Is the traditional retail model for gaming stores dead? It has been something my friend Ian and I have discussed at length and both agree that the traditional retail model is under serious threat from the internet and globalisation. The question then is this: Is that a bad thing?
I live in a town without a gaming store, traditionally I've bought most of my gaming products via Comics Compulsion in Christchurch but in recent years more and more of my business has gone online. Now don't get me wrong, I have always enjoyed dealing with Tim and his team and they do provide good service but for more and more of my purchases I have come to rely on the internet.
Just before Christmas a comic store opened in town, so last week I drove into town (40km return trip) and ordered some BF product. They are first and foremost a comic store but have a smattering of RPG and wargaming stuff (Warhammer) and don't sell BF but will order it in, taking about 2 weeks (or so I'm told). Now I can get the same product direct from BF for the same price and in less time by ordering online or, better yet, I can order via the UK, not having to pay for shipping/postage and get the product delivered to my door in less than a week and save approximately $3 per blister! So, why wouldn't I? (Note I did order a few blisters to support them and wish them well but can't really see me using them for most of my - rather limited these days- BF purchases) if I can get them cheaper and faster offshore.
In the past few years more and more of my wargaming business has been going directly with the wargaming companies- Warlord Games, Westwind Mini's, Perry miniatures, Gripping Beast, Front Rank etc or overseas based online retailers. Some of the ranges I'm after haven't been stocked locally so I have had no other alternative than to use the manufacturers' online stores. Even so, in the modern age there is less and less reason to use a bricks and mortar retailer. I can buy Perry plastics, for instance, from suppliers in either CHCh or Dunedin at $15-20 dearer per box than I can get it direct from the likes of Warlord Games (and I don't have to pay VAT or GST). So it is getting harder and harder for the FLGS, who, as far as I'm aware, still buy their product from wholesalers (who take their cut) to compete for my business. End result is most of my, and the other local gamers, business goes offshore. Now I can hear some people say you should/ must support the local retailer or they will go bust, well truth be told the "local" retailer in 160km north or south of here. Here in NZ most gamers play at the club not a gmaing store and, in the case of TAG we are thriving without a local retailer (we have 20 plus players every week turn up to the club, not bad for a town of less than 30,000 and no FLGS!). Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy going to gaming stores once in a while. On my infrequent visits to CHCH I do visit Comics and always buy a few things but these days 90% of my wargaming spending is done via the internet.
What's the solution? I'm not sure but I seriously believe that the old retail model if not dead, needs to seriously reinvent itself if gaming stores are to survive and compete against the internet retailers and online stores of manufacturers.
Now I know people will say you should support your local gaming store, and to a degree (much less than I used to I do) I agree but if you don't have a local gaming store then that isn't really an option is it? Also, given the current economic climate it gets harder and harder to justify paying for product that you can get delivered to your door more conviniently and often for less.
Thoughts or comments?