Today, Nicholas over at DungeonMastering.com 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 GameGrene.com. 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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...