I'm just curious about this topic, and I wondered if there were any vendors in the forum who could give some insight. My basic question is, do you make a profit at GenCon selling, or do you go for the visibility and write it off as advertising and make up the difference later?
I'm creeping toward retirement, and am hunting around through the various active and passive ways of providing a little extra income. Plus, I've always enjoyed GenCon (especially since it moved nearby to Indy). The thing that scares me, though, are all of the jokes/references about "What is the best way to have a million dollar gaming company? Start with a two million dollar gaming company and wait a year." :-\
The way I've always understood it is that vendors selling lots of stuff and/or expensive stuff make money. Chimera, CoolStuff, the weapons and costuming booths, large companies selling multiple products in their line (fantasy flight, e.g.) etc.
The vendors selling single products--RPGs, books, new board games, etc--struggle to break even and consider it marketing.
Broad brush strokes there of course. And there's an economy of scale--I think the larger game companies will do better than a small company selling one game out of a single-cell booth. The larger booths cost more, but from what I've been told, the sales (if they do well) make up for it. Size might be more important in the end than what it is that they are selling. Chimera isn't getting vendor space to advertise, they are selling tons of stuff to make a profit.
And then there's the companies like the game table manufacturers, who aren't bringing in the money there at the con necessarily, but are taking orders that will bring in more money later.
Just as an interesting data point:
You may have noticed a vendor at Circle Center Mall, between the escalators and the food court. Unfortunately I don't remember the name, but it was one I had seen in the exhibit hall in years past. They were selling costume clothing, armor, weapons, jewelry, and some general gaming supplies (dice, dice bags, little boxes, etc.).
I chatted with one of the folks working there, and they mentioned they were able to rent a good-sized storefront in the mall for less than the cost of a much smaller booth at Gen Con. Plus, they could have changing rooms, a break area for staff, and restrooms.
Now, the Circle Center mall isn't doing very well, so the rent might be surprisingly cheap. But I thought it was interesting that you could get a whole store (the space was about the size you'd expect for a clothing store in the mall) for less than the cost of a booth.
For another data point, I do know two artists who have exhibited at Gen Con in the past (neither does now), and they felt they were doing well if their sales covered their expenses (booth, hotel, travel, and dining). The real benefit for them was being seen by game publishers. In both cases they got some commissions out of it.
Great info so far, thank you. I'd like to retire into something that I've always wanted to do, but that doesn't mean either that 1) I'll be any good at it, or 2) I'll make any money at it... *heh*.
There were a couple of gaming stores within walking distance that stayed open during the Con, and one of them seemed to be getting some good business.
They said that it was doing well, though they weren't specific, and I didn't feel it was my place to press. There were other customers in while we were there (lunchtime Friday), and at least a couple of them were making purchases.
In addition to costume stuff and gaming stuff, they were selling some airsoft guns, which I don't think they could have done in the dealer hall. So that may have factored into their decision as well. Just speculating on that.
It's interesting to hear about "tangential" (for lack of a better word that I can come up with at the moment) locations like this. Something worth keeping in mind.
Yeah. Though it's probably also worth remembering that Geek Chic also ran a storefront in the mall during Gencon - the year they went bankrupt. Not that I'm implying a correlation (I don't think that had much to do with their financial woes) but still...
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