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 looks at the new game store locator launched by GAMA.

Second week of the shutdown here in Illinois. Looking at an interesting next 3 weeks here in the state for brick and mortar retailers. Hopefully it will not run much longer than that. Unfortunately for most stores, the largest distributors in the industry, Alliance and Diamond, remain shut down with no indication, as of this writing, as to when they will reopen. Cutting payments to suppliers is a pretty drastic step, one I have not heard any other distributors taking.  Distributors run on a very tight gross margin, relying on large volume to balance out the comparatively tiny gross profit per item sold. When I worked for a small regional distributor, lo these many years ago, our gross margin, before any operating expenses got paid, ran about 13%. That does not leave a lot of leeway which with to play around with profitability.

GAMA keeps moving ahead with initiatives to help its retailer members. After years of talk and planning, the organization launched its long gestating FLGS Locater this past week. I remember attending meetings nigh onto a decade ago at the GAMA Trade Show wherein the usefulness of a retailer locator was discussed  While a number of publishers have retailer locators for their own product lines, the default for the gaming industry was either Diamond’s Comic Shop Locator or  Wizards Events Locator, neither of which were ideal. In order to get listed on Diamond’s locator, a store had to have a Diamond account and pay an annual fee, while WOTC’s locator focused on Wizards’ events, so if a store did not run DCI events, it would not show up on the locater. The GAMA locator has much less focus on a publisher, product line and events and more focus on the store, so hopefully that will increase store visibility. So far what I have seen of the locator looks pretty good. There are three things I hope GAMA does with it:

  1.  Make it GAMA-agnostic. Allow any store that wants to sign up to appear on the locator to do so, whether a member of GAMA or not. I see that the entry on the locator currently indicates if a store belongs to GAMA or not. Since notice of the locator rolled out to GAMA members first it makes sense that all the store listings I viewed showed GAMA membership along with other information. That indicates to me that the plan is to allow any store that wants to sign up to do so. Now the next step is to work to make a store’s GAMA membership important to the average customer when they use the locator to view stores in their area.
  2.  Allow stores to make changes.  Currently as set up, the locator requires changes to a listing a store wants to make to go through GAMA via an email. Many retailer locators run by publishers allow stores to log in and make changes on their own if they see something needing fixes. Steve Jackson Games’ locater is a good example of this.
  3.  Self-policing, The SJG Locator is a good example of this as well. Annually, the software sends out a notice to the store email on record, asking the store to confirm on the locator that it received the email. If the store does not confirm, the locator deletes the listing. Given the frequency with which game stores open and close, such a feature helps keep the locator up to date.

Incidentally the GAMA Publisher Crisis Initiatives list  is up to 40 companies and counting. Primarily smaller companies offering a percentage of the sale to the store if a customer makes a purchase from the publisher’s website and mentions the store. Not sure how much business the Initiative has generated but it is certainly a much appreciated action by publishers.  Stay safe!

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