With Privateer Press joining the ranks of GW and Asmodee discouraging online retailers is it time we maybe embrace the new?
I remember starting Warhammer. It was almost 20 years ago, my older cousin told me about a game were you buy little fantasy soldiers and have battles with them. I was 15 and thought it was the coolest thing ever. With no internet (well there was, but no one used it) I asked where I can find these games and he sent me to the mall and to look for a store called Games Workshop. It was pretty awesome. We would get together, almost weekly, with our little toy soldiers and play these great battles.
Things have changed quite a bit since then.
The internet has now created an unfair advantage to retailers who sell online and do not have the overhead expenses that retail stores have. As a result a lot independent retail stores have been closing down, not just in the table top industry, but all industries it seems. GW, Asmodee and now Privateer Press has expressed anger and frustration regarding this and is taking steps to stop or at the least, discourage it.
But is the internet really bad? Should companies really be afraid?
I say no.
A 100% brich and mortar tabletop top game retail store is a 20 year old business model and likely not to survive in the long run. More and more businesses are doing business online, and the younger generation hasn’t walked into a mall, a hangout when I was a kid, in years. So it’s time to move on and close those retail stores.
“But GW needs the presence to get new people into the hobby,” you say, and your right.
So what to do?
Easy. Think outside the box GW (and the others)!
Why do you need retail stores? You don’t, you need hobby centres only. Let me explain.
You need a place to push your product and keep current customers happy by providing a place to play and hang out. You need a hobby centre. Why are you paying outragous Prime Retail rental rates? Retail space varies in price, but if you include TMI (taxes, maintenance and insurance) retail space typically costs over $30 per square foot. That’s expensive! No wonder retailers with bricks and mortar don’t want to compromise on price!
However, industrial rental rates typically cost a fraction of retail prices (sometimes as low as a tenth of the cost). “However, it’s illegal to retail your product out of an industrial zoned building,” I hear you say. This is where you have to think outside the box.
GW, rent a big, like 5,000 sq. ft. industrial space. This will be a GW “Hobby Centre.” It will have lots of gaming tables so people can come in and play games, and to also host tournaments and special events, like campaigns. Also, along the walls you put all of your models, painted and looking great, in nice well let glass displays. At the bottom of every model is its PIN, or identification number. Next to each display case is a computer, with your web page open on it. When the individual sees the model they like, they go onto the computer and order it. It will be delivered to their home, or as a free service can also be delivered to the “hobby centre” for your convenience. This is NOT a retail store, it is a hobby centre. The models on display are for the aesthetics, and also for use by the staff (for example if someone wants to play a game of AoS but no one else is there they can play the staff). The computers are provided as a convenience to your customers so they can check product, rules, etc. You are not carrying inventory at this location, merely painted models for use of the hobby and for aesthetics.
TADA! GW can slash costs but at the same time still provide hobby locations for their customers. Truth by told, but opening such a large hobby centre GW can likely consolidate many stores into one, thus even being able to provide better service as instead of having one man stores, they’ll have one large store with several people working there. Plus with additional space they can finally do larger events. I mean you can even charge an annual fee to the “members of the club” to help justify this is a club and not a retail store. Truth be told I’d happily pay an annual fee if it entitled me to play at all the events, tournaments and even weekly for free.
An example of light industrial buildings.
The other advantage is not being locked into retail hours. For example, in our gaming group we’re all married with kids, the only time we get together is late evenings and no hobby store is open that late. However, by having a hobby centre and being a member of the club, GW can issue it’s members with security cards. The hobby centre will be open 24/7 to it’s members, just swipe your card and play away!
Truth is, trying to keep the traditional hobby store retail business model in the day and age of the internet is borderline foolish. No one drives somewhere to buy something nowadays, you just order it online. It’s time to embrace that guys.
What do you think? Would you rather still go to a mall or plaza to play? Or can you just as easily drive to light industrial buildings and play there?