Jen Henderson is a journalist breaking news in the capital region. She is a staff reporter at the St. Albert Gazette and  covers provincial and federal politics, crime and court. 

Mission Fun and Games thrives online

Mission Fun and Games thrives online

While many local businesses have been hurt by online shopping, Mission Fun and Games has thrived in the new online world.

The game shop, which has been around since the ’90s launched the first online shopping website around 2003.

Owner John Engle got into the online business early to expand his market reach beyond the local brick and mortar business. He also wanted to give his current customers a place to check to see what items he had in stock to give them another reason to shop at the store.

“My opinion is that if you don’t get in on the action then you shouldn’t complain on the action you are missing because someone else is doing it and you’re not,” Engle said. “The Internet is like anything else in retail. If you take advantage of it, you will get the pros.”

Engle’s business doesn’t just carry typical board games. The shop focuses on stocking more difficult to find titles as well as accessories, which allows them to sell 300 items per month online primarily to western Canada and Ontario.

“We truly run a very broad spectrum of the gaming industry here and we try to be a full fledged game store,” Engle said. “You try to provide a very broad spectrum of shopping accessories for your customers.”

Discount board game sellers with websites working out of their homes are the biggest threat to Engle’s business. The sellers don’t have the costs associated with traditional stores –such as staff, rent and utilities – and are able to lower their prices to undercut the prices Engle can offer.

Another challenge in the Internet board game business is Kickstarter. New games will get financed through the crowdfunding website and sell directly to the consumers online. The website allows for game developers to bypass traditional stores without a reduced wholesale price to retailers.

Despite the hurdles, Mission Fun and Games has managed to flourish in the online world. They have expanded from one website to now four associated with the shop. Some of the pages are for online shopping, while others are reserving specialty items and checking the availability of the inventory in the store.

With the multiple websites, Engle has to take extra precautions against online fraud. Even though the shop uses fraud protection software and has a system of three employees processing online orders, they still lose revenue to online fraud.

“We have far more losses to fraud in the online business than we have to shrinkage and theft in the retail store,” Engle said. “It’s primarily individuals who are using stolen credit cards and personal information to place orders online and secure product, which they then probably resell on Kijiji and get their money from that.”

Engle’s employees have been trained to spot suspicious orders but some still slip through the cracks.

The changes to the technology mean that the hiring criteria has changed for Engle over the years. It is important for his employees to be tech savvy and able to use the website to ship online orders. He now has one full time employee in charge of handing online orders while two other employees will check the process for errors. The majority of his adult staff is now trained to check and manage the website and online purchases.

On top of tech savvy in-store employees, Engle has had to invest in online shopping cart systems and website construction. One of the four websites associated with the store costs $5000 a year to run, while the lowest one only costs $20 per month.

The current shopping cart system on the site is in the third iteration and Engle said it is in need of a fourth facelift to keep up with the new technology.

Even though most of Engle’s revenue is made through the shop on St. Albert Trail, all the costs associated with doing business online have been worth it to Engle.

“There is no question that our Internet presence and the hard work and the money we have spent on the Internet has validated itself and benefitted the brick and mortar store,” Engle said.

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