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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Brick & Mortar Magic Shops, an endangered species? (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Review King
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Bill, all I can say we're blessed to have you add your input in ths Café. You've helped a lot of folks ( me included ) in how we perform and the message we send.

Chris
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Bill Palmer
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Chris:

Thanks. There are no hard feelings on my part here.

And believe me, I do understand your frustration and reaction with the bad magic shop. Let's face it. We run into the same thing at the hardware store and other places as well. It just doesn't hit so close to home all the time.

Let me relate an incident that happened to me several years ago. It almost caused me to sue a major music store chain in Houston. I called one of our local music stores -- one that I had worked for in the past -- and asked them if they had an electronic tuner. They said they did and they told me what it cost. I had the correct amount of money in quarters, which I had gathered in my hat at the Texas Renaissance Festival the previous weekend. Normally, merchants are tickled to get a large amount of quarters, because they generally don't have time to go to the bank on Monday morning.

So I went to the music store -- which was a fair distance from where I live -- asked for the tuner, and gave the man $40 worth of quarters. He refused to take them. Why? Not because they weren't rolled, but because I was wearing a Texas Renaissance Festival T-shirt, and he was a staunch Baptist. His pastor had condemned the lot of us because there were "evil Satanic tarot card and palm readers" at the festival, and that meant that we were to be avoided. It didn't matter that our musicians bought thousands of dollars worth of accessories from them every year.

I was really angry over this. I called the head office of the place. They knew who I was, because my name is on a very large number of the books they sell. I got a letter of apology from the head of the company, and an assurance that if I'd had $40 in pennies it would have been welcome. Needless to say, I took my business elsewhere. And they took my quarters!

But I also knew that was an anomaly in the business.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Lee Darrow
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Well, as someone who has worked in and/or run more than a couple of magic shops in his life, I'd like to toss in a few comments to the discussion, if I may.

With respect to developing a frame of reference to brick and mortar magic shops, I find it rather odd that one can generalize from an extremely limited statistical sample of three in six years time. And, no, I am not being personal, I would apply that comment to anyone, with either a positive or negative attitude as it is simply not a statistically significant sample taken within a relatively recent time frame, just for openers.

However, a personal impression based on personal experience from such a sample, is perfectly reasonable, simply because emotional responses are often based on first impressions and reinforced on repeated experience. "Once burned, twice shy," is a wise saying for a reason, after all...!

Now, as a former shop worker and someone who has manager several shops in different places across the Midwest, I believe that I can safely say that keeping an eye on a new customer who comes into a shop is generally a good idea as inventory does sometimes tend to "grow legs and leave the store on its own." Been there, seen it happen, filled out my share of police reports after catching the people who tried it.

It is also possible to notice when someone's interest is piqued and an opening in the sales cycle happens. Or just for general conversation on the topic of magic, which, in a magic shop, is usually a mutual interest.

Magic shops, unlike places like WalMart, are specialty shops, targeting a hobbyist and professional market (sometimes the people who shop there are both at the same time) and, as such, are very passionate about their interest and have few, if any people to discuss it with. This is why magic shops are often also magic hang-outs, where people will shoot the bull and discuss various tricks, magical performances and the like.

It is not only a place of commerce, but a place that is a social hub - which is something that many of the "newer" crop of magic dealers seem to miss as they are so focused on the bottom line from a financial angle, that they forget the bottom line from a human angle - making the shop a place that people actually WANT to come to because it's both a good place to shop AND to visit.

So, perhaps, when one of these "pushy" sales people "forces" themselves on one of us, maybe all they are really doing is sharing their passion over something new and cool that they have just gotten in the door and that excited them.

I know that, when I was behind the counter, I was guilty of doing that on more than one occasion. So cut the guys behind the counter a little slack now and then. They just might be excited about the newest thing they have picked up simply because they have learned something new and want to share that excitement.

I know that I did when I was behind the counter at the Treasure Chest, Marshall Brodien's shop and Max Ettinger's shop, among others. And you know what? Even though I'm not a dealer or demonstrator any more, I still do it to this very day. Some folks might call that pushy, I call it sharing my excitement and my passion for our Art.

Lee Darrow, C.H.
http://www.leedarrow.com
<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
Larry Davidson
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I've had nothing but positive experiences dealing with outstanding brick and mortar shops, Al's Magic Shop (I wouldn't be a magician today if it weren't for Al), Barry's Magic Shop (Barry's a friend and I worked there for years), and Denny's. That's not to say there aren't bad shops out there. Of course there are.

What do I get out of brick and mortar shops that I don't get out of internet shops? Shop owners and employees who care about me and my needs, real life demos, and meeting, hanging out with, and developing friendships with other magicians.

Will quality brick and mortar shops survive? I believe that some will and some won't. In my opinion, those that have exclusives and/or that sell unique effects not available elsewhere have a chance. Survival will take much more than that, but in my view, it's one important ingredient in this internet age.

Larry
fanwun
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Quote:
On 2005-06-17 16:37, magicsojourn wrote:
I am a magic shop owner and have been in sales for a good portion of my life, no GAP stores however I have sold automobiles. Maybe MagicChris is onto something, NOT. He sound like he has a huge chip on his shoulder.
A magic shop is a place where people can come to learn about the art of Magic. 90% of my customers are new to magic. A magic shop is a retail business, not to meet, greet & qualify is a big injustice to both the salesperson & the customer. Granted most magicians are not salespeople & most salespeople are not magicians. I try to make the customer feel at home by introducing myself & getting their name. I also try to see where they are in magic, beginner, intermediate or advanced. I do not try to top anybody in my store because I am here to sell not entertain. I try to give the customer what he needs as opposed to what he wants. If a beginner comes in and just seen somebody floating a bill at a kiosk in a mall I try to gage their interest in magic. I would rather them walk out with scotch & soda and be able to do the trick within a few minutes then to sell them a float effect that they will probably not master, put the trick in the closet and never see them again as a customer because I did not find out what skill level they were. You can ascertain this information in a nice friendly manner without getting on their nerves. Also I try to demo and teach using the sales tool, the KISS principal - Keep It Simple Stupid. You want the customer to be both amazed but also to be comfortable in doing the effect themselves.
A brick & mortar shop is a place to see before you buy and then be instructed on how to do the effect. It is also a place where magicians can come to talk magic, get new ideas & buy tricks, videos, books, magazines & accessories.
I stay competitive in pricing, current in what's new and have a back room for parties, lectures & classes. If I don't have it in I can usually get it in within a week(customer oriented). I try to be fair in pricing, friendly and knowledgeable for the customer.
That's my take on a retail magic shop. Good post Tony, by the way I like your tricks.

Magically yours,
John B.



I just wanted to come back by and drop an endorsement for John and Magic Sojourn. I didn't mention him, I think, in my initial post because his shop is new. I thought Denny & Lee's is an institution in magic and would serve as a good example. In any event, John definitely gets a nod from me. I met him when he had a kiosk in the mall. Since being in his new shop, though sometimes clearly stretched thin, he's very helpful. Everything he stated in his post is fact. You won't get the same kind of advice or nurturing as you would at Denny's, but he hasn't been in business as long either. He is reasonable with his prices. He will not shadow you around the store, especially when other customers are there(lol). He will ask you if there is anything in particular that you're looking for. If you are unsure about what you want, his salesman skills kick in, and he will sell you the cheapest crap on the shelf...NOT! Sorry, I just couldn't help that one. Really, he will help you make a good decision.

I was in the shop once when a young man was looking for something else to add to his talent show skit. I offered some advice, but John literally bent over backwards to help the young man. He showed him a few things that were meant for stage, and I think the youngin left with something. Still, his most sound advice was this, "You don't need anything else." The kid told John what he had already. Then, John, or I, asked how much time he had on stage. John immediate said, "You really don't need anything else. You have enough already. It's only 15 minutes." Still, the kid kept looking and John kept helping him AND reminding him he didn't need to add anything else. The kid also didn't have enough money to get what he left with. John gave him a further discount so he could afford it. Why'd he do it? Well, after the kid left, John told me a bit about him. He had been getting ready for the talent show for weeks and had bought most of his material from Magic Sojourn. I don't know if he liked him, knew him personally, or just felt sorry for him. I do know that some form of relationship had been built, and it resulted in the kid getting a discount on an already discounted prop (John is reasonable with his prices).

Now, when you can show me this type of scenario, on a regular basis, online, then I'll make Bill do the loaves and fish miracle...LOL.
Bill Palmer
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All I need are twelve assistants with baggy robes and large sleeves.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Review King
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Well, what does everyone think is the reason shops are going away? If they offer that something special you can't get from the Internet, why are they vanishing?
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Bill Palmer
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One very simple reason is that the owners of several of the major shops have either been forced into retirement, have gotten too ill to keep the business going or have passed away. If they haven't trained a successor, they won't remain in business.

Some people who open magic shops have no business doing it. There is a fellow who lives in our area who has operated at least four magic shops during the past 30 years. He goes into business, stays in business for about 3 years, then folds. He waits, gets up enough money to open the business again, stays in business for about 3 years, then folds. Slow learner.

Others persevere by having costumes or novelty items as the main source of income.

But the internet has definitely made some inroads into the business. The good ones will stay around, though. It's pretty much like anything else that is sold on the internet. At some point, personal service becomes important.

Look at the number of mom and pop bookstores that have gone out of business because of Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon.com. And if you are a serious publisher of mass market books, you'd better hope that Ingram picks up your book. They have a virtual lock on the distribution.

Ironically, the internet has provided a way out for the people who write small volume books. They sell through their web sites.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Review King
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So, the good old days are gone. I have fond memories of going to shops in the 60's and 70's, but my experiences in the 90's changed that.

Bill, thanks for the insight.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Bill Palmer
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I don't know that they are gone forever. Things like this go in cycles. And there are perennials that seem to hang on in spite of everything.

Specialty shops seem to be an "in" thing, these days. There are a couple of bookstores in my area that specialize in either antiquarian books or murder mysteries. As long as there is a large enough market for this, they will remain open. And in Humble, which is nearby, we have H&R Magic books. They do most of their business over the internet, but they still get some walk-in traffic, especially from guys who are working trade shows in the area, and who happen to be flying in or out of IAH.

But internet sales are important to almost all of us. The main thing we have to do to stay in business, if we aren't cutting prices to the bone, is to provide service. I get a couple of calls a day from people who want more information about what I offer.

The main reason I won't open a shop is that I don't like to keep regular business hours or be tied down to a location.

I'm seeing this phenomenon in other fields, as well. I have a friend in Arkansas who is a specialist in the 5-string banjo. For about 25 years she has done a business that was primarily mail order, then internet based. But you could call her anytime during normal business hours and she would give you an honest review of any products she was familiar with. And she knows her stuff. Recently, she opened a retail establishment near her house, so she can have the freedom from the "store in the house" situation. It's a case of a business going the other way, so to speak.

Niche market outlets, and that is what magic shops are, are like that.

I'll add this: the situation is not limited to the US. For example, when I was in Glasgow a few years ago, I stopped in to visit the local magic shops. There were two of them. Well, actually one of them. The other was started with a government subsidy for a minority owner who'd had no business experience before. She was trying hard to be successful, but she just didn't understand how to deal with customers. She sank like a stone. The other shop was Tam Shepherd's, which is run by Roy Walton. He has survived by knowing when to "sell" and when not to. I enjoyed the visit to his shop a great deal.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Review King
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Quote:

Who says I have to respect you when I
see you walk into a magic shop?

You're right. Your in business and need customers, so you shoud not have to be nice or treat them like gold in the hopes they will come back.

That's why a lot of small business go under:they don't realize that without repeat customers, they are sunk.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
evolve629
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The cliche says it all - " A Happy Customer Is A Return Customer." You can get good or bad customer service over the magic online stores too. There are so much competition out there, our local magic shops really need to beef up how they treat their customers in order to continue the business. True, some folks like to see and feel the magic tricks before they decided to purchase it. Some are happy just by reading the reviews here at the Café and watch demo videos. However, I don't mind to pick up a magic trick or two whenever I stopped by my local magic store as I know they appreciate my business. But I also don't like to feel the pressure to have to buy something because they could be an endangered species?

It's just like everything else, there's pros and cons in everything. If it makes you feel good, then do it!
One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in - Wayne Gretzky
My favorite part is putting the gaffs in the spectators hands...it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside! - Bob Kohler
Review King
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After the Internet showed up and magic was available ( and the prices were so low ) I still felt compelled to visit a couple of the local shops ( now out of business) but, now that as a consumer that had choices, I didn't feel I had to put up with their pompous attitudes. So, eventually I stopped going.

This subject is a sore spot for folks that cherish a real shop to visit. I understand completely. But times have changed and a lot of shops stink. Yes, I realize there are still great shops around, but not many.

Could I run a great shop? Maybe/maybe not. I do have a customer service background that allows me to walk into any business and tell you if it's being run properly. You can be a salesman and still have integrity. Some of the posts on this thread said the shop didn't owe me anything and didn't have to prove anything because I walked into their shop: WRONG. They have everything to prove and a lot to lose.

I know if Bill Palmer ran a shop it would be the finest. From knowledge to customer service, he'd offer it all. Sadly, people like him are not in the retail business these days.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Bill Palmer
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Well, actually, I am. But I don't advertise on the forum, so I don't toot my own horn here. But thanks for your kind thoughts, Chris.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
saxmangeoff
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Quote:
On 2005-06-29 23:40, MagicChris wrote:
I know if Bill Palmer ran a shop it would be the finest. From knowledge to customer service, he'd offer it all. Sadly, people like him are not in the retail business these days.


http://www.adessoverlag.com/

Geoff
"You must practice your material until it becomes boring, then practice it until it becomes beautiful." -- Bill Palmer
cgscpa
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Quote:
On 2005-06-18 00:25, mormonyoyoman wrote:
I'm very lucky when I'm in Indiana, in having FunTyme Magic in Nashville, Indiana. (A very tiny little town, with a mini-Grand Ole Opera. I kid you not.) Ed has managed to make FunTyme a real player, even with a limited customer base, by opening an internet version of the shop.


Chet -

I go to Indiana every year to visit my brother (he lives in Carmel). I've been to FunTyme once and met Ed who was as nice as one can be. I did not know he had an internet site but will "google" him and visit it. I will be in Indiana again in August and will drop by to see him.
I have become friends and frequent golf partner of the owner of a local magic shop who has been in business for 29 years. I knew him as a kid and became reacquainted with him a few years back when my interest in magic returned. I am also his CPA. There used to be a handful of magic shops in the general area but now there are only two. We have discussed the demise of B&M shops many times (usually between golf shots). Here are some of my random thoughts:

Yes, customer service is essential, no matter what business it is. Although sales are an integral part of what a shop is supposed to do to stay alive, if you are a regular, the owner will know what type of magic you are interested in and keep you in mind when new products come in and not bother you with what you won't be interested in.

It is important that a successful shop can demo the new effects that come in. I've been in a few shops that have kids demoing new effects, literally five minutes after reading the instructions. I hate that.

Inventory control. This is more of an art than science. A shop needs to sell about half of what it orders of a particular product before it breaks even on that product so if too much is ordered it will do more harm than good. High price items are a particular concern. Most hobbyist generally won't spend more than $40 - $50 on an effect. Higher price items are a concern because they can sit on a shelf for a while before being sold or customers will try to find a better deal on higher price items online. Building inventory is a problem with any retail business. As I tell my clients, you can't pay bills with inventory. I tell all my clients that if an item sits to long, than start cutting prices (this advise is particularly hard for client's to understand since they feel they will "lose" money if sold for less than the original price. However, the money has already been lost when the product was paid for and taken into inventory.) All this on top of trying to anticipate what customers will be interested in.

The internet had no doubt hurt B&M shops. I have seen customers come into the shop, ask to see an item and then leave to go buy it online for a few bucks cheaper. I've seen people bring tricks in that were purchased online to ask for help with a particular move. I once saw a customer ask for a special order but when it came in the customer said he didn't need it anymore, he found it on-line. All this time spent on these type of "customers" take away from the regular B&M shoppers.

I like the B&M stores if only to chat with other people about magic rather than sit in front of a computer and view video demos. I have met some great people at the shop since getting back into magic (including Joe Zabel and Larry Davidson) and learned more than I could probably give back.
DustyDave
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I lament the fact that there are so few brick & mortar magic shops around. I have been into magic less than a year, but have yet to come face to face with another magician. If there were any B&M stores in my area, I know that would not be true.
There are no magic supply stores here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There used to be one in Albuquerque, but no more. As far as I know, there's not a magic supply store in the entire state of New Mexico.

As much sense as it makes to me to support local businesses and therefore local economy, I have no choice but to support internet businesses for magic supplies.
I have to tell you, there are a couple of things I have purchased that I would not have laid out my bucks for had I been able to lay my eyes on them first.

Looking at other than economics, at least the camaraderie I might have experienced at my local magic store has been replaced by the internet, too.

Thanks for letting me bend your ears a bit,
Dusty Dave
Review King
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Quote:
On 2005-06-30 17:44, saxmangeoff wrote:
Quote:
On 2005-06-29 23:40, MagicChris wrote:
I know if Bill Palmer ran a shop it would be the finest. From knowledge to customer service, he'd offer it all. Sadly, people like him are not in the retail business these days.


http://www.adessoverlag.com/

Geoff


Beautiful site. Thanks, Geoff!
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Barrett_James
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In commenting on magicsojourn earlier (page 1) comment about letting a prospective magic student walk out with scotch & soda and be able to do the trick within a few minutes then to sell them a float effect (i.e. Hummer/Humming/UFO card) that they will probably not master. Living in Arizona I ALWAYS have friends who have come back from Vegas who have either seen the 'floating card' or actually purchased it and 'cant make it work' and tell me they need to take it out of the drawer they put it in and have me teach them how to do it (On a side note anyone have a great excuse to tell them so I don't have to <grin>).

I travel a fair amount with work and out of town family expectations and the first thing I do is try and find local magic shops to visit, its true its getting harder and harder.

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: If your ever vacationing in Tucson AZ (it could happen, really) you absolutely need to stop by and visit Williams Magic on 22nd, its brick and mortar, family run, branching out into the internet but keeping its doors open and is just a great afternoon to go in and visit to see whats selling, whats actually worth buying, whats 'old' (read classic) and still impresses layman, which local magi are hanging in the back room, and just watching the Williams perform for walk-in customers. I to this day go in and ask to see them perform Mis-Lead or White Bikes etc to just help me with my own performance or let them critique my presentation. Tell them James the fireman sent you so they have something to hassle me about next time I'm in!!!

Off my soapbox now, anyone using an internet dealer that knows them, their family, etc like the above mentioned brick and mortar shop?!?!
"...let us now rejoin our foolish friends and commence the book properly." G.H.
Beth
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I live in a fairly small town so no magic shops, but recently one was opened close to my home town. I was thrilled...how cool is that right?

However, as soon as I walked in, it started bad and got worse. Right away the owner starts trying to hard sell a lot of hacky, gimmicky crap, that I would have had to have been 4 or brain dead to want. So giving him the benefit of the doubt, I tell him what I am looking for. Which was fairly simple a double faced bicycle deck. Oh no, he says you can't buy those. They don't even make them. He wanted me to buy some off brand crappy deck. So I told him ...look I know they make them I buy them online all the time. He got really condescending and rude, so I left.

Now since then I have gone in his shop like twice, because I bought joke birthday gifts for friends a few times, and he tried to get me to come to some luncheons that a group of local magicians were having, tried to get me to join his ring etc, but I don't have any respect for this guy...because:

A. he is a total idiot...or B. he saw me as young and labeled me as a mark or C. He saw me as female and labeled me as a mark.

Regardless none of those scenarios endear me to him or his shop. I had always bought everything from L&L, and probably will continue to do so. They have always treated me perfectly. When you call you get to speak to a real person...if there is a problem they will fix it, and if you don't like something you get, they will take it back.

Although, I am planning on stopping at a magic shop in Tulsa when I am there so maybe my next experience with a magic shop will be better. I can kind of relate to how Chris feels tho.

Peace Beth
"All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive,enlightening, familar, and surprising."
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