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Retailer tells manufacturers, "Earn your space"

By Tim Kidwell
Published: July 13, 2010
In an unusual move for a store owner, Pat Fuge of Gnome Games, Green Bay, Wis., put game publishers on the spot when he proposed a contest for premium sales space in his store.

Announced in April on an Internet industry forum as the “Manufacturers Earn Your Space Contest,” Fuge said the seed for the idea was planted by one of his employees.

“She wondered why the game companies didn’t provide plan-o-grams for the products they shipped to stores,” Fuge said, mentioning that big chain stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond get weekly makeovers to keep the stores fresh.

In an effort to involve manufacturers more with the products he sells — the items they manufacture — Fuge and his team developed the “Earn Your Space” contest and set a May 29 deadline.

He created a PDF, downloadable from Gnome Games’ website, which included the contest rules, photos and measurements of the prized space, valued at $10,000 (equal to what Gnome sold in that area in 2009).

Entrants were to supply a detailed POP (point-of-purchase) plan, including bi-monthly stock rotation and POP materials.

For its part, Gnome Games agreed to provide slatwall or display shelving appropriate to the winning plan, feature the company’s product — including the display — in monthly advertising, and promised to stock the sales area with the company’s product choices, so long as they were available through distribution.

“Many [manufacturers] said that the notice was too short,” Fuge said, though they were interested. Others were annoyed.

Ultimately, Fuge said he was disappointed with the number of applications he received, and the overall quality was below his expectations. Of the four companies that responded, one entry was tossed out immediately because, according to Fuge, it did nothing more than offer to sell the store books at a better discount. Other entries advised putting up “a display and then swapping shelves … every other week,” Fuge said. “Real 1960s marketing.”

Fantasy Flight Games took the contest seriously and formulated an exceptional plan for selling its products in the store. It included the basic shelf structure, a plan for monthly shelf rotations, and a multimedia presentation based on an iPad app designed specifically for the contest and this new POP system. Fantasy Flight would even provide the iPad.

Not surprisingly, it won the contest.

Gnome Games is now in the midst of installing the new Fantasy Flight POP display system and getting it up and running.

To Fuge’s thinking, manufacturers and retailers have to work more closely if the game segment of the hobby industry is going to thrive. He sees the “Manufacturers Earn Your Space Contest” as a way to foster partnerships between the two.

“You [manufacturers] come up with a concept, and we’ll set it up and provide you with feedback,” Fuge said. “The goal is to help manufacturers put together a working system that then can be used with other stores.” Fuge also wants to provide manufacturers with real-time data, which can help companies develop better sales and marketing strategies. Those strategies can, in turn, help stores better sell products, which ultimately helps all involved.

Fuge plans to run the contest again, maybe in time for Christmas, with some improvements and the inclusion of other stores.