Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne shares three books that can make store owners more successful.

At the recent Alliance Open House, as always at events where retailers gather, the topic of good books that will help a retailer do a better job of running their store always comes up, so here are three, well maybe four books that most successful retailers in the game industry have read and recommend:

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill.  Whenever anyone asks me to recommend a book that a beginning, or even an experienced, retailer should read, this one is always on the top of my and most other store owners’ lists.  Underhill, while probably not the first to conduct observational research regarding consumer purchasing habits in a brick and mortar store, did so more thoroughly and covered so many different points in the course of his book that store owners reference his book more than any other.  Why We Buy explains why you should lay a store out in a counterclockwise floor plan, if possible (most people are right handed so they instinctively bear right, counterclockwise, upon entering the store), why stores should put shopping baskets at various locations throughout the store instead of at the front, and what a transition zone is and how to deal with it.  It was first published back in 1999, with an updated version released in 2011.  Underhill’s follow-up book, Call of the Mall, while a good read, does not contain nearly as much usable information as Why We Buy.

A Specialty Retailers Handbook by Dave and Kelli Wallace (and its follow-up, the Store Manager’s Training Guide, though this one is in the middle of a MAJOR rewrite).  I have heard more retailers refer to the Wallaces’ Specialty Retailer’s Handbook as the book to have when planning to open or when running a successful game or comic store.  Wallace has successfully run The Fantasy Shop chain in the St. Louis metro area since before I opened my store and his Bottom Line seminars at the GAMA Trade Show are always standing room only.  The Handbook draws on the Wallaces’ decades of experience in the gaming and comic industry and should be on every retailer’s shelf.  The handbook looks at topics such as racking, display, discounting (a heads up here, Wallace says do not do it and make a pretty persuasive financial case as to why not) and inventory.  Well worth owning and rereading once a year.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout.  I am a bit biased here since I just did a presentation on this at the Alliance Open House but when you have someone come up to you after said presentation and say it made them rethink the way they were approaching their store, obviously the book struck a chord with people.  The 22 Immutable Principles of Marketing is probably a better title, since Ries and Trout are looking at marketing concepts rather than "laws," but in the book they point out that it is best to own a word in the customer’s mind, such as the way Magic: The Gathering owns the term "Trading Card Game” and that there is only room for two top brands in the consumers mind.  For a brand to successfully compete, it has to create its own separate category, much as Dominion created the deckbuilding category.  It is not a long book, and it can get repetitive, but it does not take long to read and has very valuable info, especially in the first half.

So there you go, two books almost every game retailer will recommend, a third that you should get when the revisions get finished and finally one I think every store owner ought to spend a couple of hours perusing.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of