picks” section where employees choose their favorite games (old or new) to spotlight creates an instant advocate in your store for a particular title. That kind of passion cannot be understated. A knowledgeable employee who can show customers how to play, explain which expansions are available, and sing the game’s praises. Essentially, it helps to turn your staff member into a trusted adviser for that individual. From there, that customer will be more likely to make the trip to your store since they feel that they have someone there who understands their interests.
Reexamine Your Fixtures
Maybe it’s that four-way shelf at the back of your store. Perhaps it’s a couple of folding chairs that you use during your CCG events. It might even be the shelving units that came with the store. No matter what it is, now is the time to look around and see what might need upgrading, replacing, or repairing.
That clunky four-way could benefit from a set of wheels and maybe a fresh coat of paint or stain to make it a more flexible fixture. Those busted chairs are, at worst, an accident waiting to happen, or at best, a space hog. It’s time to replace them. Finally, those shelves may still have some life left in them. Check on Pinterest for Upcycled Shelving ideas to spark your imagination.
Lastly, make sure that you take a look at your store’s lighting. Check for blown bulbs and electrical shorts. Game and hobby stores are stereotypically dark places. Breaking that perception is really important. In a 2016 article, I covered a lot of topics, but one of the most important subjects discussed was lighting in your store. It’s worth a read.
Focus on the Positive
This past holiday season saw some major challenges for the retail industry. Brick-and-mortar stores seemed to face the greatest struggle, but lots of small businesses survived and thrived. In the hobby/specialty/game market, this was accomplished by managers and owners finding solutions to their problems, as opposed to giving into their fears.
Let’s face it. Online retailing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So your goal to combat this is to make your store a place that customers would prefer to shop at. How do you do that? First of all, keep a positive attitude. Bad days will come and go, but unless your want your customers to do the same, you need to provide a stable environment for your patrons.
Create a welcoming atmosphere by being inclusive, being inviting, and by implementing programs that build community. One of the best ways of doing this is through organized play. Hosting scheduled events designed around your clientele’s interests will let them knew when to be in your store if they want to be a part of the fun. Just as discussed in Ray Oldenburg’s “Third Place Theory“, creating this kind of atmosphere will build relationships, strengthen bonds, and make your store that neighborhood location where everyone wants to be…and they can’t get that online!