Living in Iowa comes with some expected pros and cons. Cost of living is low, quick commute times, and great home grown meats and produce. On the flip side, no professional sports teams, and entertainment choices are somewhat lacking. That's not to say we don't have plenty of passionate sports fans here. With the AAA Iowa Cubs here, the big league Cubbies have a rabid following in central Iowa. Card shops have flourished here during peak times of the hobby, which is why I was greatly saddened to learn of the bankruptcy of one of our LCS's recently. The sportscard industry is a fickle business, and the last year has been filled with turmoil.
I have to admit I am as much to blame as anyone since I haven't visited this LCS for over a year. Prices were not very competitive and he had a wealthy enough clientele that he could move high end products like Exquisite within hours at full retail price. I would suspect that the licensing issues with Upper Deck damaged his sales greatly, as it did with numerous other shops nationwide. Profit margins are slim and online sales have taken a huge piece of the pie away.
This poses the million dollar question: Do we owe it to LCS's to support the "backbone" of the industry or do we simply go where the deals are, namely places like Blowout Cards and ebay. I can see both sides of the argument. LCS's helped make the hobby what it is today, but the price gaps have widened so far, many believe we've reached the point of no return. The online megastores would appear to be the future of the hobby, but at what cost? If LCS's continue to close(and they will), will the hobby evolve completely to the internet, or will interest simply wane, bringing the industry to it's knees? Distributors are already struggling, unable to beat Blowout prices by more than a dollar or two per box. With joe collector being able to cut out the middle man and have single boxes delivered right to his front step, you can see the dilemma shop owners face.
What about you guys? Is it worth a few extra dollars from your pocket for the local experience? I tend to believe people my age (35) who grew up staring at Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken rookie cards through glass cases, will greatly miss the face to face experience. As for the younger collectors, I don't think they will lose too much sleep over it. We have become a "now" society and things like customer loyalty are viewed as naive or pointless. Card shops could be viewed as antiquated as record shops within a few years. Yep, I miss them too.