Hybrid Store Operations


I was notified this Wednesday that I’ll be presenting at the GAMA Trade Show next March 12-16 in Reno.   It’s pretty exciting for me and validation for us that we’re doing things right.  I’m also very grateful to the GAMA Retail Board for giving me this platform.  This will be my third time attending GAMA and it never disappoints.  I’ve got to be honest, in an industry that’s so disjointed and where no two markets are alike, it’s pretty hard to gauge whether or not you’ve figured things out.  Often times the businesses around you aren’t great examples for you to follow.  There also aren’t really any good resources available to guide you along, so you’ve really got to keep networking until you find some other store owners that seem to have it together.  The GAMA Trade Show is great for this.

What will I be presenting?  

Essentially it boils down to how to be successful as a hybrid business selling comics and games. I’ll be talking about facts and figures as well as processes, tricks, and tips.  The title I submitted was “Hybrid Theory – Selling Comics & Games”.  I shamelessly stole the title from my good friend Paul Simer after attending his video game seminar at last year’s GAMA (EDIT: apparently my mind is going as Paul says the title was Michael Bahr’s idea – Michael felt like I should leave it be as now he seems to think he’s transcended his mortality due to my flub, but I can’t not correct myself).  The focus is on teaching game store owners how to be successful with comics but a lot of the concepts can be transferred to any vertical that’s disruptive to your business.  By disruptive, I mean something that requires fundamental changes in the way you operate day to day.  Comics are periodicals and they’re bought, managed, and sold differently than the way traditional game stores are used to doing business.

At Big Easy Comics we now have 3 (soon to be 4) unique retail verticals:

  • Comics (comics, graphic novels, toys, apparel)
  • Games (CCGs, RPGs, board games, miniatures)
  • Hot food (Pizza & wings)
  • Used Video Games & Game Accessories (Coming Q4 2017)

Why is the concept important?

There’s a couple reasons.  First, people start their own businesses to make money.  Oftentimes we find that there’s a lot of interest in crossover categories and after some analysis we decide to invest in a new vertical to increase net profit.  The second happens essentially for the same reason but also because the size of a majority of markets dictate that a store invest in two or more verticals to be viable or to grow beyond what in small business circles is referred to as a “buy-a-job”.  A buy-a-job is a business that pays you to run it but it doesn’t really make any money (there’s no net profit), and often you’re paying out of your salary to keep it open.  Thus, it can’t ever make more than incremental improvements and there’s a good chance you have one bank account for both business and personal use.

We don’t all live in cities of a million people.  Some of us are in communities that support 10,000.  How do we build a business big enough to sustain itself and provide net profit?  We invest in enough verticals to both offset our risk and provide enough net profit not to just keep us afloat, but to provide a rising tide.

Why Comics?

There’s a lot of synergy between comics and games and as it happens there are a ton of communities that can’t support a store that sells either but can support a store that sells both. I’m probably going to hurt some feelings, but going all in with comics has a higher learning curve than games does.  It’s at least part of the reason why we have a new game store competitor open about every 15 months but have yet to have single comic shop open to compete with us in the entirety of our existence.  I want to arm stores that are either struggling with comics or interested in selling comics with the information they need to be successful.  Without the proper foundation, not only will you not make any money selling comics, it could do long term damage to your business.

Why Should I listen to this guy?

I think there are some reasons beyond just that the GAMA Retail Board thought it was a good idea.  I do have some fancy book learnin’ under my belt (a BS in Computer Science and an MBA) but I think that’s less important than the business credentials.  I’ve been collecting comics for 30 years and Tracey and I have been in business selling comics for over 10 years.  We’ve had a brick & mortar store for 7 and for all but about the first month we’ve been selling games.  We have a large selection of CCGs, RPGs, miniatures games, board games, and we operate an 1,800 sqft 24 hour game room that’s adjacent to our store.  We’re also an Advanced+ WPN store.  In 2016 games outsold comics for us for the first time, so we’re not a comic shop that sells some games, we’re a true hybrid store.

If you want to know a bit about our new pizza operation I’ll probably talk about that for a few minutes as well.  If you decide to attend GAMA, don’t hesitate to come talk to me.  If you can’t wait, feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at stephen@bigeasycomics.com!