This year will be a major year for the independent retail scene, say store owners.
Indie retailers hope the mass closure of HMV and Blockbuster stores have provided them with opportunities to expand both their in-store offerings and the number of shops.
Last week, major retailers pledged to fill the gap left by closures of the two chains, with the likes of Xpress Games, Games Centre and Chips opening new outlets this year.
“With HMV and Blockbuster’s recent problems, there is extra room on the playing field for independents to expand or even new independents to open up,” said Xpress Games MD Chris Muckell.
“We know and talk to a lot of independents in the industry and in general, morale is on the up amongst all independents that I speak to. Although there is a lot of negativity about the High Street and download-only video games, I think 2013 will be a very good year for independents, there’s definitely a void in the market for indies to fill.”
He added: “Now we have plans for a new store this year. Our next project is future stores and seeking investment into the company to push it to the next level. We have locations identified which fit with our current stores, and shop fittings are sourced.
“I would say in the current financial climate funding is the only constraint, but we’re funded ready for the next store opening, and once that is opened we will look towards the next opportunity.”
Games Centre MD Robert Lindsay is also looking to open new stores. He said: “Last year we made a lot of changes to the business including relocating to larger premises, improving our systems, expanding the product range and putting key personnel in place.
“Now we are in a position to drive the business forward and are in the process of identifying suitable locations for new store openings.
“The recent closures on the High Street have highlighted the changing retail landscape that we face at the moment and while there is an opportunity to fill these gaps we must be aware that it cannot be a case of replacing what was there, we must improve the customer experience.
“The days of piling video games and DVDs into stores are gone and needs to evolve into a more exciting proposition.”
Game On based in Saffron Walden has expanded its product range, selling more toys, Warhammer models and LEGO to capitalise on closed outlets on its High Street. But the firm’s Graeme Taylor argues that losing stores is not always good for independents.
“We lost Blockbusters and a Currys. We have no competition now and it’s not a good thing,” he told MCV. “People want variety and people like to check prices against each other. If there aren’t shops to check against each other, some people might not go into town at all.
“However, as a nearby model shop closed we now do more models and sell Games Workshop products. And the nearest toy shop is closing down so, with them going, younger toy customers could potentially come to us.”