I'm going to show you the people behind the glittering green curtain today. Perhaps ruining your perception of just how perfect and time defying you FLGS can be :)
You say, "Sam you run 2 shops with new products coming out every week, how do you stay on top of what to stock and what to recommend to customers". Well, wonderful person who shops locally, I'm happy to tell you my "secrets".
I'm a Youtube junkie. One of the great things about games vs. books is there is a wealth of video reviews and playthroughs, so I can watch and work at the same time. (in fact I have one on now while I'm typing this exact sentence!). There are 2 basic videos- reviews and run/play throughs.
For reviews, there is one channel in particular which dominates the scene in sheer volume of videos released- The Dice Tower. The DT team is three men in Florida who not only do daily reviews, but also a series of "top ten" lists each week. The channel also has 3 variety shows a week, where other contributors talk about games that fit that week's theme (eg. co-operative, for 2 players, cards etc). It really is a wealth of reviews, if you have any questions about a game it's the first video channel to look at. I will serve the caveat that while the men running it are great and know their stuff, they are men with very certain tastes. Thankfully their team of contributors do offer diverse voices.
The second review site is one I CAN NOT get enough- Shut Up & Sit Down. First of all it is British, complete with the British humor and sensibility I go gaga for. Quinns, Paul, and Matt are all professional writers, so each review is scripted and shot as a mini-movie of sorts. Plot and all. They also have a great website with weekly news, podcasts, written game reviews, and a pretty troll-less forum. They also occasionally do play throughs of games they had previously reviewed. Most video game reviews on other sites are one person sitting or standing in front of their wall-o-games.... SU&SD is anything BUT that... and well worth taking a look at, even if you aren't a board-gamer.
Playthroughs are a step up from general reviews. Not only do you get to hear an opinion about the game, but you see it played in real time. There are 3 that are played on my TV almost anytime I'm alone in the family room.
Rahdo Runs Through is the most well known. He does a 2 player run through of lots of Euro-style games. He's really thorough and talks through every move, using his wife Jen as his playing partner (although she's rarely on camera, and most times not actually playing so he talks through each player's strategy). He's been doing this for years and has a good back catalogue of games. He also does a podcast, and some "best of lists".
Game Night is run by the BoardGameGeek site (THE online resource for board gamers). Each week (or 2) 4 friends play through a new game and then discuss what they thought of it. Some of it can a be a little long and dry, but it definitely gives you a good feel for how a game is played.
My new favorite is AntLab Games. Anthony and Frances play a variety of games (ones that are good for 2 players). After the play through they give a really good and detailed review of the game, judginng it on 5-6 critera (theme, replayability, components, level of difficult, etc). They have also just started doing a podcast. I really like listening/watching them. They are not uber game geeks, and you can really tell they enjoy not only playing the games and thinking outloud, but also playing with each other.
The one thing missing on a lot of game review and play throughs are the ladies! There is a nice new series, Girls Game Shelf (that hopefully will continue in 2017!) that features 2-6 friends playing one game per episode. Mixed in during the game play is each player summarizing what has happened and how they feel about it. A nice change from the static camera run through followed by long review. It also is nice to see a whole gaggle of nerdy ladies rocking at board games.
I use each of these every week to look at games to carry in the store, ones that I want for our demo shelves (and to play ourselves), and to just know about new games in case someone asks.
The beauty of a Local Game Shop is we can steer you in the right direction (much better than an algorithm)... and never fear if we don't have a game in stock we can order it in for you! Much like indie bookshops, FLGS have knowledgable staff who want you to have a great gaming experience. Now you know a little dirty secret about how I know so much with so little time to play all the games!