Monday, February 15, 2010

A Horrible Look At The Hobby Shop and My Ranting Response

Last week I read a pretty interesting article over on VOTC about the reasons a card shop would be having problems and I couldn’t help but feel angry over the way this guy wrote the article. It was written like a timeline and detailed the state of the shop from the 80s through now. Basically, I got such a vibe off it that it made it seem like the whaaaaah-bulance was driving right by my window. I believe quite a few other people got the same vibe because Rob, in addition to a few others, wrote their own piece in response.

Im not going to sit here and lay out my plans for opening a shop, because in this day and age, it’s a credit death sentence. Yet, for some reason, in this article, this author thought that shop owners were arrogantly entitled to a castle despite the fact that this scenario had shown that little to nothing was done to ensure this shop's survival other than an ill fated attempt at a pack war. In any other industry, even those that are thriving, when you fail to move with the times, you will get swept under the riptide. All I got out of this recount was "eBay sucks."

Instead of going out and finding new ways of getting customers through the door, all I saw this hypothetical owner tried in the article was relying on his "whales" to drum up cash to run the store. He even went as far as saying that he couldn’t afford a web page. Give me a fucking break. I pay less than 10 bucks a year for and you are telling me you cant find anyone willing to help you with that? Give me five minutes and ill find someone on a message board with the know how to do it, and ill have the page up in less than 4 hours.

See, the problem is that you can never expect someone to do shit for you, you have to do it yourself. Just going into work everyday at the shop would never be enough, as everyone needs marketing and a community. Luckily for everyone, building a reputation and followers is easy through sites like FCB, blogs, and even SCF. If he had taken the time to account for new directions instead of relying on tactics that were good 20 years ago, things may have turned out different.

Normally I would have simpathy for someone who is losing their business, trust me. However, when post on a national site that you are pissed that things tend to happen this way, all while showing little evidence that old fashioned owners are trying to turn the tables, I lose that sympathy. At least show me that eBay consignment was considered, that a try at a bid board in the shop was done, or even had low cost events that were publicized on the internet, rather than saying "he just went into work each day." No one says that the american dream is realized by just showing up, you have to work harder than you ever thought possible to make it work. Then when the going gets rough, you either move on, or you adapt, you don’t complain about a changing world. Yes, the 90s were good because everyone and their mother had a baseball card shop and there was demand to match the supply, but that doesn’t mean you have a license to rest on those laurels. Its offensive to read an article like that, mainly because its meant to imply the sky is falling on a once great industry when really the hobby itself is in no danger as long as you know how to tap those resources. If you don’t know how to tap the resources, then you need to learn, and that comes through the massive community of people we have built.

Arrogance and entitlement are turn offs, and you can bet that people catch on to that very quickly. If you sit in the shop all day talking about the good ole days and how you are losing touch, people will echo your feelings by leaving. Ill give you an example. I was in a shop in woodland hills, california a while back and all I could see wall to wall were overpriced singles. In fact, the shop didn’t even have recent boxes or packs for sale, most of the wax was older than the beginning of the year. Then I hear the employee in the back leaning against the cases, talking about how eBay has put a dent in his sales. Maybe its because you are relying on singles priced at hi book rather than investing well in your store. Instead of buying thousands of cards at 1/4 book when they sell for about that much, maybe buy at below eBay price and sell for more? Don’t tell me you are trying to sell me a 5 dollar card for 30 bucks because you paid 10 for it.

Listen, I know its expensive to keep the walls stocked with wax, but that’s where shop owners need to build on their previous business models. You will not be able to survive without new wax, mainly because people wont come if you don’t have it. That means dumping singles sales and focusing on more important things that will bring more people as well as more money. There is just no money to be made in singles anymore, so stop spending that cash when it could be used elsewhere. Focus on providing services for customers who may be in your previously uninformed position. If someone comes in with a box full of 1987 cards, don’t buy them for the store, consign them to sell for the customer and take a percentage from the eBay sale. Chances are, even the crappiest of cards can sell on eBay, and all you need to do is charge for the service.

Im sorry for the long, poorly written rant, I just get quite worked up when someone acts the way this "shop owner" did in the article. I get that my ramblings are just that, but there is truth in what the net has been saying. Basically, if you live by the rule that the internet is your friend rather than your enemy, things will be that much easier for you. That’s the bottom line. Beckett isnt the number one authority anymore, they are just a disconnected magazine in texas with problems. The internet community can make or break your shop. Play your cards right.


  1. I will agree that the point of view in this article is living too much in the past, talking about the good old days. Adaptation to market conditions is just basic business, and key to survival.

    I have to disagree with you on some other points, however. The arrival of e-commerce has completely changed the game. It has allowed wholesalers with enormous inventory to reach end customers directly at unbeatable prices instead of having to sell through the middleman, the shop owner. It's comparable to a local department/hardware store being run out of business by a Wal-Mart being built next door. "Joe's Hardware" doesn't have the resources to get product cheap enough to compete with the giant's pricing.

    Many of you would probably say to this so what, quit crying; lower prices are good for us the consumer. While it's difficult to argue that point, it's not always so simple as it seems.

    As many of you probably already know, major card manufacturers will not sell (wholesale) directly to people unless they own a brick and mortar store. We all have seen the struggles brick and mortar stores are having to stay afloat. Their one saving grace was that they could buy product wholesale at a much cheaper rate than Joe Collector, which gave them the cushion to cover all their overhead expenses and make a slim profit. Most card shops I grew up with were part time ventures, people passionate about the industry that had day jobs to support their true love.

    The new trend now appears to be that "mega" card stores are setting up shop online(selling at distributor cost or cheaper), which generates the majority of their profit, and keeping a brick and mortar for show and keeping alive their wholesale relationship with card companies. They stock massive inventories that most LCS's can't come close to matching.

    While it's great for consumers to buy at distributor cost, it can be a crapshoot finding a reputable "mega" store online that isn't selling off leftover boxes after getting case hits, etc. Consumers not only lose out on the local store experience, they often times get sub-par product.

    For those of you out there that don't care about an LCS "experience" and price is your bottom line, the current trend is great for you. Personally, I'd rather shop at Joe's Hardware than Wal-Mart.

  2. Another problem is that to buy mfg direct, you can't just pick and choose. From what I understand, as an example, if a shop wants to secure a case of "x product of the month", mfg A makes you buy x boxes of "crappiest product of the month" as well.

  3. "For those of you out there that don't care about an LCS "experience" and price is your bottom line, the current trend is great for you. Personally, I'd rather shop at Joe's Hardware than Wal-Mart."

    when I buy singles and boxes I use the internet...I refuse to pay an extra 30-70 bucks for a box I can get way cheaper online. BUT I still stop into my LHS when I get an itch to open some pack and to shoot the shit with some other fellow collectors

  4. I may be in the minority, but I gladly (and regularly) pay $15-20 more per box at the local shop. For one, I know that the case is unsearched, but I also don't have to wait for shipping and such.

    But more importantly there is an atmosphere that local shops can provide that an internet dealer just cannot. It's a connection to the community. There is NOTHING like opening a box of cards in a shop and having the owner and others cheer you on; making you feel like a champ when you hit it big, and making great excuses when your wallet feels like it has been gummed to death by a toothless Mike Tyson.

    That's not to say that I don't order from Blowout Cards on occation. It's just that it feels like 2 different experiences.

  5. O MY GOD! KILL ME NOW! Jesus Christ, I just read this before work and now feel like jumping off a fucking bridge. Anyone that doesn't "ADAPT" to changes in their life, business or personal, will fail everytime and live a miserable existence. GROW UP! Successful business change YEARLY, if not more than that. Whether it be drastic or not, you do whatever it takes to be successful. CREATIVITY IS LOST !!

  6. You know, I just came back to the hobby about a month or so ago. I paid $109 for a box of '09 Donruss Threads. I then saw Blowout had that very same box for like $75. Some would look at that as "crap man, I got ripped off". I admit, I would have liked to pay less

    BUT, I didn't get mad. It's the same reason I spent $60 on a 2010 hobby box instead of $45 online.

    And, since I have been spending some money in there recently, when the wife went to get me the HTA box the shop had, she mentioned I could get it for $90 or so online, he gave it to her for $92.5 and cut her a break on some racing packs she was buying.

    He might be more expensive overall, but I would rather support him if possible to keep him open.

    What sucks though is that a story like that is sure to shoot down the "dreams" of several people who wanted to open their own shop. Even people who wanted to just test the waters down at their local flea market might end up thinking twice about it.

    It really does sound like it was nothing more than a "I'm too stubborn to change, so I'll just blame everyone else." kind of post.

  7. I grew sick of the Hobby in the late 90's as it seems the dealers were becoming more shadier as the times grew by. They would allow the "whales" to pack search a $125 box, then some innocent collector would come behind to basically bust the rest of the box and spend $100+ for garbage.

    They would promise boxes at certain boxes before the boxes got hot, then ask for more money if they did. If the product turned out to be garbage they expected to be paid the prearranged price.

    Most of the dealers went out of business IMO because they needed to be. They were lazy and corrupt. Ebay is the reason I decided to give collecting another shot.