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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Brick & Mortar Magic Shops, an endangered species? (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Tony Curtis
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I would be interested to hear the views from readers on the future of brick and mortar magic shops. It would seem that the internet has taken is toll on them. This I would presume is because of the lower running costs over having a shop taking into account the rent, electricity, staff & stock inventory. There are now only two left in London Davenports & International Magic and that’s a major city of the world. So what does the future hold for a traditional magic shop? I wait for your replies.
Review King
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Hopefully, they all close. No need for them anymore, except maybe for nostalgia reasons.

I hate brick and mortar magic shops. Don’t like the sales people that annoy you the moment you walk in. But over the weekend I visited one. I was in the area, hadn’t been to one in years and decided to take a look.

Well, I walk in and am asked by this salesman “What brings you here today?”. Right off I’m annoyed. Why can’t they say hi or welcome, let’s us know if we can help you.

So instead of letting them have it, I decide to play their little game. “Thought I’d stop by and look around." That of course is not good enough.

I walk past the salesman and go to the DVD rack and he comes over “What type of magic are you interested in?" I say, a little bit of everything. Never sure quite what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it. He’s annoyed now.

I’m looking around and enjoying browsing, but amazed at the high prices, when another salesman comes up a big book and says “Did you know Tabary has a new book?” I say “ Oh, I heard about that”. He says “Do you know who he is?”

I say. Yes, he’s the brilliant French magician that put out those wonderful rope videos a few years back.

He gets excited and says “Well, there’s things in the book he didn’t put on the videos”. I say, no way. He held back? He thinks he has me. The book is over $70. I say, can you put the book aside for me while I continue to shop? I never said I wanted it, just could he put it aside. He thinks I’m buying it.

That’s not enough. He then starts to peddle. Anything he can. I just keep saying “Can you put that aside for me”. Well, there’s the book, a couple of coins effects, some horrible card effects, a crappy HUGE wallet. Must be over $400 worth of items.

I go to the counter and pretend to get call on my cell phone. I tell him I have a bad connection in the shop and have to step outside. And then…I get in my car and drive away. HAHAHAHAHHAHA.

That’s the way to deal with sales folks. Ever get telemarketers peddling time shares? I do the same thing. I let them go through their spiel, pretend I’m hot for the product and in the middle of a sentence, hang up.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Tony Curtis
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Dear me I must have touched a nerve starting this topic...
Review King
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I just can't stand these shops that are run like GAP stores. All they want to do is sell, sell, sell. They don't care about the customers. You can run a magic shop and care about the person buying. But they are run like used car lots.

Then they complain about the internet running them out of business. Well, competition is good for the consumer. The person these shops long forgot about.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
Tony Curtis
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Well that’s the view of MagicChris, so does anyone have anything to add further?
Chrystal
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Hi,

I'm a HUGE, HUGE fan of these shops and will always go out of my way to support them, rarely purchasing anything online. Even if I have to pay a few dollars more I will support the brick and mortar shops. It's not just the camaraderie and networking that exist but it supports the local magic community. Yes, they are a dying breed and sadly two of my favorite shops closed their doors a couple years ago. I even worked in one for a year and made a lot of friendships.

Those that run the shops usually complain of having many visit their stores, with the intent of chitchatting and informal meetings with others. The hang around but don't buy anything much to the chagrin of the store owner whom depends on purchases to cover his cost. Magic shops provide a wealth of information and are usually in the know of what magic events are coming up, ring meetings, lectures, that sort of thing. Unlike purchasing online..you can view items in the store and demonstrations and once you purchase an item the store clerk or owner will show you how it works. (Ethical ones will only do this after you make your purchase.) If something breaks or you're having trouble with it, it's been my experience that the Brick and Mortar shops will do everything to keep their clients happy.

I will always continue to support these stores no matter what city or country I visit. You'll always make new magical friends and experience camaraderie.

As to your question..sadly I do see a trend regarding these shops as they do cater to a small percentage of society and many have to resort to having other things in their store. Party items, Costumes, Gags, that sort of thing to have a larger customer base. Even with the net I hope they continue to survive. I will continue to support them.

Chrystal
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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There are a few in my area, and one I rely on not only for a quick place to grab supplies or replacement props, but a good place to keep up on local magic-related news.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
Paul Sherman
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What a good brick and mortar store offers, that the internet will never have is 1) a knowledgeable sales staff that can point you towards magic you'll like, 2) demos performed competently and in real-time (not internet videos from ideal angles), and 3) instant gratification.

Brick and mortar stores will never disappear completely. They'll survive in tourist areas (unfortunately, those shops suck), metropolitan areas that have a large customer base, and as side businesses in costume shops and novelty shops.

Obviously many are supplementing their brick and mortar business with an Internet business. I prefer to patronize these stores instead of purely online businesses, because I know I'm helping keep a brick and mortar afloat.

Having worked in a brick and mortar store, I'm glad I never encountered anyone like MagicChris. I was paid to sell product, not to session with guys, put on a free magic show, or let guys read books and magazines they weren't going to buy. But even though I was a "salesman", if any customer ever told me that they just wanted to browse, I let them know that that was fine and that I'd be happy to answer any questions they had. In the future, I'd suggest that if you don't want to be bothered, tell the clerk you're just interested in browsing and let him use the time he saves to restock, do inventory, or clean counterspace.

Paul
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maxello
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I am a Internet Magic Dealer myself, but to be honest with you:

I LOVE to go inside Brick and Mortar Magic Shops for looking and "smelling" the Atmosphere there.

I always find something I cant refuse to buy.

No, I hope these shops will survive!!!
Arve Lisland
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Kent Wong
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I am an avid supporter of brick & mortar stores and I believe there will always be a place - for the good ones. I am extremely fortunate that I have access to probably one of Canada's best magic stores within only a few short hours drive. Here are some of the positives:

1. He has a huge selection of products at prices that very competitive prices.
2. Any product he doesn't have, he can usually get in within 2-5 days.
3. The service is excellent and, I know if I ever have a problem with a product, he will be there to make things right.
4. He knows everything and everyone in the local magic community and takes active steps to keep everyone informed of current events.
5. He gives candid, honest opinions about products and whether they will fit my performing style and needs.
6. Since the owner is also a professional performing magician, he is able to provide invaluable guidance and advice on the performance of effects and routines.

These are just some of the benefits of my local shop and, every time I visit, I have a tremendous time. In fact, I have gotten to know the owner and all of the other staff in the shop so well that when it gets busy, I just step behind the counter and start performing! I know that when it gets busy, they can't just ignore their other customers and chat with me - so instead of being part of the problem, I become part of the solution.

Now, its true that not everyone gets treated this way when they walk into the shop, but that takes time. The owner and staff need to get to know you, your likes and dislikes and your abilities. Only then can they gauge your needs and suggest products that are suitable for you.

Personally, I do most of my shopping at the local store. The only time I buy online is when my local store cannot get a product (for instance, if it is exclusive to someone else). Also, I'm very upfront with the owner. I'll actually tell him that I saw such a product online for a certain price, and I'll ask if he can get it in. If he can get the product, I'll usually buy it even if it cost a little more.

I do fear for the future of the brick & mortar stores, especially with the onslaught of online suppliers. But I'm trying to do everything I can to prevent that from happening.

Kent
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Jonathan Townsend
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Interesting... have you read a book on sales?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
El_Lamo
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I love visiting magic shops. When I travel, I make it a point to go to any that I can find. I visit magic shops, toy shops with magic, games shops with magic, etc. They are wonderful places with real people.

When I am in a city with a genuine magic shop, I get the opportunity to meet both people interested in the magic hobby and the magic business. I can't imagine losing that opportunity.

95 % of all my purchases are from brick and mortar stores or the actual creator. I know that I am paying a bit more to do this, but I believe in helping them survive. By purchasing from the creator, sometimes I save a bit which offsets the higher shop price and sometimes I pay the same amount which ensures that the creator makes a bit more on the sale. Hopefully, it balances out.

Real stores have real stories. The air is filled with the banter, boasts, bravado and brotherhood witnessed throughout the years. Real stores are filled with the real workings. They sit as giant encyclopedias of magic, every page enticing, encouraging, challenging those in pursuit of all that remains elusive, all that requires more dedication and practice.

Cheers - El Lamo
Life is a system of circumstance presented coincidently in an illusory way.
Frank Tougas
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I too am a fan of brick and mortar stores, but I fear they will go the way of the ma and pa store which were virtually wiped out by convenience stores, variety stores almost wiped out by Target, K Mart and Wal-Mart stores.

Personally I hate going online to find a magic trick, I'd rather sit and browse through a good old fashioned catalog, then go see it up close and personal in a store setting.

Yes, I know financially I can get a better deal with an on line store, but a better deal isn't always what I'm looking for.

A real store has a certain charm that will never be equaled by the computer. I am afraid that those stores which continue to survive will have to add on a lot of items like rubber vomit to survive or will have to be a mega mart with absolutely everything magic imaginable. Those living close enough will still have their store but without the charm waiting for a blue light special on aisle five, while the rest of us peruse our e-catalogs and dial an 800 number.

I wonder how popular the Harry Potter stories would be if instead of buying wands and magic books in colorful little back alley shops it was done with a lap top?

Frank Tougas
Frank Tougas The Twin Cities Most "Kid Experienced" Children's Performer :"Creating Positive Memories...One Smile at a Time"
fanwun
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Actually MagicChris, if it weren't for these shops, not many of us would be here. Yes, you may get updates on events from your local ring, but how did you find out about the ring? You can go online and buy a prop from Singapore. Still, the guy sitting on the other side of the world, behind his computer, will not be able to refer a show to you in your area.

You can also get a discounted price on many items, but you will never get an honest opinion online. Why? Because, they are not interested in you. I hate to bust your bubble, but they care even less than you think the guy behind the counter does. They don't care if you are able to properly perform what you bought. They don't even care who you are. You could be the masked magician and your sole purpose for buying an effect is to expose on TV. Guess what! Tom Salesman with the online shop does not care! The brick and mortar shop may not care either, but at least you would have to feign interest in magic.

I agree with you that some stores have crappy attendants. Still, I'd take a grumpy sales person over a someone who lie about whatever they're selling just to get you to buy it. Yeah, you might get a demo of an effect online, but the demo will only provide the best case scenario. You do not have the luxury of examining the performance in person, so you'll have to leave angle problems to trial and error.

Personally, I use both. There are things that are exclusive to some dealers, so buying online becomes a must. For my supplies, and general magic items, I like to go to the brick and mortar. I've never met a store clerk/magician that did not want to have an impromptu session. Still, you have to be mindful, and respectful, of the fact that they work in a business. When customers come in, the session takes a back seat. Heck, when customers come in, I play stoole pigeon. I act as if I just walked in a few minutes before they did, and I even give reactions to whatever is performed. Sometimes, I'll even demo some effects.

Lastly, the thing I love about the brick and mortar shop in my area is everything! The shop owner is knowledgeable and always wants to help. He's also reasonable with his prices. The icing on the cake is that he opens his floor, which is huge, for any practicing magician to strut his stuff. Or, you can take an icon like Denny & Lee's. You can go there, buy an effect and get a lesson. It's not a magic school, but if you need help with something, Denny is always there to point you in the right direction. If he doesn't teach it to you himself, he will point to the exact video or book that will. You just don't get that kind of service online.
Bill Palmer
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Chris:

You may not like brick and mortar magic shops. That's fine. You may find their "lame greetings" and "idiotic chatter" to be a pain in the rear. So maybe one of these days you will actually have a friend who runs a good shop.

There are some bricks and mortar shops that are of little value. The Penguin Kiosk on Fremont in Las Vegas, for example. That could blow away tomorrow and I wouldn't miss it a bit. But places like Frankel's magic counter -- excellent shop. Or Joe Stevens' magic shop. Or Denny's. While they may have different opinions of some of the videos, their job is a bit more complex than you may understand. They sell products. They teach you how things work. They take care of what you need, so you will come back and buy more.

Show me an internet shop that can actually teach you what you are doing wrong, and I'll perform the loaves and fishes for you.

And then there is the aspect of the traveling magician. I have visited magic shops in six different countries. In two different shops in Germany, they recognized me instantly and pointed to things I had written or that featured me in a magazine. In Vienna, the proprietor of one of the best tiny shops I have seen knew who I was. I still order merchandise from these people.
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magicsojourn
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I am a magic shop owner and have been in sales for a good portion of my life, no GAP stores however I have sold automobiles.

A magic shop is a place where people can come to learn about the art of Magic. Of all my customers, 90% of them are new to magic. A magic shop is a retail business, not to meet, greet & qualify is a big injustice to both the salesperson & the customer. Granted most magicians are not salespeople & most salespeople are not magicians. I try to make the customer feel at home by introducing myself & getting their name. I also try to see where they are in magic, beginner, intermediate or advanced. I do not try to top anybody in my store because I am here to sell not entertain. I try to give the customer what he needs as opposed to what he wants.

If a beginner comes in and just seen somebody floating a bill at a kiosk in a mall I try to gage their interest in magic. I would rather them walk out with scotch & soda and be able to do the trick within a few minutes then to sell them a float effect that they will probably not master, put the trick in the closet and never see them again as a customer because I did not find out what skill level they were. You can ascertain this information in a nice friendly manner without getting on their nerves. Also I try to demo and teach using the sales tool, the KISS principal - Keep It Simple Stupid. You want the customer to be both amazed but also to be comfortable in doing the effect themselves.

A brick & mortar shop is a place to see before you buy and then be instructed on how to do the effect. It is also a place where magicians can come to talk magic, get new ideas & buy tricks, videos, books, magazines & accessories.

I stay competitive in pricing, current in what's new and have a back room for parties, lectures & classes. If I don't have it in I can usually get it in within a week(customer oriented). I try to be fair in pricing, friendly and knowledgeable for the customer.

That's my take on a retail magic shop. Good post Tony, by the way I like your tricks.

Magically yours,
John B.
John Bodner
Genesis 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you. For to you, and to your seed, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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MagicChris,

You have either had some horrible experiences with magic shops, or you are simply too polarized, for whatever reason, to accept the possibility of a good experience, even if it happens.

My area has three brick and mortar shops...all with good, helpful people.

Steve
Dr. Lao: "Do you know what wisdom is?"
Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
Tony Curtis
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Thank you for all your interesting comments and thoughts. Please keep them coming.
Marshall Thornside
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In order for Brick & Mortar to survive it needs to reach beyond the rim of their area.

Its a delicate balance to keep the survival of both, there's always something one offers that others don't.

In my opinion, a shop where they actually make the magic.

I for one, love them. I grew up in them.

The only reasons why the posters above say they don't like them is they never been
in one that had an overflow of very famous, and very respectable magicians who were actually very kind and encouraging to anyone.

I don't mean chains.

Real to honest to good independent old fashioned magic shops run by people who not only love magic, but are willing to share what is best.

Just like independently run music stores.

Same thing, a place where you meet people and start up a conversation and learn from each other.

It not about ego, its about the passion.
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Tony Curtis
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What worries me is there where six shops or more in London when I first became involved in magic now there are two. I am sure the same thing has happened in many other major cities around the word. It would be sad to think that one day they could all be but a memory.
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