Before and After: Hairy Tarantula's Remarkable WPN Premium Transformation
Hairy Tarantula is undoubtedly unique—not many game stores have a bright yellow exterior and a surprisingly cute eight-legged mascot. This quirky business has been open for almost 30 years—and, as of December 2020, the Toronto, Ontario-based store is a WPN Premium member.
It was a big step, but one they knew would be worth it to offer a more rewarding experience for their loyal, long-time customers. "We wanted to provide the best experience," says Petra Norlock, Social Media Manager at Hairy Tarantula.
They learned a lot during the year-and-a-half long journey to Premium designation.
Long-time Hairy Tarantula customers will be there no matter what. But having the Premium designation lets people know they can trust that they're going to have a reliable experience. That definitely adds a level of confidence for new customers.
Path to Premium Goal Setting: Branding, Commitment, and Organization
Close collaboration with Retail Development Specialists is invaluable for stores that are working towards Premium because they can see the potential that some storeowners may not have yet tapped into.
"You might see your store the whole time that it's been open and think, 'Oh, wow. It looks great!' But from a fresh pair of eyes, it might look a little bit different than it looks to you," says Petra.
Hairy Tarantula before starting the Path to Premium
For example, Hairy Tarantula needed to work on better expressing the store's quirky brand identity—a common challenge encountered by most stores on the path to Premium.
"We've been around for almost 30 years, so it's easy to have several identities," Petra shares. "We realized we need to pick one and really go with that."
There’s not a cookie-cutter solution to brand identity—it's something stores need to discover on their own. And it can be challenging.
"There isn't a path that's laid out where every single store has to do the same thing,” Petra adds. “Having a bunch of different opinions and different ideas can be confusing at first, but once it all does come together, it looks good. So, it's a challenge, but all good things are a challenge, right?”
The Hairy Tarantula logo, colors, and font choices can be found throughout the store.
Painting furniture, replacing floors, and building new accessible restrooms were key changes that made a huge impact on Hairy Tarantula’s brand identity and overall progress, which was slower than anticipated.
"For us to start making real progress, it had to be something that we were looking at every day," Petra recalls. "If you are focusing on it every day, it's probably not going to take you a year and a half!"
Getting to WPN Premium Faster: Retail Improvement Grant
To get things moving at a quicker pace, Hairy Tarantula applied for a Retail Improvement Grant. It gave them the funds they needed and helped them stay organized. "We wouldn't have been able to afford to do everything without it," says Petra.
"The grant gives stores a sense of their overall investment and an opportunity to get organized. It helps them put a number to what they're trying to accomplish," shares Harper O'Neill, Senior WPN Retail Relationship Development Specialist and Hairy Tarantula's partner in working towards Premium. "Plus, you're held accountable for getting those changes implemented."
I cried when we got Premium. It was amazing to announce it to our customers, especially with the pandemic, as a thank you for supporting us. We've always known that we were a great store, so the validation was also very rewarding.
Like most stores that work towards Premium, Hairy Tarantula didn't receive the designation on their first application, but after making additional changes and applying again, they reached Premium on December 17, 2020.
Reaching WPN Premium: A Worthwhile Journey
"I cried when we got Premium," Petra says. "It was amazing to announce it to our customers, especially with the pandemic, as a thank you for supporting us. We've always known that we were a great store, so the validation was also very rewarding."
Reaching Premium helped a great store with an incredible fan base accomplish even more—especially when it comes to acquiring new customers.
"Long-time Hairy Tarantula customers will be there no matter what," says Petra. "But having the Premium designation lets people know they can trust that they're going have a reliable experience. That definitely adds a level of confidence for new customers."
Advice for Retailers on the Path to Premium: Keep on Keeping On
"If there was one piece of advice I'd give to stores trying to get Premium right now, it would be to push through," says Petra. "It's a time commitment, and it's an energy commitment, and it’s financial commitment. It's going to be frustrating. It can feel impossible, but it's not."
Hairy Tarantula before starting the path to Premium (top) and after receiving their designation (above).
Ready to transform your store into the best version it can be? Check out our step-by-step guide to applying for WPN Premium to start your journey today.