On Saturday, I did the first of what I hope will be many 'Demo Days' where I visit a store and spend the day teaching customers my games.
I didn't do much in the way of preparation, obviously I arranged it a few weeks in advance and mentioned it in the 'Events' section of my website, but that was about it. In hindsight, I should have put in a bit more effort. The shop (Inner Sanctum Collectibles in Cambridge) had put up posters, and a window display and had been telling their regular customers about it, but I should have mentioned it here, on BoardGameGeek and Twitter to give it as much publicity as I could. In addition to leaving my personal copies with them for a week so the staff could learn the games I also brought along a couple of boxes of each game to ensure they didn't run out of stock.
On the Day
The shop's Saturday opening hours are 10-6, but they are usually pretty quiet at the end of the day so they had been advertising I'd be there 10-4. In the end I had to head off about 5 since The Wife and I were going out for dinner with some of her colleagues that evening. Cambridge is about an hour's drive so I headed off at 8:30am to ensure I wouldn't be late. I ended up getting there about 20 minutes early, which gave me a chance to set up before the shop opened at 10.
The first hour was pretty quiet, which gave me a chance to teach Carl, one of the staff, It's Alive! and Sumeria. There were some telephone enquiries about my visit (so someone was interested at least) and by about 11:15 the shop started filling up. Apparently it was a fairly quiet day for them, but my games were in use pretty much all day and were very well received. Several people wanted to play all three games, and several people wanted to play games twice (or more!).
The shop did a deal where customers got 10% off all of my games that day, and if they bought all three they got 15% off. I was surprised (but gratified!) at how many takers they had for the all-three deal, and at the end of the day, despite not having sold all their current stock (most of it had gone) they kept one case of each game, which I invoiced them for that evening.
The games well very popular (especially Carpe Astra and Sumeria), and lots of their customers bought them. I can only hope that they get played a lot and this leads to more sales for the store (and hence for me in the long run). I think the deal helped (I could inform people of the deal for today only, which led to more sales on the day I'm sure), and being there to teach people means they get the rules right first time, which is always a good thing. When I play a game for the first time I often get a rule wrong, and this can lead to a bad first impression.
Inner Sanctum was a great venue, not only do they have a great range of games (board, card, miniature and collectable) but they also have a lot of space for playing. I co-opted three tables (one for each of my games) and that still used up less than half of their table space. In addition to a light, airy well-lit space with plenty of room for the games, the staff are very friendly, and they plied me with food and drink throughout the day (including a run for doughnuts to celebrate one of the customer's birthdays!).
After a weekend of decorating and then another at the Expo, I would have really liked to take Saturday off, but it was a very valuable use of my time. Not only did I cement my relationship with one of the biggest shops in the UK, but I got my games into the hands of a lot of gamers, who really enjoyed them. Getting your games onto shelves is one half of the battle won, but until you actually have happy customers playing the games and spreading good word of mouth, that's where the games will languish. Good relationships with shops really help, since the shop staff will suggest your games to people who aren't sure what they want. Definitely a good use of my time.