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Clubs & Commerce
Last Post 01-13-2012 12:24 AM by DJ Williams. 11 Replies.
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Matt PedersenUser is Offline
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12-02-2009 11:44 PM

    At first I was going to title this question "Clubs, Local Stores vs. Online Retailers" but in reality, I think it's more generally based - how do commercial interests factor into clubs?  How does your club deal with "commercial interests"?  I'm curious to hear from all sorts of folks...

    I find it hard to understand how/why clubs can find support from Local Shops, when so often clubs perpetuate some sort of "gray market" in the form of frag swaps and routine hobbyist interchange.  I've heard on more than one occasion that "hobbyists" are the bane of the local shop owner to start with..."hobbyists" milk shop employees for information and then go online, or sit and take too much time and always want to chit chat but never buy anything.  I've also heard local shop owners talk specifically about things like frag swaps...direct competition for their business and that swappers work in that gray/black market arena that makes it difficult if not impossible for a shop owner to compete.  Moreover, I've heard complaints from shop owners who simply believe (and perhaps rightly so) that clubs introduce and promote online vendors and group buys.

    I have to say, on some levels, I completely sympathize and see legitimacy in every objection a LFS owner might have over supporting a Marine Aquarium Club. 

    But my questions don't stop there?  Do we simply shift focus and "ditch" the local shops as a "club"?  If we don't bother to engage them because they seem to not want to be engaged with us, what do we do?  We all still buy things somewhere?

    Or is there perhaps a way that a club can be organized and run in a manner in which it becomes attractive to a LFS to participate in and support that local club?  I genuinely wonder, because at what point do you sacrifice "commercial independence", or perhaps freedom to discuss, without alienating your local shop supporters?

    I'd like to bypass some of the theoretical answers and bigger picture ideas (i.e. let's table discussions on whether LFS's are going to survive as we know them).  Where is the middle ground?  Or are clubs stuck in a live triangle between Online Vendors, Local Shops, and the hobbyist-based gray market, and if so, does a club have to pick one at the expense of support from the other two?
    "You only need to raise one..."
    Jeff MyjakUser is Offline

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    12-03-2009 07:55 PM
    I can speak for CTARS (Connecticut Area Reef Society). We offer local stores the opportunity to sponsor the club for $250. For that, they get to host 2 club events during the year. We hold a raffle at one of those events (we usually spend most of the $250). They put together some good deals for our members. We do not set of frag swaps for these events - those are saved for our regular meetings. We come to the store to support the store. They will often contact their suppliers to come up with better sales for that event.

    They also get a discounted table when we hold a conference. That gives them an opportunity to meet people who may have never heard of them.

    We also have a recycling program set up. Anyone an bring in metal halide bulbs to any sponsor. We will pick it up and get it recycled. At our club days, people can bring in any bulb, T5,VHO, PC, Halide and even CFL's - we will take them and recycle them. It is a win win for everyone.

    We also work with LFS to come up with group buys for our members (this will hopefully get more people into their shop). We have one of our sponsors currently offering RC Salt for $39.99 for a 200g box (which is cheaper than folks can get it on the Internet). He is getting a special deal becasue he is now able to buy it buy the pallet.
    Clubs need LFS. There are so many forums, there is no way a club can reach out to everyone in the hobby. I am amazed at how many people in CT still have not heard of our club.

    We also work with on-line vendors becuase we know that the LFS can not supply eveything our members want at a reasonible price. Marine Depot gives us an administrative fee for running gb's with them. We donate much ofthat to a local High School that runs a Marine Biology Program.

    The part I find the most difficult is the politics. Regardless of what you do, you are going to upset someone and spend a lot of wasted time explaining yourself.
    Jeff
    MASNA BoD At Large - MASNA Speak Administrator
    Scott TomkoUser is Offline

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    12-03-2009 10:37 PM
    Good points Jeff.

    CDMAS also tries to do group buy's through LFS's as well as online vendors. We also try to promote the idea of supporting our sponsors (who tend to be LFS's) in threads where people ask where to buy an item. Often an LFS will price match. Also, you can't beat going to a store and actually looking at the fish or frag you are going to buy. Not having to pay overnight shipping, wondering if its going to arrive dead...

    Frag swaps are a tricky one.
    Its always been a problem dealing with competing LFS's on our forum, as Jeff mentions. It all works out in the end though. All three of the triangle (LFS, gray market, online vendors) seem to work well together in upstate NY.

    It is possible to have a club which doesn't alienate LFS's, it just takes effort.
    Matt PedersenUser is Offline
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    12-04-2009 12:56 PM
    Posted By ScottT on 12-03-2009 11:37 PM

    It is possible to have a club which doesn't alienate LFS's, it just takes effort.

    Is there a point at which you might be over accomodating to the LFS's?  Any suggestions for showing the LFS the benefits of supporting the club?  All the ideas above certainly are good compromises.  To what lengths do you pursue LFS support, and at what point as a club do you just "give up" and move on and go with whomever has decided to support your club, LFS, Online, or Gray Market?
    "You only need to raise one..."
    Adam BlundellUser is Offline

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    12-05-2009 03:00 PM
    Hey Matt-
    Sorry for the delay in responding.

    First we break down stores like this 1) those that actively support us 2) those that should support us but they really don't 3) those that we just don't care about.
    Our supporting stores are stores that 1) may give club member discounts, 2) may donate frags to our frag fests, 3) may help sponsor meeting, etc.

    Luckily, in my area the local stores know they get great benefits from supporting the club. So we have a lot of stores that work well with us.

    WHAT WE GET
    Frags for fragfests
    Our flyers in their stores


    WHAT THEY GET
    More than anything they get successful hobbyists. When someone joins our club they become life long hobbyists, not just 6 month hobbyists.
    Advertising on our website.
    They can sponsor a meeting for $400... we do this when we bring in a guest speaker and hold a book signing at their store.
    We also hold an annual Poker Tour (thanks to Jeff above for this idea).  Our club members go out and shop at the supporting stores and for every store they shop at they get a playing card for a night of aquarium prize poker. 


    More to come...
    MASNA- Club Advisor
    Matt PedersenUser is Offline
    Copepod
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    12-05-2009 10:41 PM
    Posted By Adam Blundell on 12-05-2009 04:00 PM
    Our club members go out and shop at the supporting stores and for every store they shop at they get a playing card for a night of aquarium prize poker. 

    More to come...
    Adam, you've pointed out some great concepts...I LOVE tihs poker card idea..works great in a larger metro area with many shops.  Our "metro" area has 2-3 legitimate shops if I exclude the Petco...;)  I suppose we could do "hold-em"?!

    Can't wait to see the "more to come"..and will mull all this over some more as well.

    "You only need to raise one..."
    Adam BlundellUser is Offline

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    Goby
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    12-08-2009 09:25 AM
    Matt-
    Another idea to bulid upon the poker idea (again props to Jeff for giving us this idea).
    We thought about a "one card for each $20 you spend at a store- limit 3 cards per store". You have to include the limit or someone that is just by chance buying a new skimmer will spend $400 and get 20 cards. So this means that someone in your area could potentially spend $60 at each store, and get lets say 9 cards total or so. Then they have to take their 9 best and make a 5 card stud hand.
    We also had some tricks in place, like when they get their cards we actually wrote down on a sheet what cards they drew. That way they couldn't trade cards with a friend. So when they turned in their receipts, they drew cards, we wrote them down, and then we gave them an envelope to keep them in. It was more fun to have everyone open their envelopes together to see what cards they had.

    We also have a banquet each winter in our club. We give a pair of tickets to that banquet for free to our very top local store sponsors.

    Adam
    MASNA- Club Advisor
    CDMASUser is Offline
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    11-24-2011 10:37 PM
    Posted By Matt Pedersen on 12-04-2009 01:56 PM
    Posted By ScottT on 12-03-2009 11:37 PM

    It is possible to have a club which doesn't alienate LFS's, it just takes effort.

    Is there a point at which you might be over accomodating to the LFS's?  Any suggestions for showing the LFS the benefits of supporting the club?  All the ideas above certainly are good compromises.  To what lengths do you pursue LFS support, and at what point as a club do you just "give up" and move on and go with whomever has decided to support your club, LFS, Online, or Gray Market?

    I Implemented a membership discount card a few years back so that the stores could see how many club members were shopping in thier stores and how much they are spending each year. In return the Stores offer a 10% Discount for showing your card. This has seemed to work well as one of thier big complaint sin the past was how do we know your members are shopping in our store. The card expires annually and you are given a new one with your membership renewal.  I used an online vendor to make us very durable credit card type cards and got a great deal on them.


    This is the place I used to get them
    http://www.thelogo-mat.com/

     

    DJ WilliamsUser is Offline
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    01-06-2012 10:37 PM
    So whats the best thing you can do to make your club attractive to the lfs. Im in the dilemma of starting from scratch and no-one in the area really has any idea about what clubs are about or can offer. I try to use the opening of a petco here to to gain some leverage so to speak with the biggest reef store here, any advice you can give of other thing can use to enlighten them . Im not trying to get money from them just maybe a monthly special and or a discount for club members. What kind of traffic would a site need to sell ad space to some of the online vendors, I have been paying for everything myself and hate to ask for membership fees with thing in such infancy and fear it would turn off potential membership.Also a what point you you deem it necessary to file for non profit status and does this help with sponsors donations or discounts being a tax right off. Sorry if any of this sounds noobish any help would be great

    DJ
    Salt creep and know it alls make me cringe
    Adam BlundellUser is Offline

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    01-10-2012 11:58 PM
    That's tough. Some stores get it... some don't. But clubs can be incredibly helpful for stores. In my area we have several stores always willing and wanting to donate things to us. Why wouldn't they? We help people become successful to stay in the hobby for years to come, we have a club of hundreds of hobbyists in their area, and we provide all sorts of free advertising for them directly to their customers.
    We do things like a yearly reef tour (parade of homes) and that puts a lot of people in their stores. We never ask people to buy memberships. If they find value in the club (and in the end they all do) then they'll join. No need to pressure or anything. People will join because they want to support a good cause.

    Also- don't try to get stores to give you discounts or group buys or things like that. I think most of them see that as you trying to get stuff from them. Focus on what you can do for them, and the best thing they can do in return is let you hang up flyers or business cards promoting your meetings or events.

    Adam
    ps- will get back to you on the non profit questions
    MASNA- Club Advisor
    Adam BlundellUser is Offline

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    Goby
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    01-11-2012 03:56 PM
    Word from the club non profit guru posted below
    -----------------------

    Honestly, I don’t know at what point a club should file for non-profit status. Technically it should be done at time of formation of the club, but if there are 4, 6 or even 10 friends that are getting together to discuss, learn and trade I probably wouldn’t call it a club, just a friendly get together. If on the other hand they are soliciting sponsors, donations and members it’s probably a good thing to start it out right as a non-profit.

    As for tax write offs, they would need to file for 501c3 status to qualify for donations being tax deductable
    MASNA- Club Advisor
    DJ WilliamsUser is Offline
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    01-13-2012 12:24 AM
    Thank for the input Adam. I was thinking that it is probably best to start off that way. Ill do some research into to it hopefully it will be something that I can get done myself, just hate to have to pay a lawyer to file to paper work. The info here on the site has been helpful for getting things going in the right direction, have alot of people interested hopefully this will fly.

    DJ
    Salt creep and know it alls make me cringe
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