Just call it the Card Collector's Bill of Rights.
by William Lloyd
Sports card shops have come and they've gone.
Boy did they go during the mid and late-1990s.
Those stores that have survived the ups and downs of the hobby and lived beyond the "boom" haven't done it on luck alone.
The survivors have been willing to diversify and run their stores like any other business. They make smart decisions, yes, but they also have the customer skills that successful businesses have always needed.
You've probably visited some bad shops. The ones where the owner seemed to feel he was doing you a favor by allowing you inside.
You've probably seen a few good ones too.
Many of the best shops follow the right formula to win customers' loyalty and find ways to attract new business. If you're thinking of opening your own shop or wonder why yours isn't as successful as it should be, here are ten tips for making things happen.
1. Greet me. If I walk in the door and you don't say hello or at least nod and smile, I'm already thinking about leaving. You opened your doors because you want customers, right? Here I am. Sell me something, yes. But make me feel welcome first. Talk sports with me. Ask about my collection.
2. Don't bitch. If I hear you complaining about business while I'm in your shop, whether it's in conversation with me or someone else in the store or a phone call I can hear, I'm thinking 'loser'. I don't feel sorry for you. Instead of whining about your lack of customers or how long your day is, why don't you do something to make your shop a success?
3. Keep it clean. If your store is junky, I'm thinking you probably don't have a lot of pride in it. I'm also thinking there's no way you're going to find that stack of old Topps inserts from the '60s that I need. You may have a lot of stuff, but I don't want to see it all in the first ten seconds of my visit.
4. Variety is the spice of life. Have a little of everything. Higher-end boxes. Lower-end boxes. A decent selection of vintage sports cards. Some memorabilia, preferably older. Autographs. Game-used or antique sports stuff. If you're promoting your shop properly, it should be considered more than just a card shop. You want to be selling the history of the games and showing off all of the different ways to collect. Chances are the dads of the kids who patronize your store will be more interested in that stuff and might become your customers.
5. Price your products. I'm not psychic. I know prices can change, sometimes on a daily basis. Changing them is your job. Do it. If you don't, I'm going to ask you the prices of every card in your shop that's not marked just for fun.
6. Be attentive, but not pushy. Take an interest in what I'm doing in your store. Think of things you may have in the back that I might be interested in. If your friend or best customer comes in, go ahead and chat them up. Just don't abandon me. This isn't a middle school dance.
7. Hire good help. If you can't be in the shop all the time, I understand. Just make sure your employees have some kind of clue about the merchandise. Hiring people who only know how to run a cash register is a sure fire way to frustrate customers who will quickly become ex-customers.
8. Have some special events. I want you to be 'my' card shop. Be more than just a place that wants my money. Hold pack wars for my kids and give prizes away. Have trade nights for kids and adults. Do prize drawings and give me something once in awhile. Hold an autograph signing. Organize an outing to a major or minor league game or other sports event. You'll get to know me and I'll get to know you. It's a little extra work, but if you thought this was a 9-5 job, you're not ready for the life of a small businessman.
9. Don't treat your shop like a museum. It's supposed to be a gathering place for sports fans. Give me a place to sit. A table to open my boxes if you've got the room. Let me see whatever I want to see. Have a TV with sports on. If I'm not big on bars, this might be how I socialize. The longer I'm there and the more comfortable I am, the more product I'll probably buy.
10. Get involved in the community. If I know you're working hard to be a good citizen by sponsoring a Little League team or putting an ad in the high school sports program, I'm going to try and help you succeed. Besides, it's good for business when you're actually part of the business community. In 2010, it's all about networking...online and in your store.