1.07.2009

Point of View: Talking with a Card Shop Owner.

In an era of eBay and big box stores, what's a lone card shop proprietor supposed to do? For one thing, figure out ways to adapt quickly. When asked why he gave up selling on eBay, the owner of Derek's Dugout in Albuquerque, New Mexico responded, "It's more like eBay gave up on me," because the online auction giant made it clear to him that its priority lies in protecting buyers. Fees have risen, feedback rules have changed, and seller protections seem minimal. So Derek relies solely on sales at his brick and mortar store. "The competition with eBay is in my attitude," he says.

He tries to come up with fresh approaches to presenting cards.

For example, soon the store will have cases for specific price ranges. "If you come in with ten dollars in your pocket, I'll have everything that's ten dollars in one display case," and that will be true for higher amounts too. Derek is also "not afraid of sales" and holds them frequently.

The 2000 square foot shop is located in a pleasant small shopping center, and the premises have a spacious, airy feel. He's aware that from the customer's perspective, nothing quite compares to the combination of in-person inspection and instant gratification, and he believes the shop's professional appearance is important.


Another aspect of being competitive, he says, is that "I don't go on trends alone" as he tries to stay separate from the frenzy of cards' fluctuations in value. You can buy high-end materials at the shop, from the framed jerseys to cards autographed by major stars to vintage and offbeat items,

but you can also find a deal if you have some time and the patience to look through thousands of cards that cost anywhere from ten cents to a dollar. In our experience, that is what Lucy finds the most fun.

An item--say, a jersey--may cost more at his shop than on eBay, but Derek thinks he provides an important service by offering a tidy, friendly environment where potential buyers can see the jersey up close, have him frame it and know that, for instance, the glass won't end up broken in the mail. But Derek says that when customers find a bargain, that experience makes them want to come back. When asked what buyers seek, he said new products are probably at the top of the list, but many also look to complete sets or find older cards.

There are now team sets available at the back of the store--for example, if you're seeking the 1983 Topps team set of the Braves, on the tables at the back is where you'll find it. Another browsing area: boxes filled with random cards of your chosen team. This is my favorite stop.

When our family visits card or comic stores (the latter for our older daughter, who is always seeking an angle on manga) there is often a less than streamlined element apparent in the place. Small shop owners might increase traffic if they kept stores organized. Sure enough, we have often seen women, couples, and girls--a customer base we rarely meet when visiting comic stores and other card shops--looking comfortable at Derek's.

Where does his propensity for neatness stem from? "When I was a kid I used to go to a card shop that was owned by a Type A personality, and that always stuck with me," he says. He also finds it easier to find specific items quickly.

He doesn't understand when card shop owners don't aim to please and is also appalled when clerks at large outlets are not trained to treat customers in a friendly and welcoming manner. One instance where this made a positive difference: Lucy appreciated how upbeat he was about looking at her smile card collection binder.

He started selling cards at shows along with a friend when he was eleven. Derek has extensive experience in retail but became disillusioned with the corporate milieu and with the necessary sameness built into the chain store approach to sales. He decided to take the plunge with his own card shop so he can be independent and put some of his own ideas into action. But it's a profoundly different world than selling in the corporate retail environment. "When you walk into a grocery store to buy a loaf of bread, you don't say, 'can you give me a deal on two?'," Derek says. "There are people who think I'm going to be here forever. And I've noticed that the same person asking for a fifty percent discount is often the one complaining because there aren't enough card shops."

Quick questions.

What are some of the recent memorable pulls that your customers have enjoyed? A Jim Thorpe jersey, a Bo Jackson Triple Threads triple multi-colored jersey 1/1 auto printing plate.

How do you contend with pack searchers? "I throw them out."

What are your favorite baseball card sets, past and present?

1954 Topps,

1984 Donruss,

and 2008 Topps Chrome.

"I do like refractors," he says. Based on what Derek has seen come out of boxes in his shop this year, what he calls bang for the buck, he also likes 2008 Topps Triple Threads.

If there are any questions you'd like to pose to Derek, let us know and we'll ask the next time we visit Derek's Dugout. Or perhaps you might pay a visit yourself: the address is 5842 Osuna Rd NE in Albuquerque.

13 comments:

Dave - Fielder's Choice said...

Sounds like a great hobby shop! How are the prices? Are they much higher than market value? I find myself staying away from the hobby shops around here due to their excessively high prices.

AlbuqwirkE said...

I love Derek's...

FanOfReds said...

Nice job! Like Dave, I find myself unable to shop at hobby shops because of too high prices. Interesting take on eBay as well.

paulsrandomstuff said...

That looks like a really nice shop.

Maybe it's a good thing my local one doesn't look like that... I spend enough in there already. ;)

dayf said...

Cool, sounds like a good shop. I like that everything's priced and organized. It drives me nuts when there's no prices on anything.

Chuck's Used Cards said...

Glad to see the shop battling ebay.

It takes special people to keep the store running. Brings back good memories.

Good Luck !

capewood said...

If that store was located near me I'd be in there every week. The only place like it in the area closed over 5 years ago.

RWH said...

I have to echo the others who wish they had a shop like that in their area. I'd be there regularly.

Groat said...

It absolutely looks like a great card shop. There is a card shop located near where my parents live that is nice and friendly, but the merchandise is so scattered it's tough to find anything specific. Whenever I'm visiting the area, I like to go and buy something because even though the prices may be higher I know I'm supporting an individual who is living his dream.

HookMan said...

Thanks for this blog post! Very nice looking shop!

psad21 said...

Great post! It's always been my dream to own my own card shop. I agree with most of the comments above though...as much as I want to support the local card shop, it's so hard to spend my money there when I can probably get double my money's worth online. I do, however, always get my card supplies there. It's also nice when you have a craving to rip open a few packs but don't want to wait on shipping times.

tastelikedirt said...

There's no card shops close to where I live, but there are a couple coin shops that have a few cards.

Joey said...

If Derek wants to expand his operations to East Texas that would be like a walk off Grand Slam for me.

We haven't had a decent shop around here in years.