Tips For Running An Independent Video Game Store

This is a bit of a follow-up to the tour and conversation I had with Giulio from VideoGamesNewYork.  I wanted to keep that video slimmed down and thought this would be a good side conversation to have.  I asked Giulio what advice he had to other independent game store owners and he share some interesting insights.   Hopefully, this will be useful to those thinking about how to start their own game store or existing store owners that are looking to strengthen their business.

Your Biggest Challengers

  • Online Marketplace – gamers are now used to getting their goods cheap, fast, and have a wide selection.
  • Big Box Retailers – You’re not just competing against GameStop, but also Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc
  • Download Services – You also have to compete against download services like Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade

Things to Keep in Mind

  • You have to accept your weaknesses compared to the online market and play up your strengths.
  • Being retro as much as possible sets you apart from the big stores
  • You need to be in a big enough city to not only have enough customers, but also have a steady supply of trade-ins from locals.
  • Also work on doing trade-ins/acquisitions online.  Your local market will only supply you with so much.
  • Focus on the gaming business more than playing games.
  • Think long-term when deciding what new games to stock.  Being able to accurately predict what games will still be valuable in 5-10 years can keep your profits strong.
  • Even though they are your competition, have a good relationship with the local Gamestops (or other big game stores)  You need them to refer people to you for retro trade-ins
  • Learn to repair/restore broken products so you can keep your retro inventory up.
  • Play up the hands-on experience of classic gaming
  • Think of extra services that you can provide to provide more value to your customers

Have Any Tips of Your Own?
Are you an indie game store or a customer of one that does a good job?  Share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below — I’d love to hear them!

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Michael Barraco says:

I’ve been to that store a few times, I bought my nes pin connectors there. They have a great selection, but they’re prices on retro games are insanely high. They must lean on rich kids that impulse buy.

Rayek says:

On thing I was thinking of doing for my local retro games store was taking things they have too much of that they can’t sell (Like Sega Master Systems, as unfortunate as it is) or taking in units that no one can repair and making things out of them. For instance, my first pet project is making a purse/handbag out of an SMS, and maybe later, doing things like modding an Wii by putting its innards and parts into an NES case.

Patrick says:

I’ll have my own store, in time.

Eddie says:

It would be cool to still be able to rent retro games. That would bring back memories for people my age when I relied on my parents to take me to the store. The local stores I’ve been to in my life don’t stock part, new or old. They have controllers and stuff like that but no 72 pin connectors or replacement joysticks or anything like that. Like Giulio said, with a store like his you can come in and touch it and possibly try it out before you buy it and it can possibly be in your backyard so that’s where the cost is inflated. Commercial real estate isn’t cheap to rent either.

V3rtigo says:

The key is making friends with bigger video game stores like gamestop, and also having a real website (if only to be searchable in your own city). Also, it’s not a video game store, it’s a lifestyle store. Books, shirts, etc. could make as much money as the games.

My suggestion, having been to VGNY, is to at the very least lower the price of SOME of your games. I realize that VGNY can’t sell dirt cheap games, but they could lower a few prices considering they had a full display shelf and two full storage shelfs of Saturn games. Sort of like a discount bin with rotating selection from the larger shelves.

Consider this: They had TONS of mediocre to shitty Saturn games that were $20-$30 each. These games could be easily found on ebay for $5. Now I’d never buy these off ebay, but at the store I’d grab a few as curiosity or impulse buys at $10 or less. Better to sell something and make profit than let shitty games gather dust. One dude occasionally buys an overpriced $20 game compared to a dozen dudes buying a few $7 games each.

The Score says:

You need to check out The Score, the first location of which is in the Cool Springs commercial district / suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.

Huge selection of current-gen and retro games, with better prices than GameStop on everything. And better trade-in credit than GameStop on everything (not that that’s tough). And a huge tournament coliseum called “The Arena” in the center of the space. Need I go on?

Just to mention a few points: renting retro games doesn’t work for a number of reasons, competing on price against big box retailers isn’t nearly as hard as you would think, carrying toys and other one-offs is a dangerous game because its so easy to go overboard and lose a ton of money, GameStop is not necessary to befriend whatsoever, and it’s important not to confuse people’s general desire to support independent stores with actual compelling, strong business models in the retail gaming space.

I have no idea who this guy is or this place in NYC but would be cool to check out. Don’t agree with all the points presented here but certainly looks like the guy’s got a cool place. Thanks for the piece, and feel free to contact us if you’re interested in hearing more about what we’re doing and I’d be happy to share.

Our mission is to be the best place to buy or play a video game! Good mission, right?

Thanks again.

Frank says:

I own a vintage gaming store in Upstate NY called Forgotten Freshness Classic Gaming. I definitely agree that Online Shopping is the biggest hurdle to get over as far as challenges go, but you can come close to the price of a game online and have it work out for you and the customer. For example, Super Mario Bros. 3 for NES can run you $10 to $12 shipped online, so charging $14.99 for a cleaned, tested copy is not unreasonable in a brick and mortar store. However, you might pay $3 to $4 for a copy of Bayou Billy online, but because that game is radically unpopular you could get away with charging less than that and still coming out on top.

I end up doing very well competing with online shopping and have a lot of repeat customers that like their items right away, from a source they know sells quality, even if the game is a little more than it is online. If you’re running a store, just remember that people love convenience, which helps both them and you in the end.

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