Last month I dropped into Cogs the Brain Shop in Stephens Green shopping center and had a chat with entrepreneur Conor Brady about his store, a game shop, specializing in physical board games and activities to suit all ages.
When did you set up shop?
The stored opened in the beginning of August 2013, we’ve had our first Christmas which was mayhem. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been open over six months but we have and the shop has changed quite a bit in that time. I’m completely new to retail and it was a big learning curve which was good.
What was your main aim in opening a games shop like this?
Its an interest but it cant just be an interest, I had to combine an interest but it had to be a profitable business as well. I gave up a job in commercial property to do this, one year goes into the next in the old job or that’s how it felt, so I wanted to pursue this and I did. There’s always an element of wondering if you’re looking through rose tinted glasses because you want it to succeed in your own head so you make positive assumptions but its worked out ok, we had a great Christmas and I’m delighted I did it.
Do you get much footfall traffic here?
Footfall isn’t great but, it is a nice location its in the center of town right beside the Luas, right beside Grafton street.
How do you choose the products for the store?
When I was starting out I put a huge amount of time into the products. Now repeat customers come in and recommend games. The best thing is to see a game physically, the odd time I take a punt on a game because some one recommended it, but I check out reviews talk to suppliers and see if they can send samples, alternatively I go to toy fairs like Essen in Germany and test them out.
One of the things I really do like about the store is when I pop in and ask how something works everyone knows how to play it?
We try not to have blind spots, generally we try to know the games. Sitting in a box it doesn’t mean much to people, so generally where possible we try to open games up and try them out.
The layout of the store seems to be geared one half towards older kids(and adults) the other younger?
We started off ranging products by area of benefit, visual perception, critical thinking, memory and word skills, but that’s lost a little of the structure now its a little bit more mixed up. When people come in they are looking for things for an adult or a teenager, thats what the ask for more than I’m looking for something for memory or logic. The shop has changed, you start out with a plan of layout but it changes over time.
Are there promotional benefits around Dublin?
People like when they hear you’re a start out, they do want to be helpful, even people saying I must tell my friends, obviously they like the shop but there is an element of trying to help a start up business. Newstalk’s been really great. When you’re stating out any free publicity is brilliant because obviously most people starting out wont have huge finances for these things.
There is a website?
Is there scope for looking into game events?
The gamers have a good community. There was a tabletop day recently where they were playing various games, like Settlers of Catan, we participated in that. We have a section of those kind of games but the majority of ours wouldn’t be in that section (tabletop games). We have games like Cranium which is surprisingly hard to get around town and a lot of family games and then a lot of developmental games for children.
A nice mixture of things!
I have a nephew, Harry and he’s good for testing games out here, he sees his picture up behind the till and I think he thinks its his place. For the whole family, I love the idea of having interactive games, that’s the best feedback we get when people say that X game was great to play over Christmas.
We don’t make enough games in this country even if its designed here its made in the far east. Rory Story cubes have gone around the world, designed in Ireland but its not made here. We have a nice one called Tara and another one called Smorgase board a foodie game we sold over Christmas which I intend to get back in again. People want to support Irish business but they want to see Irish products in the shops as well.
Pop into Cogs the Brain Shop in Stephan’s Green Shopping center and I promise you wont be disappointed. Let me know if you pop in and what you think about it.