Rhonda Becker of The Gamers Den in Cambridge, Minnesota comments on the recent news of Looney Labs cutting their distribution choices (see "Looney Labs Cuts Distributors").

As a "Friendly Local Game Store" (FLGS) I am constantly competing with the big box stores for my customers.  What I have to offer them is expanded product knowledge, a warm, comfortable environment to play games, conversations about our shared love of games, industry trends, new, exciting products, and ways to look at products, previously overlooked, in a new light.  My customers know they can get my products other places, we aren't that unique.  They also know that the relationship is worth skipping discounts and sometimes waiting a day or two for me to restock.  It's a two way street, a partnership if you will, and in my opinion it's what good customers and good FLGS's do -- like I said, we're not unique.

As an owner of an FLGS for the past 8 years we have seen our business go through numerous ups and downs. We have supported many small game companies with game demos, rules clarifications and various promotions.

We have been happy to do so, it's part of the business.  As some of those small (and large) game companies have gone exclusive to one or two large distributors, we have been disappointed.  Now Looney Labs has announced a distributor exclusive, and it's greatly disappointing.

Why?  Why should I care where I get my product?  Remember about that customer relationship I have with my customers?  That's the relationship I have with my distributor.  My FLGD (Friendly Local Game Distributor) is a big part of my business.  They have been in the industry far longer than I have -- they were one of the first to stock and distribute Magic: The Gathering in Minnesota, brought in with their other hobby items for the Beta release.  They have rode out the Pokemon craze and seen every edition of Dungeons & Dragons there is.  They have seen the industry's ups and downs, and have great advice about the future of games.  More importantly, they have taken the time to get to know us.  They know our customer base and make recommendations for new items.  I try to go there at least once a month in person to pick up my order.  I can walk their warehouse aisles, pick out my order, view new products or see products in a new light.  We talk about trends, they work with us on pre-orders, help us promote, and support us in a thousand ways, not the least of which is product next day, and freight prices you can't beat.  When I call them, I don't even have to identify myself.  They know me.

One by one I have seen successful lines for them (and us) go away, to "exclusive" agreements with large distributors.  I can no longer get WizKids (at one time our MOST successful line, yes, even more than Magic), Playroom, or Days of Wonder through them.  All of these lines have been diminished on our shelves.  But I have been introduced to some new companies they have brought in to replace those companies.  Most of those I have to restock numerous times, as they are wonderful finds that I don't have time to research.  Whether I talk to my FLGD over the phone or in person, I always ask, "What's new?" because there always is something to talk about.

As I contemplate Looney Labs decision, confused how it benefits me as a shop owner to lose the support of my FLGD and forcing me to shop the "big box" distributors, I wonder what it means for my store.  Since we will only be ordering Looney Labs a few times a year, instead of able to get it next day, I'm sure the shelf space dedicated to Looney Labs will be reworked.  I wonder what my FLGD will have on their Looney Labs shelf space next week.  Whatever it is, I bet it will go great in my store.

The opinions expressed in this Talk Back are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.