There are a few diamonds in the rough out there, but for the most part, card store owners haven't changed their path and plan to run their business.
In the past, the card shops could operate as the only place to get a new card, new pack, or talk shop with the person behind the counter.
Today, sources for buying cards/packs and finding information are everywhere on blogs, twitter, Facebook, and other sites.
Unfortunately, I've been watching too many card shops close doors and most collectors see them today as dinosaurs, slow to change and destine to be a story of the past. It doesn't have to be this way. Stores can stop themselves from becoming the hobby fossils.
I was in a store last month and asked the owner if he's online reading the blogs or on Facebook and twitter. He said, "no - I think that's all a fad and it won't last."
The staying power of those communities can be argued, but that's missing the point. The point is, your customers are there now. And you as a store owner, need to be marketing your product where your customers are today.
Card stores need to get social and create an environment where people want to meet. How do you do this?
- Get an online presence. This can be a blog or a Facebook fan page, but both is preferred.
- Be active in the online community. Read the card reviews, know what people have found, and be informed about the products you are selling.
- Host Group Box Breaks. Invite people to come in to your store for a group box break on a specific product. During the break, offer contests, like the lowest serial number gets a $10 coupon and get a card of a local hero in your box to win a free pack or card - you get the point though. Make it something where the prizes are incentives for people to participate in the group break at your store. The more involvement you have in the store, the more people will keep coming back.
- Record the box break and post on your blog, YouTube or your fan page on Facebook. Show others what people are doing IN YOUR STORE.
- Host some autograph sessions. It doesn't have to be the #1 football star in the country. You should be able to bring in some local players. Baseball players that come back to the areas after the season, or college players after they've been drafted make great guests.
- Open a twitter account for your store to announce when you've received the new product, when specials are happening, and send pictures of your group box breaks or when someone gets a great pull at your store.
- If you decided to start a blog (hopefully you did), then invite people in your store to write product reviews or get featured on the blog after their pulls.
This is just a start and seven quick steps to change the store from barely making rent to thriving in the community. The key is to be social and be different.
Book Soup is a store in Hollywood that competes with Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. They can't compete with discounts and a product library like the big boys do, but they compete by being social. They have book signers, guest readings, staff recommendations, and a diverse selection. I recently read about them in a publication. Check out what they are doing.
Other ideas? Other examples?