One of the key questions you must ask yourself when you plan your store is the question of whether to build for the Premium store designation from Wizards of the Coast.
I recommend pursuing the Premium status for (nearly) every store owner. The requirements run parallel to your larger goals of building a great store, while the benefits increase sales for one of your largest game categories. It’s a no-brainer for 99% of stores.
Wizards provides a checklist for pursuing premium status at https://media.wizards.com/2019/wpn/new_wpn/premium_quality_checklist.pdf. It’s broken into several categories: design, housekeeping, accessibility, and information all fall under the larger header of aesthetics. The sister category, customer service, includes staff, customer interaction, play experience, and amenities.
Let’s look at a couple of representative items from each category.
The design standards require a visible, permanent sign. Isn’t that the kind of sign you’d want if you want to attract customers? At no point outside of the shoestring model (which I don’t recommend) would I ever suggest having an invisible or temporary sign.
Signs are your most cost-effective method of advertisement: their number of impressions divided by their cost is good, but when you stretch out the number of impressions over the sign’s lifetime, you reach an impressive efficiency. A good sign pays for itself.
Merchandising standards state that your departments should be clearly defined. That’s a good idea in retail anyway. I recommend identifying each department with internal signage and further recommend that you brand each unique department with its own color scheme or graphic design. Customers should know if they’re in the board game section or the role-playing section.
Lighting should be “excellent overall,” which is good advice. There’s a mathematical formula in retail that can be broken down to “lighting equals sales.” The better the lighting in your store, the more sales you’ll have. Replace blown bulbs immediately. Add spot lighting where necessary to highlight key displays.
Tables and chairs should match. Tip: Advantage Church Chairs offers fantastic, long-lasting, attractive chairs at a great price. I no longer recommend Lifetime chairs after many attempts to exercise their warranty have been denied.
Likewise, you could go down the rest of their list, and all of their requirements are simply good retail decisions. Still, familiarize yourself with the checklist before you plan and build your store, and it’s easier to meet those metrics when you apply.
The next section on the Premium checklist regards what they call “housekeeping.”
At the top of this list is a general “clean environment.” By that, they mean that the store in general should be free of clutter and trash. The area behind the counter, which is a common work station, should be uncluttered. Ideally, as much work as possible is done away from this station and out of the public view. If it must be done there, it should be minimally obtrusive and put away when it’s done.
Likewise, the windows, shelves, game tables, floor—anything the public can see—should be neat and clean. Have a schedule for cleaning each place on this list and an oversight system to ensure it’s being done.
Your restrooms should be clean and supplied. Well…yes. They should. Making sure that restrooms available to the public are clean and stocked should be a priority for anyone who welcomes the public into his or her business.
The checklist has a section ensuring accessibility. You can use the Americans with Disabilities Act as a guideline for the retail section of the store, but you must also take into consideration traffic flow in the game play area and the ability to reach the store.
Policies and information should be posted where customers can see it. This information includes things like return policies, a code of conduct for using the game room, prizes given for events, and anything customers are likely to need to know. Posted signs should be printed (not hand-written), multi-colored, branded, framed and affixed to the walls or in freestanding acrylic signs on the tables.
You must have a posted event calendar with upcoming events posted.
Staff should have a “positive and professional manner.” That’s not exactly a discrete and measurable metric, but it’s like the judge famously said—“I know it when I see it.” Common courtesy is a good starting point, but policies regarding suitable subjects for dialogue and topics to avoid keep employees on the right path.
For example, at FLGS, employees are not allowed to discuss politics or religion, and they are not allowed to malign any customers, employees, other stores, or any of our business partners (including manufacturers and distributors).
Staff should be wearing company-branded materials: uniforms, lanyards, or however you distinguish your crew to customers. FLGS uses polos or t-shirts, plus branded badges. Each badge has the employee’s name and two to three areas of expertise about which they bring extensive knowledge.
All customers should be welcomed. Employees should not be dismissive of anyone for age, gender identity, ethnicity, or whatever personal issues they might have. If they walk in the door, they should feel welcome.
Customers should be greeted upon entry. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this should be your policy anyway. Crew should be greeted at entry, approached a second time to offer to help, and thanked as they leave.
Wizards requires a high-quality online sales platform. Using any of the standard sites like tcgplayer or Amazon meets this metric. They don’t have standards regarding how much merchandise you need on these sites, so don’t worry if you only have a few hundred dollars’ worth listed; they want to make sure the presentation is professional.
Professionalism and consistency are the keywords for running a great event. Run events on time, every time. If people show up late and you’ve already started, they’ll be on time next week. That one player you wait for is inconveniencing ten or 20 or 50 others. It’s not worth it. Start on time, even if you only have 3 players.
The checklist asks you to have pre-registration available. A perfect medium already exists for that—the Magic Companion app. You don’t have to do any work. Just have the link available in store and on social media. Having pre-registration helps your operations tremendously; it lets you staff appropriately, and it alleviates the mad rush at event start time.
Wizards wants you to have food and drink available. I don’t believe they require you to sell it, but you should anyway in nearly all circumstances. Again, they’re asking you to make decisions that benefit the business.
One requirement you might not have considered is having a tablet or desktop available for customer use. It allows customers to sign up for an account or whatever else they might need for the event. It can double as your sales kiosk.
Having a screen or TV for event management is a top-tier idea. During events you can displaying pairings and standings. When you’re not running events, it can rotate among different demos, promotions, and other customer messages.
Good Ideas Are Good Ideas
I told you the requirements are things you want to do anyway. If you’re still planning out your store, integrate this checklist into your plans and you’ll have the hardest part of the job done when you turn the keys and start letting people in.