How I Would Run A Hobby Shop

Originally, I was going to write about another product preview but I decided to change my mind. When I started this blog I wanted it to be a place to find any information you wanted on products as well as tips and tricks for collectors. I decided to change it up because two product previews in two days would get kind of….boring and repetitive. I don’t want to bore anybody away from the blog so this should open some eyes and get people thinking. This is going to be a long one, so bare with me.

With Upper Deck and Panini really trying to make brick and mortar stores come back instead of steadily washing away, I want to write about how I would run a card shop. I believe that some of these shops are going down because of their owners and the way they run things. There is a brand new era of card shops and this will be about how to create a great shop or optimize your already existing shop so you can improve business. I by no means am an expert in the inner workings of business but I do know what I want to see as a consumer.

Let’s start with location. Location has always been considered very important, but with proper advertising you can afford to grab a cheaper area. If you want a prime spot, obviously you want a place with heavy traffic either by foot or by car. A big sign that will grab eyes is always important as well. I’ve seen shops with barely visible signs and they wonder why no one knows they are there. I also think with proper advertising you can go to a little less trafficked area. Why? Trading cards is a hobby. Most random people would not step into a hobby shop if they had no interest in any of the hobbies offered.

Proper advertising is key to getting people in your card shop. Just remember these three words and make them your mantra. Internet is king. Let’s say it together, “Internet is king”. This means you need to advertise the heck out of your shop online. Facebook, Twitter, CitySearch, hobby forums, everywhere you can think of you should be advertising your site. Yes, this takes work. But if you want to stay in business you will be doing it all. Start a website for your store. Not only will it be great advertising, you can sell items on your store site. The best part of this is you can expand your business and sell nationally. Increased sales means increased profits. Panini and Upper Deck even have benefits if you have a brick and mortar store and sell online. Why would you not do this? Start a site for your store and create an eBay store for your singles and watch your sales increase.

When using social media like Facebook, Twitter, or hobby forums the one thing I don’t understand is why shop owners don’t use YouTube to record and post box breaks or pack breaks in their stores. Chris from Cards Infinity has revolutionized this process. What he does is he takes orders off of his website and then he opens the product for you on camera and posts it on YouTube. He then sends you the contents. People who buy cards online usually don’t want to wait to see what they get, so this is the perfect impulse buy if you know you can see what is in your box immediately. I would also use YouTube to hold group breaks for anyone on the internet who wants to buy into a case. A great example of this is the people at CloutsnChara. Every couple days they hold a chat session and people buy into a group break of either a case of product or a mixed box break and open it live on camera. They move a TON of product this way. When SP Authentic hockey came out, they moved 5 cases of the product in 2 days. 5 cases. How many hobby stores can move 5 cases of any product in two days? All of this could even just be posted on your store’s Facebook and when you promote that, everyone will want to see what is next.

In store is obviously one of the more important parts as you could probably do all of the above just running a store out of your house. Those were ideas that will optimize your business by selling nationally. But in store promotions is where you can get people coming back. My best in store experience was at Wayne’s Sports Cards in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have never seen a store run so well in my career collecting cards and I’ve visited probably 50 shops. They have a huge store with products, supplies, and memorabilia but could easily get by with just products and supplies. I had a nice chat with the owners and learned quite a bit from them how they keep people coming back. Honesty, competitive prices, and treating your customers like they deserve to be treated. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t have a business. The ways they do this is provide promotions, freebies, giveaways, raffles, everything you can think of just for buying something in the store. I bought a couple boxes and automatically was entered in two raffles for free swag and product. While chatting with them they even gave me free promotional cards that were only available 2 weeks earlier that they had laying around. That is how you get someone to keep coming back. I have only been to that store twice, but the only reason why is that I live 1700 miles away from there. I even still keep track of their Facebook because I respect that business so much. I know next time I am in the area I will have my choice of about 4 card shops. Wayne’s is now the only place I will go.

If I could add anything to that store (which they may even do, I’ve only been there a couple times) to promote the shop and get people in the doors is just standard promotional nights. They could hold a group break of a case of new product just released. They could hold a night of Pack Wars. All you need to add is to provide some snacks and drinks and watch products fly off the shelves. You could keep your best customers happy by starting a rewards program. Hell, if someone was sick and called in an order to deliver a box for an extra small fee I would do that too. Just keep people in the store and interested in the products and people will buy things. One of their loyal customers I met there I swear is there daily. There is a reason he keeps coming back to just that one store and that is because he is treated well by the store.

Keeping your local customers happy and expanding your business online to cater to the customer are the two most important things if you own a hobby shop. If you use all of these tips on making your current store better, I guarantee that you will see increased sales. A little promoting of your new promotions and pretty soon you’ll start getting a name for yourself and word of mouth alone will get you new customers. Do you know how Wayne’s got my business? I went to Sports Card Forum and asked the members there where the best store in Edmonton was to buy sports cards. I believe I had about 15-20 answers. Whatever that number was, 100% of them told me to go to Wayne’s. They told me about the 3 other options as well but they told me not to even bother going anywhere else. Isn’t that proof enough that your business is successful?

If I had the money to open up a shop, this is how I would run it and I guarantee you I would be making more money in the first year then any other shop not using these techniques. I just wish the shops around me in Portland, Oregon would do anything similar to this. Sadly, I haven’t found one. If you own a hobby shop in Portland and want to move it to the next level, contact me and we can work something out.

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2 Responses to How I Would Run A Hobby Shop

  1. Lenny Brown says:

    I live in SE Portland and the only shops nearby that I know of are Leading Prospects and Sportcards and more.

    Leading Prospects has a great guy running the shop and is very friendly and fun but they just don’t carry that much inventory. I go there to buy supplies and talk with them but not a lot of card purchasing. They had a basketball group break recently and have a small show in the empty space next to their shop, but shows are tough in this area.

    Sportscards and more has a ton of inventory, but you would never know how to find any of it. It is the sterotypical shop with stacks of cards and packs and boxes and magazines and stuff laying all over. Whenever I head there, I just tell the wife I am headed to Claustraphobiashop. The owner is nice but it just pains me to look into a corner and see piles of cards literally spilled onto the floor and they have been there as long as I can remember. Just last month I took a wrong turn and ended up in a football “cubby hole” I didn’t know existed. I imagine there are more cards ruined from being stacked and spilled than I have ever owned.

    So, if you know of another shop in the area let me know.

    • I’ve been to Sports Cards and More a couple of times but couldn’t stand the clutter. I saw some inventory on the shelves behind the counter but didn’t bother looking anywhere else because of the mess.

      The other store I don’t think I have been to, but the lack of inventory is definitely an issue.

      The last store in the Portland area I went to is All Star Sports Cards in Wood Village. The guy there is nice and loves vintage but he has almost no inventory. I gave him some ideas to help but he just shot me down. It seems like a lot of older shops still have the old school mentality that doesn’t work anymore.

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard there might be better stores near Tigard but I am near Mt. Hood. A little too far of a drive for me.

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