If there’s one thing we’ve noticed about successful retailers, it’s the best stores are the ones that offer a sense of community. These retailers forge stronger relationships, see a healthy amount of foot traffic, and do better overall.
Case in point: Stratagem Cards & Games in Australia. Stratagem offers the largest gaming space in Perth and is the “go-to place for tabletop gaming North of the river.”
We recently connected with Mark Lester, founder at Stratagem Cards and Games, and he was more than happy to share insights behind their success.
Check out what he has to say!
1. Tell us a bit about how Stratagem Cards and Games got started. What’s the story behind the business?
Stratagem Cards and Games was started by my partner and I because we saw a bit of a void in quality gaming stores in Perth.
I had two redundancies in 2 years in the mining industry and wanted to try something completely different.
We’re both big fans of Magic: The Gathering and we thought, “We’ll never know if it will work unless we give it a try”. The rest, as they say, is history!
2. What are the unique things about your store that customers love? How do you keep people coming back?
We can attribute our success to a number of things.
For starters, customer service is number one at Stratagem. We like to think we have the most welcoming store in town and work hard to provide that positive welcoming atmosphere.
Our store size and environment have also given us a competitive advantage. Our store is the largest in Perth, so we can accommodate several different gaming groups at the same time. We also have a winning in-store atmosphere. Stratagem is clean. As hard as this may be to believe, this is not common in a gaming store like ours.
Plus, we make sure that we always have a good range of the current most popular gaming products and we also run competitive events to support many games. We only stock high-quality products. Our range of D&D products, X-Wing and Dice are the best in Perth.
3. Can you tell us more about your customer service best practices?
For us, great customer service is about acknowledging the customer without being overbearing.
Everyone that enters the store gets a “Hello” or acknowledgment of some kind BUT we don’t jump on them when they enter. We know that being immediately greeted with “Can I help you with something?” can be annoying, so we don’t do that in our store.
Instead, we just talk to our customers and eventually, they tell us what they want.=
We also try not to say “No” to a customer. You can give a response that indicates no without actually saying the word. “NO” is final and customers stop listening when you say it.
Here’s one customer story that always comes to mind: Way back in the early days of my business, a customer walked in and I greeted him with “Hi, how are you?”. He immediately responded, “Just looking!”.
And I told him, “That’s cool. So how are you?” He, a little sheepishly, said “I’m fine, thanks”
So I just asked him if he was a board game fan (he was looking at board games) and if he had a favourite game at the moment. After a little bit of a friendly chat, he asked me if we had a game he was looking for. I never had to “sell” to him at all.
That interaction really illustrates how jaded shoppers have become with the tired old “Can I help you” spiel.
The customer at that time was expecting to hear “Can I help you with something” as soon as he walked in the door and had his response ready on his lips. He said “Just looking” but what he meant was “Let me have a chance to see what you have before you hassle me to buy something.”
And that’s one of the reasons why we never do the “Hard Sell”. We want our customers to feel at ease at your our store. Plus, our products speak for themselves.
4. What’s your local community like?
We have many different communities that frequent the store. Each game that we run events for has its own group of mostly unique players.
We have a wide range of age groups that come to the store but mainly young adults 16- 26 years old. In short, our communities are awesome!
5. How did you find Vend?
We discovered Vend after our business had grown beyond our current POS system at the time. After reviewing many different options we found that Vend was the most user-friendly and was going to provide us with the most options to better suit our future needs.
6. What advice do you wish you’d known when you started?
In terms of technology, I wish we had chosen a more robust POS from the very beginning because accessing the data from the time before we adopted Vend is too time-consuming to even bother. So right now, we’re missing some historical data. Being from the beginning of the business it’s not too critical, but of course, this isn’t ideal.
As for lessons in running a retail store, I would say it’s best to focus on having genuine connections with your customers. Starting a store like ours is all about community and relationships.
The customer side of things is easy — be polite, friendly, helpful and provide good services and products. Building a good relationship with your competitors is just as important; you never know when you may need their help and it only strengthens the communities that frequent the stores like ours when those communities know there is no animosity between the stores.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.