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Game Store Life #4: It’s the Little things

Are you detail oriented? If not, then stop thinking about a store of your own. It’s always the little things.  You have to be borderline OCD, or even OCD to do this gig.  I mean anyone can do the big stuff. What you’re going to carry, where to get your money, what kind of look you want, how to decorate, what to pay employees, all the general stuff.

What about toilet paper? How will customer dry their hands? What kind and how much packing materials do you need for your online selling? How much of it?

Here is an example: Local sports card shop does a lot of online sales, he rented the front of my store a while before moving out on his own. I pop in one day and he’s coming back from the post office.  He packs tuff, then takes it there and mails it out, paying full price for shipping. I have a site I use to get discounted shipping.  Now that might not sound like a big difference, and per package it isn’t.  But when you do 10+ a day and they need tracking the amount for full price can be like $4.50 and discounted like $3.60. $.90 times 10 times 7 days is like $63 a week, so $250 a month. That’s 2.5 boxes of MTG, that can go for just over $300, making you $50 in profit. 

The margins in running a game store are tight, and a $50 profit you roll right back in and it helps to grow. And this is just a basic example. If you get down to every way that one can waste money in this business we would be here for a War & Peace type of thing.  Another biggie is snacks and drinks. They are normally the highest profit margin item in a store. Sure, they don’t make a lot overall, but they can add a nice little chunk to the till. Do you let employees get them for free? If so, how many?  Sure they don’t cost much, but each missed sale adds up.  A box of 50 chips at Sam’s Club is like $19, charge $1 each, that’s a $31 profit. Not your clerk ate 4 today, that’s $4 gone.  I’m not saying don’t be stingy but it’s something you have to factor in.

Do you use Ultra Pro top loaders to mail out orders? Good for you.  I use the cheap ones.  Want to know what I never hear? People complaining that I used the cheaper ones.  But a case of the cheap ones is about $85 while UP is over $100.  This also goes for the half dozen types of envelopes you’ll need, the penny sleeves, and all that. You need to keep sipping costs down, cleaning costs down.  I mean don’t cheap out on the shop itself, but there are a lot of ways to save a buck here and there. 

Most owners I know will just grab things while they’re out, and that’s fine if you need it now.  But thinking ahead and planning all the mundane expenses will not only save you time in the long run, like auto ordering on Amazon, but money as well. This goes back to my last article on having a system in place. I know, beating a dead horse. But having a cycle when you order, even if you don’t need it, will save time and even make it easier for others to do it if you get too busy.

I always get the stuff when I have the money, because you might not have it next month when the new Pokemon set drops and you need more packs.  Having a surplus of things that you use regularly is never a bad thing, unless you don’t have the room, but you should have that small area or storeroom to keep it all.  The worst thing is having a busy week of online orders and running out of envelopes……

Here is one no one thinks about.  Your local Post Office only has certain types of priority boxes or envelopes.  BUT they will deliver them to you for free if you order online.  I love the padded envelopes, but they are not carried locally. So, I order a couple hundred whenever I do need them. I have stacks around.  They are great for single booster boxes. It’s these kind of little things that can get you. So plan ahead.  And this also goes back to researching.  When in the process of looking to open, these kind of questions to other owners could save you a lot of Money, but most people never ask them and have to learn the hard way.

Nickle and diming your way to profitability may seem tedious, but it’s the most consistent way of doing it. Games and expansions come and go, and you never know when one will flop, and it could mean a few months of less expendable cash. This is where more than a few shops bite it. They go in on a set more than normal trying to make it off that, but then it flops and they go under.  Having saved up cash could save you.  Bit that is another topic for another article.

Thanks for wasting your time with me again,

Dan Rowland
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About the author


TCG player and enthusiast who has been slinging cards for 25+ years. He has won some stuff, judged, ran events, owned stores, and and sold online. Wannabe writer as well. Having written for sites such as The Dojo and Starcity for various other games, he now wants to try his hand for Force of Will. Also a hack novelist with one book currently published and seller of fine wares at for all things Force of Will and on Facebook.
Not the best of players, but a head for numbers and a historical buff. Sporting degrees in Business and Writing, he hopes to spread some knowledge with a dose of sarcasm. Enjoy the ramblings of a deficient mind and grab a chuckle while you're there.