Thursday, December 18, 2008

Awesome Conversation at Bad Wax

I'd like to post my comment to an article at Bad Wax that asks what can hobby store owners do to stay in business. These were just some of my thoughts. As you can tell this is a subject I am passionate about and get so frustrated watching other people do it wrong. Believe me if I had the necessary start up capital, I think I could do it right.

While the number of hobby shops IS decreasing I think it is important to make note of the numerous shops that ARE still in business. Shop owners need to replicate each other’s best practices by looking at what the likes of Burbank Sportscards, Dr. Wax, Porkey’s and others are doing.

I think product line diversification is important. The collectibles business is huge not just for sports cards and while that may be your passion, it seems idiotic to me that numinists (coins), philatelic (stamps), comics, and sports cards dealers and story owners haven’t better leveraged themselves to join forces to reduce overhead combine marketing resources and diversify.

With that in mind the first thing I would do was scour the Businesses For Sale section of the local and regional newspapers and place ads in Looking To Buy sections advertising my intent to joint venture with other collectibles dealers.

I have known store owners who never leave their perch behind the counter till it is time to go home. You need to network and be seen. Set up at card shows, attend and display at the National and other major regional shows. The value of knowledge you gain in talking to successful dealers would pay for the show let alone what you seel and buy to resell at your own shop.

The manufacturers have done small albeit not enough things to help but even the things they have done like turn Back the Clock, Flashback Fridays, and National Trading Card Day have been misused or abused. I have seen dealers selling the free cards, giving them away without a purchase, giving them out early, selling them on ebay and worse. I even met and spoke with a MAJOR shop owner in the Chicago Area who had never heard of National Trading Card Day.
Gone are the days when you can flip boxes, bust product and sell the contents and sell your own collection as if it was inventory. YOU HAVE TO RUN A CARD SHOP LIKE A BUSINESS AND NOT AN EXCEPTION OF YOUR HOBBY!!

Just in my circle of the suburbs of Chicago I have seen 1 stamp/coin shop, 2 comic book stores, and 4 hobby shops go out of business in the last 3 years. Chances are they would still be in business today and thriving had they utilized a simple business theory called C.R.R- Consolidation of Resources through Research.

Gaming like Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft and others, still retain a huge following. Any hobby shop should incorporate this widely popular product category in their mix.

Also, the Internet is not a fad. eBay is not going away, the Beckett(Sucks) Marketplace is not going away (although one can pray), Amazon also here to stay. eCommerce is a way of life. Companies can embrace it and utilize it to their advantage or crash and burn.

Some of the most successful hobby shops do an excellent job of utlizing online social media and networking to drive traffic to their store. Viral marekting is imperative to small business owner but unfortunately, all too many are antiquated in their business accumen and knowledge.

It’s not enough to “KNOW” trading cards and sports collectibles. You have to be a good business person with a knack for marketing, and if you aren’t, you need to find someone who is or find another livelihood.

The times they are a changing get with it or get run over into obsolescence.


Sooz said...

There are two card shops in my area. One is BC Sports, a chain, and the other is what you just described. They sell cards, trains, coins, collectibles and memorabilia.

I would shop there if it wasn't for the insanely overpriced products they sell.

Anonymous said...

In some ways, I think diversification is the way to go for card and hobby shops, but it exponentially increases the amount of inventory (and the cost) for every additional area you try to focus on in any depth. If you go too broad with your focus, then you can't cover any of the areas in depth - so maybe they only have low end boxes, or maybe only one or two sports. I think it would be hard to strike a balance between all areas. That would be for a keener business mind than mine to figure out.

There are two hobby shops in my city, that both seem to be doing pretty well with very different business plans. There is one which is basically just wax and supplies. He has a few McFarlanes, and one showcase of cards, but by and large its just wax - all four sports (which is no mean feat in Canada), and all major products. His box prices are OK. Good enough that I don't blink when I go in to pick up one or two, but if I am looking at a larger purchase, I plan ahead a bit more and shop around online. Of course, on larger orders or pre-orders he would probably work with me, but I am usually not working on that scale. The fact that he doesn't open any of his wax is reassuring to me, and to a lot of the other collectors in the area - I've pulled great cards out of boxes from his shop, as well as out of a few loose pack sales (all behind the counter - you can pick, but you can't feel).

The other guy has a more typical store - he has the wax, but he also has tons of singles. He sells online, and goes to card shows - both local and the larger regional ones in Canada.

I think the main thing for any hobby shop is having a business plan, and sticking to it. They are dependent on hobbyists, but it is difficult for them to be hobbyists themselves. Personally - I couldn't work in a shop full of unopened wax boxes - I'd just open everything.

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