Some of our games give us the opportunity not just to kill things or quest, but also to be a shopkeeper. The top MUD that I play, Achaea by Iron Realms Entertainment, allows people just this chance.
Regardless of the game there are basic considerations that any budding marketeer must keep in mind when setting up or taking on the role of merchant.
First assess your competition, if you can only get health potions supplied at 500 gold, and a shop two doors down sells them for 350, can you stock and make a profit on this item? Likely not.
Discuss with people who shop in your city or locale. Are newbies having problems finding basic armour or clothing? Perhaps this gap in the market is something you can address, as there is a demand that needs to be filled.
While it is altruistic and very kind for you to sell as cheaply as you can, and I guarantee that you will shift stock, we run shops to make a profit. Whether it is for ourselves or the organisations we represent, makes no difference. Pricing needs to be carefully assessed, you need to be sure that you are covering supply costs, being able to pay your forger, your refiller and your tailor will ensure that you have stock to put on the shelves for years to come.
Maybe you plan on selling some day-to-day items like outfits or enchanted rings; these are always in demand so a small markup on them will bring more long term benefits as you are likely to get repeated sales.
Perhaps you have an incredible suit of armour, a one-of-a-kind, high stats forging. This is something you might be better offering privately, selling via auction can get you a better price if you have a few interested parties bidding against each other. If that is not an option for you price it according to your market and previous examples and cross your fingers. you might get lucky and it may well sell.
If you are a lucky shopkeeper, you might have a shop in the bustling marketplace of your city that can be easily pointed out to others. Sadly, we can't all boast such wonderful location. This is where my last point comes in, advertising. If people don't know that you are there, they likely won't come out of their way to visit your shop. Posters, word of mouth, discounts and basic marketing are your friends. Give directions and be specific about what you sell. But don't loudly promise the cheapest health potions on the continent if you are currently sold out, customers remember a bad experience far longer than a good one.
So, whether you play a free to play MUD, or a subscription-based, graphical MMORPG shopkeeping is all about knowing your market. Assess what's around you, stock to fill a gap in the market if you can, keep restocked, and price competitively without putting yourself at a loss and ADVERTISE.