GameStop plans UK invasion

And 2006 looks set to be a year of major international expansion for the mighty GameStop empire, as the US  chain sets its sites on the Continent, industry watchers predicting a major UK push.

GameStop, which boasts over 4,400 stores worldwide, made its first tentative move into the UK last April, opening a store in Birmingham’s Bullring centre. This has since been joined by a Stockport outlet, but the effort of integrating Electronics Boutique, with which it merged last October, distracted the firm from further moves abroad.

However, with the dust on the deal now settled the retailer is understood to have big plans for Europe this year. Key to this is the appointment of former GameStop.com president Niall Lawlor as the new VP for Europe.

A GameStop spokesperson revealed to MCV that Lawlor, currently based in the US, would be moving to the firm’s European HQ in Sweden in a “very short time frame,” adding: “There’s been a lot of focus since the integration on what Europe will look like. Both Niles and CEO Richard Fontaine have spent a lot of time looking at our European operation.”

With plans now seemingly in place, speculation is rife that GameStop is lining up a major UK acquisition to realise its ambitions. Gamestation is an obvious target, ailing parent company Blockbuster looking to offload the chain. And UK market leader GAME, still recovering from a challenging Christmas, could be a target.

“I would be amazed if GameStop did not make some significant moves into overseas markets in the near future, and you have to say the UK looks a natural fit,” Next-Gen.biz editor-in-chief Colin Campbell told MCV.

Wedbush Morgan senior analyst Michael Pachter was less equivocal, however: “GameStop has some scale and is an efficient retailer, and will likely kick GAME Group’s butt.”

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