Monday, January 25, 2010

Hobby Retailers- Are You Part of the Problem . . . Or The Solution?

The recent announcement of a new sports collectibles trade conference, and taking a detailed look at the conference itinerary, made me think about several things. First and foremost being that attendance should be mandatory for every hobby retailer in the country. Obviously, this isn't something that can be legislated and/or enforced but the inclusion of The Magazine Exchange and Universal Distribution as corporate sponsors could incentivize store owners who attend with significant, tiered discounts commiserate with purchase order levels.

What hobby shop owner, albeit aspiring or veteran, couldn't benefit from round table and panel discussions on these topics, to name a few?

1) Follow the Money- An inside look at the financials of a particular trading card product from conception to fulfillment.

2) A Hobby Shop's mission in an increasingly online world.

3) Facebook for business- Putting social media to work for you.

I have mentioned here on this blog several times, some of the ridiculous practices I have come across in visiting various Hobby shops in the Greater Chicagoland Region. As a former sales consultant and estimator for the restaurant and hospitality markets, my territory included everything from Milwaukee, WI to South Bend, IN and in that 3-year tenure I visited virtually EVERY Hobby shop.

Besides the obvious problems of retail customer service not exclusively limited to the sports card market (unfriendly counter help, unorganized store, poorly lit displays, over-priced items, etc), issues specifically related to the genre never ceased to amaze me. From never having heard of National Trading Card Day to not carrying popular products, to mis-using manufacturer provided free trading cards, the transgressions ranged from moronic to unimaginable.

Many small business owners, including Hobby shop owners, think they know everything and are simply to egotistical or close minded to learn best practices from their peers. The aggressive pace at which The Hobby continues to evolve should serve as notice to these dinosaurs of a gone-by Hobby era that you can either adapt or die. The formula to retail success isn't to recreate the wheel, it's to identify what works for the most successful retailers and replicate it.

There are many good Hobby shops and good people that own and operate those Hobby shops. Unfortunately, there are (in my humble experience) an equal number of people who have no business being in business. Just because you love and are extremely knowledgeable doesn't provide you the business acumen to run a successful Hobby shop.


Sooz said...

Of the companies attending, I noticed Upper Deck was not there.

James said...

Great post! I obviously couldn't agree more on your marketing and social marketing take.

I like the idea of a conference, but why not a Virtual Trade Conference? These are great and you don't have the travel costs associated with it.

Unknown said...

Hello - Great post! On a side note, what are your favorite Chicagoland hobby shops? If any? I have gotten back into the hobby over the past few years but have limited myself to online purchases. I've gone to a few Chicago shops but I always feel like they are trying to pull a fast one on me. Any recommendations are appreciated. Cheers.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

James- We are talking about people who have yet to fully embrace or understand online and social media, a virtual trade show is beyond their comprehension. In addition Vegas provides cheap flights, hotels, and the ability to "write it off" encouraging attendance.

Gavin- That is a loaded question. My favorite, Legends of the Game in Wheaton closed some years ago. Galaxy in Naperville has a great selection (HUGE), Triple Crown in Naperville, has a small selection but great seller consignment program and Tom, the owner really knows how to take care of his customers.

James said...

True - Mayb we could start small with a webinar and then graduate to the VTS? One can dream I suppose...

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