Hey, You Got a Second?: A Series of Random Chats – A Return to the Rambling

A return to form, for now

art by David Marquez

How are you doing? Did you have a nice weekend? Did you watch the game last night, I know I sure didn’t. I hung out with my mother and continued our watch through of Gilmore Girls though. It’s been nice so far, we’re at the latter end of season two. I had forgotten how long TV seasons went for back in the 2000s. 26 episodes per season at an hour each is just not something I’ve experienced in a very long time. Maybe by the end of the series I’ll talk about it, but as of right now it seems we won’t finish until next year or something. Moving on from that I want to bring something up real quick. It’ll just take a second, promise. I wanted to give a thank you to those who’ve been reading, even if this is your first. You know who you are, but know that knowing you’re out there keeps this going. Thanks again. So, I bet you’re wondering what I’m planning on talking about. Well, let me ask you this: when was the last time you fell in love with a store? A physical retailor, a place that you could walk into knowing that the thing you need/want would be there. I’ve had some thoughts on this over the past weeks and I think I’m ready to start sharing. Do you got a second? Today we’re going to address what’s changed and maybe a way to bring it back. Disclaimer: I, to no surprise of anyone, have little to no qualifications in order to thoroughly talk about this aside from years of being a consumer and that’s ok. Let’s get started.

Thanks Internet

Really thanks. This whole blogging thing wouldn’t be here without it. I get it. It’s just a fact. The popularization of the Internet has been barreling along for so long that I’m starting to struggle remembering life without it. If I would try and pinpoint when things started changing it was likely around the time I was around 10 or 11. I remember stumbling across YouTube out of the blue as the platform started making waves with its user generated content. Shout out to Red vs. Blue for ushering me into the sphere of online content. The real strength of the Internet is it’s accessibility and versatility. Nowadays we’re capable of supporting most of our lives with its use. It’s not even just YouTube but also Amazon, Grubhub, Spotify, and Netflix have all changed the game. I won’t get into the nitty gritty since it’s been happening for long enough that most realize what’s changed and why. What I do want to say is that the need for brick and mortar shops, fancy talk for physical stores, has gone down. Why go out to an entertainment store like Best Buy, when you can shop online to see their catalog and have it delivered or even prepped for in-store pick up? What about something simpler, like a blanket? Well Amazon has you covered and in some cases within the same or next day. It could even be something way larger like a car because even that can be delivered to your home too. It’s easy to be a consumer, but I think it’s too easy.

There was an article I read a few weeks ago by this guy named Jason Mojica chronicling his time spent opening an All-Ages Comic store in New York called Hey Kids Comics!. He stated that “People don’t expect bookstores to have everything anymore–that’s Amazon. They expect bookstores (and yes, comic book stores) to be magic.” The ‘magic’ of an in-store experience I think is becoming lost or worse, taken for granted. With the capabilities of being able to order most things from the comfort of anywhere with connection to the internet, it’s clear we’ve gladly traded that magic for it. I’ve missed that over the years, especially with my comic and video game buying endeavors. I use to get excited by the prospects of hitting up a local GameStop or Barnes and Noble, but it’s been too long since those feelings came as I’ve grown accustomed to online shopping. It’s been a few years since I last felt captivated by being inside a physical store. Not since 2019 when I started becoming a regular at a local comic shop. What I liked about the store was the focus they seamed to have with creating a solid customer experience. It wasn’t just about pushing sales, at least not blatantly. The staff read and was up to date on what was being sold and at times what I was picking up each week. They too served as fans that allowed the books to be talked about as sources of entertainment and not just some niche hobby that’s meant to be kept to oneself. Some of those conversations spurred recommendations for series that I’m still reading to this very day. When I ended up moving out of the city the shop was in, I struggled to find the same level of enjoyment out of the experience with the shop I’m currently buying from. Have you ever experienced that? Having to switch away from one of your favorite stores and/or vendors to someone that just doesn’t have you feeling the same? What can be done to bring some of that back? I’m not too sure to be frank for others, but I do know what I would like and I’m about to tell you. Maybe you’ll see the something brought up that makes you go, “Wow, Joel has a point.” It happens, I can make good points.

Thanks, Kermit

The store of dreams

So what do I think a store needs to do to create said “magic.” Well I kinda hinted at it earlier: promote a customer experience otherwise known as giving them a reason to come in the first place. It’s not a crazy concept by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, in an age that allows the ease of one-click shopping to reign, some stores don’t seem to be adapting as quickly. It’s natural for businesses to rise and fall, I’m not arguing that, but why can’t they compete? It may boil down to a simple concept like price comparison between goods and/or services and stay as simple as that. Let’s go back to the comic store example I brought up in my anecdote. What I feel I’ve been lacking is the customer driven experience I had with my old store. Mostly it was the staff being able to interact with the media I was already interested in and using that to recommend new things for me to try. Let’s focus on that for a moment. With any good store, there should be someone or multiple people able to help push the sale of the good(s) carried. One of the best way to do it is to understand what you’re selling and whom may want it. Again, not a terribly new concept. Yet, I don’t see it all that often anymore. Do retailers feel that defeated by the likes of Amazon? Maybe. Bottom line is you’re not going to compete with product selection alone, you need more. Anyway, I won’t tread on that so heavily so let me just talk about what I think would make for an excellent store concept.

I’ve been thinking a good bit about a store that could sell video games, novels, comics, music, and movies all under one roof. Imagine a two story building separated into different areas. Each form of entertainment would be given their own retail space far enough way from the others, paired with its own dedicated and knowledgeable staff. This detail is the most important to me. With this much media being sold under the same roof, you don’t want someone who’s not big into reading to try and sell you a book. No, you want someone who knows what’s being carried and what’s worth reading. Moving on, there’d be a common area where people can sit and share/experience their purchases. A small café that’s only available at key hours of the day and week. This store would also host events tied to new releases and even tourneys for the gamer communities. It would also allow not only in-store purchases, but also the flexibility of online ordering including delivery and/or in-store pick up. Isn’t that counter to the goal of having a physical shop? Yes, but it’s also good business practice to offer the customer flexibility of shopping. It’s a trade off, the online shopper will miss the curated experience(s) and the in-store shopper will be without the convivence. Again, none of this is unheard of. Mix this all together under a working name we’ll just refer to as ” The Den.” It does sound like a gentleman’s club, you’re right, but it would be so much better. At least in the ways that matter. The concept is a bit soft baked, I get it. Not terrible, right?

art by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Thanks, Vader.

End of the line, again.

That’s all I have for you today. Not a whole lot, but it’s some of what’s been on my mind. I hope you enjoyed reading my tangent. What’s another fun store concept, let me know down in the comments or on any of our social media platforms. Next week we’ll be back with a different topic, one that may be a bit divisive. Fun stuff, I pinky promise. Anyway, until next time, I’ll leave you with a fun comic panel. Be well and be safe!

art by Marco Failla

2 thoughts on "Hey, You Got a Second?: A Series of Random Chats – A Return to the Rambling"

  1. As an artist I think a similar concept replaced with studio space, supplies, and access to equipment that not everyone can afford (kiln, pottery wheels, printing presses, etc) as well as an artist co-op within would be really cool!

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