A closed sign on the door: Nick Smith shares a list, thoughts and advice on Friendly Local Game Store Closures


25 July 2022
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A reminder we may be post-Covid, but it's still tough.

Nick Smith is the owner of The Ludoquist, an award winning board game cafe in Croydon that, alongside the likes of those such as Fanboy Three, feel like they reside at the beating heart of the industry. Nick recently posted to the biggest board game Facebook group in the UK, Board Game Trading & Chat UK, his observations regarding the closures of FLGS this year alone, and offered advice and support from within the industry. With his permission, we're here reposting his views and advice. 

This is the current list of shops that I believe to have closed this calendar year. This is probably non-complete, as some stores will simply put the closed sign on their door and not come back, and some I don't know about.

It's not good. And it's accelerating. Running a FLGS or BGC (Board Game Cafe) is not easy at the best of times. Launching one and surviving a year is harder, again at the best of times. While some on the list below are stalwarts of many years, most are less than a year old.

This is not the best of times.

These stores that will go under will vary on quite how painfully they go. Some will owe considerable amounts to suppliers. Most will be tied in to multi-year contracts on their premises. A lot will have signed personal guarantees on debt (or their parents/family will have). Debt may go on for years; or personal bankruptcy along with winding up their limited companies will happen.

A small few will be able to close cleanly at a lease break clause, sell off their remaining stock, and walk away battered but head held high. These are likely exceptions.

I've been fortunate not to have this happen to me. While on recent UK-based holidays, I've also been lucky to be able to visit with a bunch of venues across the country.

Each FLGS has an amazing and different spirit. Some are Magic dens. Some are high-end cocktail bars. Some host sewing classes, or sell air pistols (and armour), or mainly rely on comics sales, or plushies, or paint.

Some have amazingly nice toilets. Others...don't. Yet.

But they all have amazing spirits, and amazing communities, that are a reflection of their owners and staff. Running a FLGS (or in my case a BGC) is the toughest, most consuming, but most rewarding business I've done. If I do 5 hours work, I absolutely consider that a day off.

But the reward is not financial. I was chatting to an owner on Wednesday, and we concluded that our job is "Build a community. And don't go bankrupt".

There are a few games stores that make real money. But you can look at most of our accounts on Companies House and get a good idea of what's going on. Most don't.

Despite all this, people are still opening games stores. To those who want to do it because they want to build a community, I still say "Go for it"!*. But maybe not this year.

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But if you want to make money, or just play lots of games, think long and hard. And particularly think long and hard about doing it this year.

*If you do want to open a FLGS or BGC, come talk to FLGS owners. People like

  • Dave Salisbury (Manchester) and myself(Croydon),
  • Drew and Rhiannon Gotobed (Newcastle),
  • Jacqueline Thompson (Redhill)
  • Adam Taylor (Kingsbridge)
  • Jim Freeman (Sheffield)
  • Russell Neave-Houghting (Southend on Sea)
  • Mana Nancy (Eastbourne)
  • Aaron Purvor (Wrexham)
  • Shaheen Savarnejad (Hamilton, Glasgow)
  • Richard Colley (Chester)
  • Mac Mcgill (Ilfracombe)

[You can find these on Facebook or through their business profiles]

are here and available. We'll chat to you, maybe intern you. As will many others (As long as your business plan is not to suck up someone else's community) - drop in to a Fairly Local Games Store and it's likely someone will talk to you.

It's agonizing watching people open stores, or franchises when they are clearly not prepared to run them. We can help prepare you. We can't do it for you, we can't build your premises, or make more hours happen in the day. But we can help. Please come to us first.

Recent Casualties

  • Geek Retreat Camberwell
  • Geek Retreat Bournemouth
  • Geek Retreat Dumfries
  • Murphy's Vault
  • Geek Retreat Stanraer
  • Chase Games
  • Dice and Decks
  • Decks and Dice
  • Nerdvarna
  • Geek Retreat Oxford
  • Pegasus Hobbies and Games
  • Not Just a Comic Shop
  • Big Dog Books*2
  • Geek Retreat Nottingham
  • The Board Room Hull
  • Geek Retreat Loughborough
  • Geek Retreat Liverpool
  • Geek Retreat Exeter
  • Geek Retreat Middlesborough
  • Geek Retreat Lisburn
  • Geek Retreat Harrogate
  • Watts Cards
  • Geek Retreat Northampton
  • Geek Retreat Wigan
  • Geek Retreat Harrow
  • Geek Retreat Daventry
  • The Geek Bar, Harrogate
  • Geek Retreat Bradford

 


If you know of any additional stores that have closed, or have intentions to open your own FLGS in the near future, comments are welcome.

 


 

 

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Comments

This entire piece reads like an attack on Geek Retreat, without being an attack on Geek Retreat.

Posted by James Touch on Wed 27 Jul 12:29:37

Wow, didn't expect my stores to get a mention here. The industry is in a serious bad place, Big Dogs was my life for the last 7 years and its still raw that it's gone. I wish those f you still standing all the best and hope you make it through xx.

Posted by Stuart Kane on Mon 25 Jul 16:37:03

Should Geek Retreats really be on here? Corporate franchises that seek to put actual FLGS out of business whilst simultaneously charging people to learn to play games... they have a poor business model and poor ethics.

Posted by Peter Holland on Mon 25 Jul 15:58:51