Richard Early: The WPN Premium Snowball
Richard Early is the owner of Paradox Comics-N-Cards, a WPN Premium location in Fargo, North Dakota.
Recently, my shop hosted what we called an “Open House Party"—a free evening of Magic including demo deck giveaways, booster pack hand-outs, old promos, and even a few end-of-night awards.
We generated nearly twenty new DCI numbers. We had lapsed players, first-time players, players from other games, shy boyfriends and girlfriends. We broke down the barriers of entry fees, tournament pairings, and social anxiety.
I walked around a happy room—a room that featured new paint and wood-carved mana symbols—and I felt unsatisfied.
The metrics were amazing. We generated the kind of new players we only see at a Prerelease. But reaching WPN Premium made me look in the mirror at who I was, what I was doing, and why I believed my shop was here. I was unsatisfied because I knew I could do better.
Premium got me to say "yes" to something bigger and better. Putting people in a seat to play a card game is the goal, but putting them at a table I don’t like, or not having a food counter or not giving them the lighting or the sound that they’d enjoy—all of it—is not enough anymore.
Even if I gave them all that, I would be looking for more. The truth is that Premium is about taking a dream of a better shop and giving you the tools to make it come true. It’s about empowering you as a business partner to get out there and be the best you that you can be.
When Premium was announced, I already thought of my store was an industry leader.
I had twenty-six years of experience in retail and running Pro Tour Qualifiers, a staff of experts, and we just remodeled and added a new website. Me and mine were feeling good. In fact, several of my employees scoffed at the Premium checklist—we already knew we embodied it.
The thing is the checklist isn’t the whole story. I’d say it’s the cover on the book.
Granted, meeting the requirements therein is a daunting task. I knew that we 80% met the list, and that philosophically I represented what Wizards was talking about. The last five years or so, both Wizards and I navigated the challenges of modern retail, and I hadn’t felt aligned with them until this.
Since the Wizards Play Network started, the number of shops out there has skyrocketed. And god bless all of them/you, but that's made it harder than ever to distinguish our shop from the crowd. Premium gives everybody the tools to do just that—it challenges every shop to greatness.
Premium is an idea, and once you embrace it, the snowball becomes an avalanche.
It’s cost a lot of money and time to get this far. It’ll cost a lot more in the next year. When Wizards asked me to write this article, they asked me to talk about how I measure the return on those investments.
The truth is, I don’t care. Even if my sales and attendance remain flat, Wizards invested in me, and now I’m investing in my shop, and my shop is investing in my community. The return is a better life doing what I want to do and providing a place for gamers to find their people.
WPN members who reach Premium by December 1 are eligible for Premium benefits for Theros Beyond Death season, including upgraded and expanded marketing materials.
Go here to get more information and apply for Premium.