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 offers suggestions as to what actions stores can take to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Well, if you are like our store, you are probably considered a non-essential business (Game Stop is arguing the point, but although I agree that games and comics are essential, the government probably doesn't and  Pennsylvania GameStops have already had their business licenses pulled for continuing to operate in defiance of Pennsylvania’s closure), and are having to close down for a period of time to encourage people to shelter in place. There are a few actions stores can take at this time to keep some money coming in:

Offer delivery, either by mail or in-person.  Although a good number of stores, ours included, offer some form of mail order service, none as far as I know, offered home delivery of games or comics prior to this crisis. Now, several stores (again ours included), decided to take a page from the restaurants offering food delivery and offer home delivery of games. Before deciding to offer delivery, if you have a “shelter in place” order in effect, make sure that the order allows it.  You might also consider offering either vinyl glove, instead of white glove, delivery and offering contactless delivery, which I see Domino’s has started to feature in their advertising. Also, make sure that your insurance covers it.

Business insurance typically covers on-premises activity but may not cover, for example, an employee driving their car to drop off a deposit at a bank. When I contacted our insurance company, I found out that delivery would not be covered under our business insurance and a rider would typically cost an additional $125.00 per year. However, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the company waived the rider for 30 days and would look at it again after that. Offering delivery has gotten enough positive feedback from the community that we will keep offering it even after the pandemic ends. Speaking of insurance:

Business interruption insurance. Even though no insurance company will let you buy business interruption insurance now, which covers revenues lost to a situation like this, you might check with your insurance agent and see if such insurance is included in your policy and whether it will cover closure due to epidemic.

Online gift Cards. If you have set up a Square account, and a lot of stores have adopted Square either as a primary or back up credit card processor, the store can quickly set up digital gift cards, allowing customers to easily send money to the store to purchase gift certificates either for use online or after the shutdown ends. I know of several stores that set these up in the past week and already had several hundred dollars of ecard purchases this week from customers wanting to help out. Incidentally, if you do not have an online store set up, Square also offers an online shopping option that you can set up quickly and process payments through Square.

Publisher Help. I haven’t heard anything from distributors regarding actions they might take to help stores, and remember distributors operate on a pretty narrow margin as it is. Asmodee announced that, after next Friday’s releases, the company would suspend any additional new releases until the end of April.  I emailed GW to ask if the company would do something similar, but have not heard back yet.  A number of companies have banded together under the GAMA Publisher Crisis Initiative banner, offering to send a portion of the purchases made on the publisher’s website to the store designated by the customer.  Such an offer is certainly appreciated.

I worry that a lot of stores with little capital cushion will not be able to withstand 2-4 weeks closure. At least one comic shop has announced it will not reopen after California’s closure ends. I hope and expect we’ll make it through alright.