4 Things You Can Learn from a Pet Shop
About seven years ago, I came back to Magic after a long hiatus. I stopped into the store I'd played in as a kid, not knowing what all I'd need but assuming I could figure it out once I got there.
When I arrived, I was overwhelmed. Dozens of boxes sat behind the counter—what was the best reentry point? Posters covered the walls, some representing decade-old expansions—what was the current set? Nothing stood out, and no one guided me.
I left empty-handed, my return to the hobby delayed indefinitely.
Magic has a long history, and that history tends to accumulate in game stores. Walls of booster boxes, floor-to-ceiling singles cases—it's a lovely sight for the engaged, but it's easy to forget how daunting it can be to the lapsed or the uninitiated.
So how can we lower the barrier?
I received a master class in just that last summer, when I adopted a cat.
My first stop after the adoption center was a local pet store chain.
Here are four things they did that made me a confident pet owner and a customer for life:
1. Educational Materials
After I was greeted, I mentioned I'd just bought a cat. Soon I was holding a manila folder with tips for new cat owners, recommended vets, checklists, and so on. All told, the bundle cost them maybe $2.00 at a copy shop. I still refer to it.
What sort of educational materials could you prepare for your new Magic players?
Option overload kicked in pretty quick when I started browsing for food. But my local pet shop simplified it by offering three complementary cans (this proved pivotal—she's picky, it turns out), with instructions to return the leftovers so they could be donated. Again, not bank-breaking—cat food runs 1 to 2 dollars a can.
Do you have Welcome Decks on hand for any curious gamers?
This one's my favorite: near the back of the store was a kind of litter exhibit, spelling out the pros and cons of different types—which varieties are best for multiple cats, which ones are biodegradable, which ones produce the least dust.
Could something similar clarify the difference between, say, a Bundle and a Deckbuilder's Toolkit? Planeswalker Decks and Booster Packs?
4. The Basics
Even with all the above-and-beyond, perhaps the most crucial part was just basic customer service: they learned my cat's name. When I returned with the leftover food, they asked about her and offered more suggestions. I haven't bothered scouting other stores.
None of these ideas are terribly labor-intensive or costly—but they add up to a powerfully effective acquisition process.
Give them a try!