Last week, I answered a reader’s question about what it would take to open a sports card shop in the current climate. I detailed some of the points we went through way back in 1990, which are still appropriate today. Some suggested our interested reader bag the idea and sell online only. Mike Bergmann, who owns Lower Level Sports Cards and Collectibles in Winnipeg, Manitoba wasn’t necessarily commenting on that, but told us recently that he has had customers ask him why he doesn’t sell on eBay or have an online store. He has a nice website, a YouTube Channel and Facebook page.
Mike is passionate about the hobby—and about his small shop–which is in the lower level of a building. He discussed his decisions and other aspects of trying to run a profitable card shop and we’ve responded to his comments as well.
First, he answered the question about his decision not to sell online.
“I do not have the time to ship. I am busy enough trying to get everything done at my store but the bigger reason I do not sell online is because I still believe I can run a sports card store for the collecting community in Winnipeg and for those who visit.
I want to show the collecting world that it is possible to run a traditional card store where collectors can come and find not only recent packs and boxes, but more importantly, they can find singles from the newer products as well as older packs, boxes and singles. I’ve now been doing this for 23 months. I’m pretty sure that our inventory has at least doubled since opening. I keep buying more collections in order to help you and those who collect.
For some sellers, non-sports and especially gaming cards have proven to be vital to keep customers coming in and the cash register active.
I do not sell non-sport gaming cards, packs and boxes for two reasons: I do not have a passion for those and I want to run a sports card store.
Part of me would like to get into selling more Marvel and DC comic back issues and toys, plus Star Wars collectibles. When I worked at Galaxy Comics in Winnipeg (2010-2012), I saw that people who collect comics and toys were more likely to collect sports cards, hence more people in the hobby. They (comic book, toy and Star Wars collectors) are a dedicated bunch of collectors. This seems a bit of a contradiction to my wanting to sell only sports cards. It is, but I also realize that the only way to get more people into the hobby is to cross brand and set up at events where sports cards are not typically sold.
Many stores were able to survive during the past two decades by branching out into other fields whether it was gaming, non-sports, beanie babies or whatever hot collectibles there were. However, some stores survive just fine with limited or no action in those fields.
Today, when I go into either Nick’s or Triple Cards in the Dallas area, the primary focus is sports cards and related items. One must do what one is comfortable with. If I had a store today, I might sell gaming packs which are easy to deal with than some non-sports packs but not be involved in having gaming tournaments. Other stores are more comfortable doing that and to each their own.
Since the beginning of Lower Level, I have not relied on the sales of new product. I have not gotten into the price wars and lowered my price to get other stores’ customers. I don’t think there is a need for warring in the hobby. Every sports card store is unique just like every collector collects in a unique way. Every store and store owner should be appreciated for what they offer to the hobby.
If I have a lower price, it is because I want to promote the hobby with non-collectors who come into the store. I want them to get into or back into the hobby. High prices will not do it. Affordable prices will. Remember, one reason the boom of the 1990’s ended is because the price of products rose too much. My goal is to make collecting as affordable and fun as I can for you.
I will say I’m very fortunate to have two good stores nearby where I can ask about new wax pricing. And if you notice my box reviews, almost all of them mention retail store pricing. That is because stores have a right to ask for a profit on new wax and we want to show there is more to the hobby than Internet-based pricing.
Another reason the box prices exploded so much after the strike was the pool of collectors really shrank and left us with a more mature audience that required “value” from their packs. That means higher initial costs and thus the box price went up. Then the next step was to goose up the “inserts’ in the packs to include relics and autograph and one can see where box prices have gone from there. There are still some reasonable prices out there and it’s always good to see them.