New Event: Netrunner Wednesdays

Note – Netrunner Nights have been moved to Tuesdays at the same time

Netrunner gaming night, every Wednesday from 6:30pm.

With the success of our monthly Open House, we’ve decided to keep expanding the opportunities for customers to come and game in our space. Starting this coming Wednesday, May 15th, we will be hosting a regular Android: Netrunner gaming night every Wednesday at 6:30pm. If you’re an experienced player, this is your chance to bring your decks and pit them against a range of new opponents. If you’re new to the game, our staff will have a number of pre-built teaching decks on hand, and will be happy to walk you through the rules of the game and get you started on your first Run.

Gaming nights will be held in our main office at 61 W 7th Ave. We have 1 designated parking space at the rear of the building (directly to the right of loading bay #61), and there is ample street parking on 7th Avenue and Manitoba Street. If you’re traveling by transit, we’re a 10-15 minute walk from the Skytrain stations at Broadway-City Hall (Canada Line) and Main St-Science World (Expo Line), and a 5-10 minute walk from the #8, #9, #20, and #99 bus stops at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway.

We’re really looking forward to getting some games going next week, and will hopefully be expanding to more events in the future if this gaming night becomes a success. Come out and play!

Conventions – A Little Love, A Little Hate

I have a love / hate relationship with conventions.  They can be decent marketing opportunities and decent sales, but they disrupt our regular work and are extremely draining.  Some conventions are better than others (in both terms of sales and physical drain); but I thought it might be interesting to discuss a convention from the perspective of a dealer.

Long Days

When you think of a convention, you think of it starting on a Friday or Saturday and ending that Sunday.  It’s a 2 to 3 day event, mostly with a ‘decent’ 8 to 10 hours.  However, that’s not what it is for dealers.  It starts the day before, when we pack up for the convention.  That can take 3 to 4 hours easily.  Then, we start 3 to 4 hours before the event doors open, setting up the booth.  There’s the games, the shelves, the pricing all to be completed.

Once the event starts, we’re standing up talking and dealing with customers and browsers all day long.  Once the doors close, we’ve got another 20 – 30 minutes of clean up (and waiting for the last stragglers to leave) before we have to input that days orders in.  At best, most days are 9 hours long, at worst we can be doing up to 16 hours in a day (GottaCon!)

Through all that though, we have to be happy and chirpy and on the ball.  We get asked questions, recommend options and search through our memories for stock while smiling.  It’s physically and emotionally draining and in 3 days we can do 30+ hours.

Then of course, once it’s all done we’re back at work on Monday (at least, some of us!)

Building a Mini-Store

At a convention, we’re basically building a mini-store.  It’s great training for owning a retail store I’d think – you have to think about traffic flow, the potential customers, merchandising and the checkout process.  If you can’t run a convention booth well, perhaps you shouldn’t run a retail store it seems to me.

What’s Going on Where?

Working a convention is just that – work.  Many conventions do not have after show events, so once the vendor hall closes it’s hard to go do anything.  Breaks during the day are often only an hour to two hours long – not really enough time to watch a panel especially when you consider those breaks include lunch / dinner.  In most cases, after talking to people for 4 hours straight, we just want to find a corner and hide!

So for us, most conventions revolve around the vendor hall.  We get to see customers, maybe watch them play a few games and talk to them; but actual events at the convention are often missed.

Networking

One amusing part of being a vendor is that you often see the same vendors at other events.  After a while, you start making friends, shaking hands and commiserating over bad sales days or your aching feet.  You network, and it’s kind of fun because often you aren’t in direct competition (except for that event); which means you can be somewhat more open.  I can tell a clothing retailer much more about my business than another game store owner, even if we both don’t really understand each others markets that well.

Aftereffects

After doing 2 conventions in a row, I wanted to talk about the aftereffects too.  Conventions throw things off by a large amount, more than you’d think – we have a significant number of staff ‘disappear’ for days on end.  To ensure we don’t go into too much over-time, we have to cut their hours during the normal work week which leaves us short-staffed.  Projects that have a more flexible work date are pushed aside while we get ready and then do receiving, and of course; there’s always a little damage to the product through all the moving.  Conventions are hard on the business and the staff, and it’s no surprise that so many businesses who do conventions just do conventions.

We’re Hiring: Join us on the Convention Scene

One of our biggest areas of growth in the past year has been participation in the geek convention scene — we’ve gone from attending 2 or 3 gaming-specific events to almost a dozen anime, fan, and gaming conventions a year. It’s been a lot of fun to get in direct contact with so much of the community, but we’re finding ourselves stretched just a bit thin bouncing from event to event.

As a result, we’re looking to add a new member to our team, in the position of Event Coordinator. It’s a seasonal, part-time position that puts you in charge of running the sales booth at the events that we attend as our sister site, Fortress Geek. We’d love to have a friend or regular customer take on this role, as it’ll need someone with a passion for both the geek community and our company in particular. If you (or someone awesome you know) think you’d be a good fit for this position, please send a resume and cover letter to Kaja at ksadowski@starlitcitadel.com by Friday, January 17th, 2014.

Full Position Details

Are you a part of an Anime, Fan, or Gaming community? Would you like to get paid to attend conventions and sell awesome geeky toys, kitchenwares, collectibles and games to your fellow fans? If so, then this is a great opportunity for you.

This is a part-time position with a schedule based around the yearly gaming, anime, and fan convention season. Our e-commerce business attends 6 – 12 of these events per year, and needs a dedicated staff member to organize and manage customer service and sales at each event.

The Event Coordinator will be expected to attend each convention that we are booked for, and perform the following tasks: supervise inventory packing, load-in, and load-out; manage staff schedules and booth coverage; sell product to customers and manage other sales staff; keep accurate transaction records of event sales and deposit cash collected; liaise with convention organizers to handle any issues that arise on site. As the primary representative of the company at each event, the Event Coordinator is expected to present a professional and friendly attitude, and be able to quickly and knowledgeably address customer and event staff’s concerns. They will also be responsible for the appearance and layout of the sales booth.

The Event Coordinator’s schedule is tied to our convention plans. They will be informed of upcoming events at least 2 months in advance, and must be available for the entire duration of each event, including load-in and load-out times, and any necessary travel time. Upcoming events that we will be attending include: Toronto Comicon (March 7-9, 2014), FanExpo Vancouver (April 18-20, 2014), and Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (April 25-27, 2014). Travel and accommodation for out-of-town events will be covered in full, and all travel time will be paid.

We will provide training on our convention and cash-handling procedures, and the Event Coordinator will be given ample opportunity to familiarize themself with our inventory prior to their first event. If further training is needed, we will provide the necessary resources for the Event Coordinator to be able to perform their job in full.

Requirements: Availability for 3-5 consecutive days, up to 12 times per year (schedule to be provided in advance). Strong customer service and organizational skills. Experience with cash handling and basic account-keeping an asset.

Expected Start Date: February 17th, 2014

Rate: $14/hour, plus travel and accommodation costs for all events outside Vancouver.

Starlit Citadel / Fortress Geek

Cos & Effect and Changes Behind the Scenes

Posting has been relatively slow lately, as we’ve been busy with a number of projects; mostly behind the scenes updates that make running the business easier.  I thought I’d do a quick update on the most recent changes as well as do a quick Con report for Cos & Effect.

Cost & Effect

Cos & Effect is the new cosplay convention in Vancouver after Anime Evolution went defunct.   Overall, for a first year, the convention went well with quite a few attendees.  The fact that it was their first year showed in a few places – e.g. the promised ‘gaming lounge’ was completely inappropriate for gaming with knee-high tables. However, overall it seemed pretty well run and we had few hiccups.  I’m looking forward to next year when I hope the vendors have a dedicated room; increasing overall security for our stock.

Sales-wise, it was significantly lower than Anime Evolution.  It’s partially, I think, due to the fact that the con-attendees trended towards the younger end of the usual AE spectrum, thus reducing their overall budget.  Of course, not being directly related to Anime or cosplay either,  we generally see lower sales at these events. Generally, we do these events for the exposure more than sales so I’m not completely stressed by the lower sales.

Hiring

We’re currently in the midst of attempting to hire again for a part-time position.  Business has picked up sufficiently that I’d like Kaja to focus on some additional duties, which she is unable to do so due to the increase in sales (and added complexity of running both Canada Post & FedEx right now).

It’s been interesting – on our worst day last Friday, we had 8 interviews arranged and only 3 turned up.   We currently have an offer out and will know at the end of this week if it’ll be accepted.  Otherwise, we might just have to bit the bullet and not hire anyone till October where we can attempt to hire someone full-time.

Site Tweaks

You might have noticed a new pair of options to sort games via ‘Bestsellers’ or ‘Reviews’.  It’s a minor tweak, that we think has provided a nice new viewing / sorting option to customers.

Game Reviews

As many of you might have noticed, we requested some guest reviewers last week and had some interested applicants.  I expect to get the first review later this week up, let us know how they do and who you enjoy.  I’m currently planning for 1 review per week, potentially increasing if these reviews get a positive response.

Back-End Changes

We’ve also tweaked our backend design a bit, making it easier and faster to process our orders and to find specific orders.  We’ve also redesigned our PDF invoices so that they’re easier to read to make it easier to note multiple copies of games.

Next on the list is an automatic upload of tracking numbers for Canada Post & FedEx.  This will result in faster shipment reports for customers.