Apparel store Game Set Mat prepares to close

by Harrison Aronoff | 2/12/18 2:30am

2718gamesetmatcarolynsilverstein
by Carolyn Silverstein / The Dartmouth

Game Set Mat, an apparel and accessory store located on 15 South Main Street, will close on March 3 after five and half years of operation.

“I tried everything,” owner Susan Valence said. “I tried an online business. I tried trunk shows. I tried discounts, marketing to different people. But there was not enough customer traffic. I tried locating my store to street-level, but the rents were too high.”

While the store saw double-digit revenue growth in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Game Set Mat’s revenue grew only one percent in 2017, according to Valence.

Valence attributed the loss in revenue to a number of factors, including the changing retail market.

She said when Lucy Activewear, a clothing brand that made up over a quarter of Game Set Mat’s sales, merged with the clothing brand North Face, Valence could no longer sell the brand at Game Set Mat. She also had to drop a few other popular items after their clothing brands went out of business.

Valence added that the New England market is challenging in and of itself, especially for boutique shops like hers.

“[Sales] are very weather dependent …You do not know what each day is going to bring traffic wise, customer wise,” Valence said. “Some days are great, and some days are dead.”

Zimmermans The North Face general manager Bill Boyle added that Dartmouth students do not shop in Hanover.

“The trend is more online and less in stores; that’s why Game Set Mat is closing,” Boyle said. “We’re a dying breed.”

Valence said she is content with her decision to close the store because it has been time consuming — with no other full-time staff, she is responsible for the store’s accounting, staffing, payroll, management and inventory.

In the future, Valence plans to continue to sell her inventory in trunk shows “on her own time,” traveling to Upper Valley tennis clubs and homes to sell her apparel.

Many students seemed indifferent to the store’s closing. A few knew enough about the store to provide comment.

Former customer George Easley ’18 said that the store’s closing is interesting because the store has little to no competition for certain product categories.

“There isn’t [another] purveyor for high-end tennis equipment and yoga gear in the area,” he said.

Jessica Rosien ’21, in contrast, said she was surprised at the specificity of Game Set Mat’s market.

“I’m originally from Hanover, so when it opened, I thought it was weirdly niche for a town this small,” Rosien said.

Game Set Mat is having a closeout sale until March 3, with all inventory marked down.

Because Game Set Mat’s lease is not set to expire until July, Valence is looking for another company to sublet her retail space.

However, Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that she is not aware of any business or individual who has expressed interest in renting the retail space that Game Set Mat is occupying.

When a retail store on Main Street closes, another one usually replaces it soon after, Griffin said. She recalled how when five retail stores closed in 2016, and their spaces were then “filled up very quickly.”

However, Griffin said replacing Game Set Mat will be hard to do because the retail space is below street level, meaning that people cannot look in and assess the store through its windows.