I am a shortsighted business owner. In many ways, I know that. I have practically ZERO formal education in retailing/marketing, yet, here I am running a game store. How’d I get here exactly? That’s a story for another time.
The last few years, there has been an “event” called “Free RPG Day” put together by Impressions Marketing. It involves RPG manufacturers providing Impressions with free “teaser-level” product, which Impressions then bundles up and ships out to retailers.
Now perhaps my understanding on how this all works is a bit off, but it seems the only people getting anything for free are Impressions and the “customers” picking up the free items from stores. It certainly costs the manufacturers money to produce this product and then ship it to Impressions. It costs the retailers eighty dollars a “kit” for said bundled product. It even costs Impressions money in labor and materials to ship the kits. However, I refuse to believe it costs Impressions eighty dollars to put together and ship each of these kits. Fifteen, twenty, even thirty-five dollars I would believe as far as actual shipping and handling costs are concerned. Not eighty… not even close.
I had a conversation with a customer about why I don’t currently participate in Free RPG Day. His whole take is that advertising costs. He’s right. It does. However, I can think of other ways to drive traffic to my store for eighty, one hundred sixty, or even two hundred and forty dollars that can drive traffic to my store that will MAKE me money on that DIRECT investment. Heck, given the weekend, if I could have gotten them, I could have bought another display of the MtG: Commander decks for what each one of the Free RPG Day kits costs. Those would have turned around almost immediately to roughly double my money. Instead, Free RPG Day would have me handing money (in a different form) to customers in hopes that they may someday hand me money back.
Giveaways suck as a marketing tool. Their investment-to-return ratio is staggeringly poor. Too often you get people you’ll never see again (except to get more free stuff) wandering in to get free stuff, all the while you are hoping that some new potentially repeat customer wanders in and discovers your establishment.
For the same money, I firmly believe a store could set up its own RPG Demo Day, give away anything it wanted to (including slower moving product), and still come out ahead monetarily, with new customers to boot.
My general thoughts are that “Free RPG Day” is an event in the same way that “Valentine’s Day” is a holiday. It’s an event manufactured by an industry designed to make someone money… …but in this case, the only someone making money is the middleman.
I could be wrong, and my understanding could be off, but my gut says that I’m not…