Or, How I Overcame the Stigma of Being an Online-Only Game Store…
I just spent three days at one of the most fun, generous, awesome gaming events on the planet in my opinion: ACD Distribution‘s GamesDay 2017. As a retailer with an account with ACD I qualified to attend this event. For an unquestionably, ridiculously low price of the ticket, I, along with several hundred game retailers were treated to three days of direct access to major game publishers, drinks, free games, drinks, excellent food, discounted merchandise–and did I say drinks?
Held at the swanky Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in beautiful downtown Madison, Wisconsin (Go Badgers!), ACD GamesDay was an amazing opportunity for me to meet game sellers from all across the country and learn some incredibly valuable lessons from veteran retailers who were willing to put it all out there on the table and talk shop as they laid down the dirty details of investment money, startup headaches (and joys), and day-to-day challenges of growing their businesses.
Going into this convention, I had some major trepidation about mentioning the fact that I was an “online-only” games seller. There is a pretty nasty attitude toward online-only merchants who sell games. The gist of what a lot of brick-and-mortar (B&M) store owners feel is that online sellers severely undercut prices, scoop markets for hot selling items, and are generally pretty skanky in their business dealings. It’s true–in many cases–but that’s not how I roll.
Well, I had a tall order cut out for me if I was going to work to be the bastion of hope and change to alter the prevailing attitude–among the B&M folks, at the very least. I’m a people person and I love chatting with people about what drives them to do the things they do in life. During the con I made a conscious effort to sit at random tables with folks I didn’t know while breakfast, lunch, or dinner was served. This was probably one of the greatest learning lessons I could ask for. I met a wonderful cross-section of people who are working hard to grow their game stores, a passion we all shared. When it came time for me to answer the inevitable question, “Where’s your store located?” I initially offered a really sheepish response to the tune of something like, “Uh…well, it’s online…BUT, I’m not one of THOSE kinds of online stores–I don’t undercut my prices or try to bury my local B&M game stores!”
It felt dirty and defensive and I didn’t like that feeling. Fortunately after a couple of conversations with physical store owners, my confidence grew as I continued to share my vision and business plan. I got excellent feedback and reception to my goal of breaking out of the stereotype of the shady, faceless, bargain-basement online seller practically giving stuff away just to scoop their local competition. By the time the first day of the conference was over, I was responding with full pride and confidence, “I’m an online only e-tailer” when asked where my store was located. I still got some raised eyebrows and some furrowed eyebrows in response but I now felt comfortable enough to face the dragon and give an honest, fact-based perspective of how our culture has unquestionably embraced online shopping and how even online-only stores can have a place in the market and thrive without harming their local brick-and-mortar counterparts.
By the time the conference was done I had made several new friends and developed some very interesting leads on partnerships for some exciting projects. The most frequently heard response in one form or another was, “It’s really fantastic that you’re working to put a face to the business instead of just being another faceless online business.”
That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I love this industry just as much as the folks who are able to have a physical location to sell games and I do my level best to try to represent the products that I carry in a fun, respectful, professional way that game publishers should recognize and appreciate.
No more fear and loathing of having that discussion about being an online-only retailer.