Market data doesn’t always have to come from crunching analytics or pouring over surveys. Sometimes it’s as easy as just listening to your customers. I was reminded of this little nugget quite by accident tonight when I took my oldest to a hobby shop to play Yu-Gi-Oh!, or what I would have guessed to be a long-passé card game.
Making the hour-long drive in rush-hour traffic, I could only think: I had better not have come all this way to spend fifteen minutes watching a half-dozen pre-teens play some Japanese D&D spin-off. Rolling into the parking lot with only minutes to spare before the tournament’s start, I figured I might as well keep the motor running.
Once in the door, my surprise couldn’t have been more evident when I saw a store full of people – nearly 50 of them -from pre-teen to pre-college. My eyebrows raised farther when I was told tonight’s tourney would likely go four hours. It nearly did a Danny Thomas spit take when the shop owner followed with the news that this was a “light” crowd.
Whether Yu-Gi-Oh! is, or is not, still relevant is beside the point. What matters here is that this little hobby shop located on the way to nothing much of note, is delivering on its customers’ requests. What started as a single table of players four years ago, has grown to, literally, a store full each and every Friday night. And in turn, the shop is now one of the top Yu-Gi-Oh! shops in the country. The notoriety aside, these players are customers!
Sure, they could get their cards, mats, organizing systems, and other game accoutrements at Target, or some other big-box joint, but the constant “cha-ching” of the register would suggest otherwise. And when these same customers expand their horizons to other games, modeling, or similarly nerdly pursuits – the actual core of the shop’s business – odds are that money gets spent here.
And it’s all been quite by accident, to hear the owner tell it. But I’d argue she’s dead wrong. Customers asked, she listened. She delivered, and they responded with their loyalty. And their money. It doesn’t get any better than that.