When I decided to attend this year’s Industry Summmit–a gathering of shop owners, distributors, card makers and others in the hobby–I approached host Kevin Isaacson about hosting a session to discuss ways to improve each of our bottom lines. While I did not leave Hawaii with a great tan or the ability to do the hula, I was able to come back with some ideas that will bolster my store’s profitability.
If you own a card shop (or other small business), you are typically in charge of HR, buying, social media campaigns, accounting, quality control, cleaning, sorting and a few other matters. The only person to wear more hats in this field was Octavio Dotel and that’s because he played for 13 different baseball teams.
Store owners spend most of our time worrying about how many cases of a new release to order, whether the latest, hottest player actually delivers or if buying the collection sitting in front of us is really a good idea. So few of us take the time to break down our business expenses and make changes that will really help us survive in a world with profit margins that are often narrow.
We looked at the following areas:
Store Credit Card – Every shop has to have a credit card to purchase either directly from manufacturers of from some distributors. I used to use an AMEX Plum credit card that paid me back 2% of my purchases. Sadly, AMEX is discontinuing the Plum card so I started a Capital One Spark card that offers the same 2% back on all purchases. If you do not know what rewards you are getting from your shop credit card, it is time to check. You might be leaving a ton of 2% on the table.
Negotiate With Your Credit Card Processor – Since we are on the subject of credit cards, every time you swipe a customer’s card, you are giving someone a percentage of that sale for the convenience of being able to take plastic. Every January 2 or so, I call my credit card processor to see where I can find savings. It might involve them agreeing to drop annual fees, the cost per swipe, the percentage I am being charged or just making sure that over the course of the past year, that no other fees have been quietly tacked onto my account.
After talking with other shop owners, I will be doing that every three months, not every year and I will be looking specifically at possibly switching to Costco for my credit card processing.
I have learned that when I go to Office Depot, Staples or many other essential businesses for my location that most will match prices I can find online for the exact same items. I typically show them Amazon prices on my phone and they always match.
Get A Pit Bull For An Accountant – Well, technically Pit Bulls are illegal in many places but you can always hire one to do your accounting. I recently switched accountants after I felt that I might not be getting enough deductions and that my best interests were not being considered. If your accountant is only concerned about taking your receipts and getting through them as fast as possible to get to the next client, you might want to switch as well. With their familiarity in looking at books, they should be able to find a few ways for you to keep more of your hard earned Benjamins.
Thermal Printers And Refurbished Products – I used to have an awkward love/hate relationship with my credit card machine or cash register and replacing the ink and toner. While it was always a sense of satisfaction knowing that each toner cartridge had helped me sell many thousands of dollars’ worth of packs, boxes and singles, each cartridge also had a sometimes healthy cost to it as well.
We now have a thermal printing cash register and credit card machine and the only ribbons I purchase are for my daughter. We also do not automatically offer a thermal paper receipt to our collectors since most of the time they were just thrown away. Heck, many of my collectors are married and do not want the extra evidence of their purchase being examined by someone who may not approve. Some shop owners also talked about buying refurbished machines and shared that not only did it save them money up front, but that they experienced no more issues in running them than with their other machines.
Store Insurance – There is no more annoying check that I write each year than the one I send out to my insurance company. Granted there is no smart way to go without it and with so many insurance companies avoiding card stores for the collectible aspect, there are not a lot of options. It is always worth checking with your insurance company to make sure your coverage is in line and priced right. I will be shopping my policy around to see if there is a better rate out there. Some of the few remaining companies suggested that still cover card stores were Travelers, Farmers, Allstate and Pekin.
Trash – No I am not talking about 1991 Fleer, I am talking about what you pay for the weekly removal of your shop’s garbage. One store shared that by switching trash pickup services, they were able to take a monthly bill from well over $100 to the price of about 10 packs of 15/16 Upper Deck 1 NHL.
Co-Op Funds – There is still one manufacturer who offers stores the opportunity to enjoy support for promotions that fall within their guidelines. That company happens to have the initials UD and we are currently planning on getting a new sign for my location with their assistance.
LED Lighting – I know, there is nothing more fun than talking about lighting to a sports card store owner but with my recent move, I negotiated a healthy amount of tenant improvement. Since there was no demolition involved and I do not really see the need for gold plated faucet covers, we are planning on switching out all 27 lighting ballasts from bulb to LED. The payout will take some time to offset, but my electrician buddy suggests that my store will enjoy an annual savings of $500 – $600 on energy and on top of that, I will not have to climb a ladder to replace bulbs so often when they burn out. And don’t forget to check with your local energy provider to see if they offer any rebates or incentives for making the switch. Many do–and will even install the new bulbs for you.
That’s just a little insight to the incredibly sexy conversations that you might have missed out on by not attending the Summit. Yes, we were able to have a discussion that did not involve redemptions, product delays or even exclusive licenses and this one might have been more meaningful to the bottom lines of all who were part of it.
If you are a hobby shop that has other ways of finding savings, I would encourage you to share them with me at [email protected] so that your LCS might be able to keep more of your hard spent dollars from escaping like heat through a non-insulated door. Hey wait, there is another great idea…
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. Normally, his column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]