MCV and Koch Media round off Independent Retail Month with our final special feature focusing on the sector. This week, we look at five of the UK’s top stores.
Based: Jersey, Channel Islands
Contact: 01534 769405
Games now make up almost 70 per cent of this Jersey retailer’s business. MCV asks manager Christian Le Cornu what makes it unique.
You didn’t always sell games, did you? How did you start out?
Seedee Jons opened in 1993, so we’ll hit our big 20th anniversary next year. We started off selling music and DVDs. It was not until the PS2 and Xbox came out that we started selling games. At this point music and film were still doing very well, and games only accounted for around 30 per cent of our business. Since 2008, we have seen a steady decline in music and movie sales. However our games sales now account for almost 70 per cent of our business. We are based on the outskirts of the parish of St Helier, where you can find Jersey’s main High Streets.
What kind of games products and services do you offer?
We only have small premises, so we can't stock everything, but we have a strong range of games hardware, software and accessories. We also stock a modern assortment of music and film, specialising in classical and jazz. 3D posters, wooden canvas art and posters are also found in the shop. Our unofficial motto in store is ‘if it’s not in stock, we can order it’. Special customer orders for games, music and film are an integral part of our business, and I feel this is what gives us the edge over the national retailer [HMV] that is our direct competition over here.
What’s changed for you over the past year in the video games space? Are sales of new releases up or down?
In the last 12 months we have seen a decline in games sales. I think this is due to money being tight – people are more inclined to buy second hand games rather than brand new. Also, with most games now having so much DLC, it’s making them last much longer than they used to.
What’s next for Seedee Jons?
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge where we will be in a few years’ time. The UK has adopted digital music downloads much quicker than expected. I read with interest an article stating the UK is the biggest user of digital music downloads, I just hope this trend does not transfer to the video game industry and render the physical product obsolete. In the next 12 months I’m very much looking forward to the release of the Wii U. It should bring a much-needed boost to the games market.
Based: Old Hill, West Midlands
Contact: 01384 569040
Store owner Neil Platt tells MCV how the independent games retailer has been in business for 22 years, despite heavy competition in its area.
Sega Supplies is close to a GAME, Gamestation, HMV, Blockbuster, supermarkets and many more, yet it’s prospered for well over 20 years.
Owner Neil Platt says its success comes down to being smart with stock and offering a variety of products and services.
“We try and stock as wide a range of PS3 and 360 games as possible,” he says. “We keep around 200 new titles and have a mix of back catalogue stock too, including a decent selection on 3DS, DS, PSP, Wii and PS Vita.
“We can order in anything we can find on the internet and from our suppliers within a couple of days. Our stock is around 50 per cent new and 50 per cent used.”
Sega Supplies also provides disc-cleaning services and aims to stock the highest quality second-hand games. Platt also says building up a strong level of customer satisfaction is key.
“I like to think people prefer to deal with the same person and build up a level of trust and confidence, which goes both ways,” he adds.
“Our plan for this year is to continue as carefully as possible, ordering just enough stock at a time. In years to come, it’s very hard to tell, but as long as new games come out on disc, and Xbox points and PSN cards are produced, we should be OK.”
Sega Supplies also runs its own website which informs customers of the latest games and promotes its disc repair service.
Stan's Game Exchange
Based: Falmouth, Cornwall
Contact: 01326 211394
Steve Stangroon – or Stan as he’s better known – is an indie retail veteran. MCV asks him what challenges he faces today.
What products and services do you offer customers? What sets you apart?
We focus on all kinds of video games, DVDs and Blu-rays. We offer plenty of pre-owned goods – we couldn’t survive without them. You don’t make anything on big new games anymore. Saying that, non triple-A titles are hard to get rid of. It’s a catch-22. Also, we sell so much on other websites including Play.com and Amazon. You can put your whole shop on there. But they take more money from you, and the postage fees have shot up. Not only do they take ten or 15 per cent on each sale, when you transfer your money over they take another ten or 15 per cent.
And how much do you sell online compared to in-store?
Around 70 per cent of all our sales are made in-store.
Do you stock any other products?
We sell a lot of Magic the Gathering cards, Yu-Gi-Oh cards and Moshi Monsters toys. The Magic cards are booming at the moment down here. All the colleges have them.
What future plans do you have for your store?
We’re trying to downsize, actually. This is a double-unit so it’s double the price. The council rates are just going up and up – it’s murder. We used to have a smaller shop and moved to a bigger store about seven years ago, but the rents and rates have gone up in the past few years. If you have a smaller place, you hardly pay any rates. In Falmouth, only a small per cent of the shops pay anything.
What kind of competition do you have in your area?
There’s an Argos opposite but they don’t bother us too much. It’s mainly Asda and online retailers that affect us now. We’ve never had a GAME in the area – we’ve kept them away.
What does the future hold for independent games retailers such as yourselves?
It’s looking bleak, especially if there’s a focus on [limiting] pre-owned game sales. But I think people will always like having a new box in their hand.
The Games Exchange
Based: Rhyl, Flint, Wales
Contact: 01745 336644
This Wales indie started life as a car boot stall and has gone on to open two separate stores since. MCV asks staff member Gareth Brayshaw how it’s expanded.
The Games Exchange may have opened its first store in Flint, Wales, back in 1999, but it’s been around for much longer than that.
It actually began trading music CDs at Sunday car boot sales in the early ‘90s, before expanding its range to include video games.
Its growth continued steadily, and in 2002 it opened a second store in Rhyl. In 2007 it moved the store into larger premises.
Over the past year it has expanded its product range even further to include mobile phones, iPads, laptops, TVs and other electronic products. Customers can even buy guitars and cameras from the store, as well as a core range of games across platforms including Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS and PSP.
“Our main goods are games but we’ve obviously branched out to try and increase our product range,” says store staff member Gareth Brayshaw. “We’ve got electronics, trading cards and game character models which sell quite well.”
In terms of local competition, there’s a GAME nearby it has to contend with, but The Games Exchange says its family friendly service has helped it stand the test of time.
The indie recently entered a Gem Distribution Max Payne 3 window competition. Brayshaw even dressed up as game character Payne (pictured).
“That was a good day,” recalls Brayshaw. “It was quite weird dressing up as Max but obviously everyone who knows the games recognised me.”
Based: Kirkwall, Scotland
Contact: 01856 872239
Store manager Neil Stevenson tells MCV what the video games industry could learn from the music business to help boost indie retail sales.
Grooves bills itself as a jack-of-all-trades. What sets you apart?
We’ve always been a music shop and we also sell games. We’ve been selling consoles and games right from the days of the Sega Master System. We also used to rent them.
What share of your business does games make up?
Around a third of our business used to come from games. But that’s dropped to about 20 per cent now as new release games are difficult to stock. Around half of all our games sales come from second-hand titles.
Are you doing anything to supplement games sales?
Well, I think games retail could learn things from the music industry. Music suppliers support indies, they offer good pricing as well as sale and return. Independent music retailers are key for breaking new acts. I don’t see anything like that level of support in games. So we stock a range of products to make margins. We’ve always stocked merchandise like band T-shirts, Magic the Gathering cards and Pokémon cards. Non-game items are important. We also sell greeting cards. We’re a jack-of-all-trades. We’ll sell a card for £2 and sometimes we’ll make more profit from that than we will from a £40 game. It’s scary. We do a lot of licensed cards like Muppets cards and also the joke cards which are ideal for gamers. We haven’t seen many licensed video game greeting cards – there’s probably a gap in the market for those.
How have you changed over the past 12 months?
We’ve downsized. Our shop is now 150 square metres down from around 300 square metres.
What are your plans for this year?
We’re launching a website, but it’s more for downloadable music. But we’re definitely committed to games, too. We’re going to try harder with new releases and get more pre-orders up front from customers. We’re planning on introducing a pre-owned loyalty scheme, where people can earn points to trade in against new releases. It’s key we keep those new games coming in.
Indie month with Koch Media
This list of five stores was compiled by MCV in association with Koch Media, distributor of video games, accessories, consumer electronics and DVDs.
Koch Media:?01256 385200