March 10, 2009

10 Ways to Save Your Friendly Local Game Shop

In the last couple of days, I've seen read some disturbing news and blog posts about the independent hobby game store business. You know... your FLGS.

Today, Nicholas over at posted "Requiem for a Game Store" where he laments the slow decline of his own FLGS. This stood out to me because just yesterday I read Aoen's foreboding satirical forcast of 5E D&D ("Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Review") at Their point was the same -- FLGS are becoming a thing of the past and there is little we can do about it.

I disagree, there is a ton the gaming community can do to help the FLGS industry survive these tough economic times. All it takes is a bit of creativity and initiative. (I should preface this post with a warning: I have nearly zero understanding of how the actual RPG industry works from the ground up -- so, to many of you this may make you chuckle.)

  1. Get to know your store. Set aside at least one-day per month to attend a gaming event at your FLGS. By visiting the store regularly you will get a vibe on how they are doing and get to know the "locals" as well.
  2. Meet the Owner. Make a point of introducing yourself to the owner of the store. Putting a face on the store will help you remember that, when you shop at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you are making a choice that doesn't include this person.
  3. Make A Suggestion. Your a gamer, therefor you have strong opinions. Make them known to the guy behind the counter, let the store owner know, talk about it in the aisles of the store. Once your idea is out there, you never know what kind of impact you can have. Unrelated to gaming -- I made a suggestion to my FLB&WS (that's beer & wine in the middle there) about a certain Chilean wine I recently had enjoyed at a local restaurant. A few weeks later I noticed it was on the shelf, and it turned out to be one of their best sellers.
  4. Special Order Something. Instead of click click ordering with Amazon, stop by your FLGS (or better yet call them) and ask them to special order what you are looking for. By ordering through the store, you are likely to pay a similar price as you might find in a big-box store like B&N, but will also be supporting them as well.
  5. Order Online. Addicted to purchasing stuff online? Then make sure your store doesn't have an online ordering system. Many FLGS have online stores - some even with Instant Pick Up service (it's in the store waiting for you the minute you order it). If they don't have an online store set up -- see #3 above.
  6. Bring a Friend. Two customers are better than one, so the next time you are going to drop in to your FLGS ask a friend to come along. The two of you can geek'out together, and the store owner might even be able to offer up a small discount if you buy two copies of that gamebook instead of one.
  7. Try a New Game. The best way to spend money wisely on gaming (is that possible?) is to branch out and try something entirely new. Whether it is a new RPG, a new card game, strategy game, or something else -- your FLGS can guide you in making the decision as to what you might like to play best. I mean... do you REALLY think the stooge at Barnes & Noble is going to be able to tell you that Dominion is awesome and you definitely will like it? No.
  8. Volunteer to Lead an Event. See #1 above, if that doesn't float your boat -- then see #6 above and repeat as necessary until you have enough people to run your own event in the store. Not all FLGS have the space for tons of concurrent games, but check their schedule. Ask them if you can host an event in their store. Got a regular gaming group? Depending on the location, you may even opt to host your regular gaming group at the FLGS.
  9. Write About Your FLGS. Are you a blogger? Frequent forum poster? Then write a review about your FLGS. Provide links to their online store or their calendar of events. You will help them get some free advertising and through an honest review you will also give them straight-talk advice on what you like and don't like about their business (which is a good thing). Then send the link to the review to your FLGS by email and let them know about it.
  10. Join Their Mailing List. All hobby shops have mailing lists - or at least email lists. Give them your contact info so that you can be informed whenever their is a sale, event, or other tidbit worth knowing about. By volunteering to be part of their marketing pool, you will stay in the know and sometimes even get coupons / discounts on items only available to people on the list. Its a win win.
The economics of hobby gaming is definitely changing. I too have seen my local store become somewhat more sparse than I remembered it to be. And while the digital initiative push by WotC certainly can not bode well for most FLGS owners, I'm sure this is not the only thing in their threat zone. We are a digitally centric group of people (gamers), but we need to remember that there is value to your FLGS that Amazon, DDI, and big box stores cannot give you: a connection with your local gaming community. Start thinking of your FLGS as a community center for gamers, and maybe it will follow that you'll remember them before you click "Checkout" at Amazon.

My local store? It's Dream Wizards in Rockville, MD. -- a 30 year icon of the region. I'm interviewing the owner in the next week or two, so hopefully I'll be able to complement this post with an insider's view of the business.

OK.. lunch break over... back to work...


  1. I'm so lucky here in Cincinnati to have a nice set of FLGS. In fact after a pretty dark tine the last 5 years have lead to a resurgence of game stores here.
    Mine is Yottaquest ( because its close to my little girls school.
    Plus there's Sci-fi city, part of a small chain
    these guys
    I think one of the dfining things that make a successful FLGS is havinga playing space and having a broad catalog. Especially with the big revival in Boardgames.

  2. Honestly, with the convenience of Amazon and PDF sites like DriveThru, with Facebook and RPGlife and such places to meet gamers, I don't see the utility of a game store anymore (though I am bias, my local store sucked until it went broke). Maybe I'm just antisocial, but it seems more convenient and controlled to use other means.

  3. We haven't had FLGS in the UK (except in University towns and cities) for about a decade. I'd love to have one these days, so you're very lucky to have any at all and should do all you can to save them.

    Online shopping is great (financially) but you miss out of the cameraderie of a FLGS and the opportunity to mingle with fellow gamers... and even, maybe, play some games!

  4. I started a new gaming group on, which brought out a whole bunch of former gamers interested in getting back into the hobby. As a nice added plus, I was able to steer our first meeting to my FLGS ( in Grayslake, Il.) Turns out none of my fellow group members knew of the place- since then, they've all been back to spend more money, and one runs a regular Thursday night game there.

  5. Mine is known as The Core. I like the idea of supporting them by attending a game once a month. I'm planning on attending World D&D day. Dependning on how the kids like it we'll make it a monthly occurence

  6. I loved going to my FLGS as a kid but once I discovered the internet as a place to buy things I was over spending full price for over priced goods. game shops are an out dated business and should be replaced by community run game clubs in my opinion. If there were more quality game clubs then there would be less of a need for a store where gamers could gather, the gathering place would be your favorite local gaming club.

    Libraries, schools, churches, neighborhood centers they all have places for people to meet up and play some games. The problem I think with game clubs and why I haven't seen too much success with them over game stores is that it is non profit and requires more than one person to be responsible for the management of the club.

    Everyone likes the idea, no one likes the work. A game store can be run by one person whose motivation is to make some cash and be able to play some games while doing it providing a similar service as a game club but with profit involved.

  7. I linked to this article in my quick blog post about my local FLGS - Fandom II in Ottawa. Thanks!

  8. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  9. This interesting article speculates on what bookstores might do to compete with online retailers. I think it applies to FLGSs.

    The article basically says that bookstores aren't compensated for much of the social value they provide as side-effects to their bookselling. To compete with online retailers, these bookstores might find ways to emphasize and monetize these social aspects through memberships, endowments, consignment fees, etc., becoming the 'NPR' of places to read.

    Could a 'friendly local gaming parlor,' which carries no inventory and pays its expenses through a mix of hourly game room rentals, membership programs, consignment offerings, and to-order retail sales, survive as a business model?

  10. Welcome Bif!

    I've long thought it would be both really fun and a hellwalkoffire to own a hobbygamecafebookstore shop. I've gone as far as looking at locations; and getting ideas of leasing rates.. but that's it. But my concept is basically what you are suggesting... and I think many game stores are already figuring this out... have you seen how many people show up when there's a PokeMon or MtG tournament? The RPG books on the shelves of those stores are likely to be the backwater of sales (i dunno though); seems like most FLGSs these days make income from events more than "Oh Look.. a the PHB9 was released today!"


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