As Ray noted, we've been lucky to have so many excellent games shops nearby in the Netherlands. Not just the staple of Settlers and Carcassone, but also FFG, Phalanx and other foreign publishers. Delft (where I play) and Leiden (where I live), both with a population of just over 100,000 are not particularly big to host a boardgame store, although most comparable Dutch towns have a shop carrying board games. In the small towns they often also carry Warhammer stuff, while bigger cities have separate GW stores.
Over the last years I've seen established shop owners returning to the basics, which require much less storage space and product knowledge. From one of them I've gathered that turnover was slow, with quite a few games collecting dust on the shelves and thereby reducing profitability. But specialist sections like Warhammer and board games require a significant amount of time to keep track off. You have to know the new releases, rule changes, etc etc. to keep up with the generally knowledgeable customers.
And yet, we see new shops popping up now and again. As the established shops retreat from the fringes, new shop owners step up to fill the gaps such as Malifaux, Kings of War, Dystopian Wars and Hordes. Clearly some people still try to live the dream of making a living from their hobby but as John Curry, who is republishing some of the classic wargaming books, notes, making a living from wargaming is very hard.
|Turnover of Dutch toy shops (Statistics Netherlands)|
All this together indicates to me that the current economic crisis has greatly affected gaming retailers. Together with structural changes like competition from other pastimes (computer games) and online shops challenging shop prices it is clear that the long term viability of brick & mortar game shops is in doubt.