Magic Store or Well-Stocked Affiliate?

Some magic store owners didn’t realize they made the switch!

If you own a magic shop, you are constantly searching for new ways to expand your marketshare, increase your product range, and better serve your customers.

But sometimes that means embracing new technologies or unconventional archetypes. It’s important to explore all aspects of these new models to ensure the concept fits your longterm goals, and at the very least, be aware when you take your business in a whole new direction.

Example: magicians visit the magic shop’s website, order a digital product, and are then redirected from the store’s website to a third party where the customer downloads the product.

This is known as an affiliate program. And the magic shop, instead of being referred to as a “store,” is called an affiliate. The term affiliate may apply to the shop as a whole, or to just one section of the shop’s website. A shop may begin as a traditional store and then convert—gradually or all at once—to an affiliate.

Photo by Jayson Shenk.

Photo by Jayson Shenk.

In non-magic industries, the affiliate concept is also known as “The Gallery Model.” Typically, the gallery model is used as part of a lead generation program—the main company builds its own mailing list and customer base from “tentacle” sites that feed the larger enterprise.

Since traffic sent to the fulfillment site has purchased a product, lead generation via the gallery model is a good way to capture real customers while filtering out casual visitors. Even if the customer only paid one dollar, it still means they are the cream of the crop—the best the referral site’s mailing list has to offer.

As far as the magic business is concerned, nobody is claiming third party digital vendors are recording customer info for the purpose of capitalizing on those customers directly (other than the initial sale of course). Similarly, magic vendors are unlikely to share customer info with content providers as a means to prove sales and to factor royalty; in this industry, such providers are often direct retail competitors with the affiliate sites.

One way to ensure these situations do not occur is to verify the vendor’s target demographic before choosing a third-party affiliate program. Does the vendor advertise their products and services exclusively to retail companies? Does the vendor’s online following exceed the number of potential clients? If so, that company may covet the same customer base as you.

Like merchants from any industry, magic shop owners are drawn to the idea of affiliate programs because they are fast, easy, and have zero up-front costs to get started—the exact opposite of the traditional store model. That’s not to say this is a bad arrangement by any means. Some magic stores want to be affiliates—commission is simple compared to gross and net. “Affiliate” should not be considered an evil word.

But even if you are not an affiliate, you should still be aware that as the affiliate model gains popularity, it alters—fundamentally—the industry landscape for everyone.

Eventually, the biggest buyer or “storer” of goods is no longer the most important client to vendors. The greatest assets are high-traffic online magic shops—galleries—who send the vendor the greatest number of customers. Magic stores with tangible inventory are unnecessary in this model.

That means website owners with zero buying power, but with heavy traffic flow, are more valuable to a vendor than the merchant who actually stocks a dozen DVD’s here and there. The affiliate model puts internet-only-including-no-warehouse-start-ups on equal footing with the “big guys.”

There are some powerful advantages too. The affiliate model opens the industry to more retail outlets, a larger market for content producers, and greater access to magic products by potential customers in areas of the world previously restricted.

In short, there are only two ways to distribute downloadable content. By affiliate program or by royalty free license. Merchants should consider the pros and cons of both systems and make a choice that best reflects their longterm goals.

Magician Spotlight: Mr. Bubble Wrap, Eric Buss!

comedy-imaginator-newEric Buss, “The Funny Magician that builds cool stuff,” was already well-known in the magic industry before his energetic appearance on America’s Got Talent. His incREDiBULL was an international best seller upon release and is still popular today.

Eric started “to tinker” in his dad’s workshop when he was eight, and began learning magic tricks at sixteen. When he combined the two, he found his calling—mixing his “high-octane sugar rush of comedy into a non-stop ride of mischief and magical gadgetry that most people could never imagine.”

Eric, a Second City Comedy School graduate, has performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, who called his performance, “Tremendous, sensational, and beautiful.” 10 million people watched him on AGT. Eric has performed on five continents and appeared on TV in seven countries, including an hour-long television special in Korea solely dedicated to his work.

We caught up with the incREDiBULLy busy Eric Buss right after his performance at Magic on the Beach and asked him a few questions about his crazy combinations and his thoughts on magic shops.

WholesaleMagic: How was the convention this year? Did you compete?

Eric Buss: It was a classy event and they really know how to take care of their performers. No, [other than America’s Got Talent] I haven’t competed since 1999. UPS decided not to deliver my props for the gala show. So, I ended up doing the same act for the cabaret show (for magicians only) as I did in the gala show (for magicians AND laymen). I had a few different additions, but I had to use the props that I had with me.

WholesaleMagic: Sounds tough. You obviously have a unique style, does that make it harder or easier for you to find venues for your act? What are your preferred venues?

Eric Buss: I enjoy performing in theaters and performing art centers. These are probably also some of the most competitive markets for performers. I think originality is important, but it also takes a lot longer to get established.

WholesaleMagic: What was the result from appearing on America’s Got Talent? The good and the bad.

Eric Buss: AGT was a great experience, even though it didn’t go as planned. I don’t regret it, and now I have even more great footage from TV. People in the real world forget about results anyway. It’s on my promotional video, which was one of the goals in the first place. It’s a tough show, since they have so much control… but sometimes you gotta take the gamble.

WholesaleMagic: Do you endorse any online sites that help book gigs?

Eric Buss: Not really. Most of my magic gigs come from recommendations or me directly sending video links (or DVDs) to venues, directors, corporate gigs, etc. I have nothing against those websites, but it seems most of them focus on private parties.

WholesaleMagic: How can magic shops help performers locally? Nationally? Internationally?

Eric Buss: Williams Magic in Tucson, Arizona (before they closed that shop in March 2013) was great at endorsing magicians, giving out names and numbers and helping customers find the types of magicians they were looking for. They never took a commission either. But, it’s a whole different business to be promoting magicians AND selling magic tricks. Simple things could be, promoting local magic shows, playing videos of local magicians, and remaining active in the local magic scene. They can also educate the magic-buying public that “once they buy this trick, IT DOES NOT MAKE THEM A PROFESSIONAL MAGICIAN.” Magic shop owners can make honest recommendations about tricks to the right kind of customers. A 5-year-old should not be buying “Royal Road to Card Magic.”

WholesaleMagic: Discuss your process: how do you take ordinary objects and turn them into extraordinary magic? What inspires you as a performer and your show on a magic level?

Eric Buss: I spend a lot of time in my workshop. I enjoy combining workshop items (power tools, duck tape, etc) with magic props. I also love hardware stores. I can spend hours in a hardware store. I just try to use objects that I enjoy playing with or talking about in my magic. I use magic shops for utility items or books, but I don’t go looking in a magic shop for the latest trick. I’d rather come up with the latest trick (for me) myself. Music inspires me a lot too. I ALWAYS have music on in the garage—electronic, dub step, rap, and bluegrass and jazz. Anything but country.

WholesaleMagic: Any advance notice on who won the Bubble Wrap contest?

Eric Buss: We’ll find out the results on Monday, Jan 27th, which is BUBBLE WRAP APPRECIATION DAY!!! Wahoo! It’s a wonderful time of year!

Update! It’s official, Eric Buss is the first ever inductee into the official Bubble Wrap Hall of Fame. See the video that won him the award, right here:



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