It’s interesting watching B&M stores and online stores in this space. There’s definitely a difference in the way community & co-operation happens between / among each other and competition.
Brick & Mortar Stores
Brick and mortar stores, for the most part, are quite friendly to one another – especially if said competitor is in another city / state. It does little harm to them if another competitor opens up in a city an hour away – most stores draw their clientelle from within 20 – 30 minutes drive. So, you have things like GAMA happening, where talks on how best to run your store occurs.
Best practices in one store shared among others makes the entire industry stronger. It’s kind of fun to watch and heartening to see – and it’s a lot less lonely than working out here on the fringes.
That’s what we are, online stores – fringe players in the market. Not only based off size – most of us aren’t that big, being tiny little stores; but also because there’s no camaraderie among online stores for the most part. The same way you rarely see competing stores in the same town sitting down sharing trade secrets, you don’t have online store owners talking to one another. Unfortunately, the web makes all of us part of the same village – and that means we’re all competing against each other.
It’s definitely true for us Canadian stores, a little less true for Canadians to US stores (they ‘steal’ ‘our’ customers) and a lot less true for those based in other countries. It’s not to say I don’t talk / discuss matters with other competitors (see this entire blog!) but there’s always things I’m going to hold back on. There are areas that I just don’t discuss because I see it as being part of our ‘edge’. While I don’t think there’s anything we do that a smart competitor could not figure out themselves, it’s not as if I want / need to be laying it out for them to read either 🙂
It does mean that it is kinda lonely though. Sure, I could talk shop with other business people (and I do); but our trade is such a strange one that they sometimes don’t get it.
Across the Lines
What about B&M and Online stores? How do those interactions go? For the most part – they don’t. Online stores are considered ‘the bad guys’ by a large number of B&M stores in our view. We are quietly shoved to the side and generally excluded from a large number of conversations. Other conversations, we just don’t care about – running Magic Tournaments aren’t a factor for us, nor will it ever be. For most B&M stores, the difficulties of dealing with Canada Post, online customer service and shipping is just foreign to them.
The point of this post? I doubt I have one, beyond perhaps – if you’re going to launch an online store; be prepared for it to be much more lonely.