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INDIE FOCUS: Barkman Computers

Ben Parfitt
INDIE FOCUS: Barkman Computers

You’ve been in business for almost 25 years – what has been key to your success?

The ongoing support of publishers and distributors – without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. We started out selling Atari, Amiga, Spectrum and Commodore systems, the early home computer formats. We soon began selling the Sega Master System and after that all other consoles onwards.

In such a difficult marketplace, what are the advantages of not stocking used games?

We feel that we would rather offer a stronger selection of back catalogue titles. We feel so far we’re able to gain margin from the back catalogue and really for us pre-owned would take up unnecessary space.

What about your high-end PC products? What kind of demand is there for those goods compared to console games?

We tend to find that on the PC we’ll sell very high-end components and nothing at the mid-end or low-end, because those kind of customers either want everything or nothing. Game sales are generally higher on consoles. That said, obviously we will have more considered purchases on the PC. Our World of Warcraft customers keep on upgrading their PCs as Warcraft requirements improve, but in terms of our top-end PC gamers they won’t take anything other than the very best.

What response have you seen since you redesigned your site?

The website has been really good. It’s certainly helped a lot of our day-one sales. The site has been running since 1994 and the latest design that we recently put up has been our most successful one so far. It also has hard-to-find titles that people will hunt out wherever they are in the world, so we’ll send orders for unusual titles everywhere.

Do you plan to get involved in the digital market and offer downloadable games on the site?

At some point, yes. I can’t see any partners that we’d be able to work with, but at some point we’d like to.

Are you still feeling the effects of this year’s VAT rise?

It has taken margin away from us. The publishers haven’t done anything about increasing the retail price to accommodate the VAT rise, and some publishers even put up their trade prices as well, so we are being squished in between. Our customers won’t pay more than £39.99 for a title.

How challenging is it competing with online retailers, supermarkets and large multiple chains in terms of price?

Online retail has a benefit because it has lower overheads. We pay incredibly high rates for our retail store. We’re fortunate with the fact that we can come up with a strong product mix. In terms of online sales we’ll compete with the very cheapest of them. 

What does the future hold for independent games retail?

It’s a tough time but hopefully the strong will survive.

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TOP 20 UK INDIES
Games Centre was featured in a list of the UK’s Top 20 indies, compiled by MCV in association with Koch Media and Nindie.com. Find the full list here.

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