Note about my expertise on the subject: I don’t really know much about this specific business, but as an entrepreneur I do know something about business in general. I don’t really know whether I’m qualified to give my opinion on the subject, but as I have said before, why would that stop me from doing so.
Last fall, a new gaming store was opened about a block away from my office. Understandably, I visit it quite often. I try to make FNMs (Friday Night Magic, for those of you not in the know) and buy all the sleaves I need. I go there for comics and to get board games. They do have some roleplaying games, but nothing that would strike my fancy, because, obviously, they are working on a very narrow part of that market, which reflects the more popular items, rather than the items that would interest me, which are pushing the media. Understandably, they can’t cater to my needs in that sense.
I just found it strange that according to all the reports from the US, the brick-and-mortar hobby shops are a dying breed. This shop, on the other hand, seems to thrive, since they have a lot of stuff they just can’t seem to keep on stock. There are always people in the store browsing for something. From what I know, there are more of these new places all over Finland. Even in the smaller towns.
So, if they can thrive (based on my perception, which I hope is accurate), why?
First, they have a very central location. You can’t get much more central in this city than they are. They are below street level, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem, because they are still very visible. Interested people will stop by, because its so accessible.
Second, they have activities. Besides the aforementioned FNM, they draft Magic on Wednesday’s and there’s some other activity for every day of the week, including Warhammer and WH40K, painting, PathFinder Society, board games and probably something else I’m forgetting. Obviously, people who see these things happening are going to be interested. Not everyone, but some. Everyone needs to find their hobbies somehow. Also, when you go there to play, or whatever, there is always going to be some downtime. What do you do with that downtime? I don’t know about others, but I browse. Comics mostly.
Third, they have a good mix of all sorts of stuff. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t find something interesting in that place. Besides the TCG stuff, the RPGs, the comics, the board games and the miniature games, they have PC and console games, used movies, latex weaponry, movie memorabilia, nerdy books, toys and so forth. If you go in there to buy, lets say, sleaves, there’s a good chance something else will catch your eye.
Obviously, none of these things work on everyone, but they work on enough people.
The business is still probably problematic. Think about how often you can purchase something cheaper from the Internet if you just have the inclination to shop there. Getting a PDF of a roleplaying game is often much handier than the book itself. On the other hand, many people just enjoy handling the item they are going to buy. Even among the younger generations. They also enjoy the social interaction with people with same interests in an environment where everything doesn’t have to devolve into a flame war.