INDIE FOCUS: Games Centre

Ben Parfitt
INDIE FOCUS: Games Centre

You’ve grown to a chain of six stores. What do you attribute this success to?

Probably the staff, the buying team, working closely with publishers, keeping a tight rein on finances, ambition, and just a general passion for the industry.

You make it sound easy. How simple is it to balance six stores?

It’s harder than one or two, but I think once you get to three you reach a middle ground where it’s not any more difficult. We’re looking to open a couple of stores in the next year. We’re already trying to change the structure of the business, so it’s coming to a tipping point.

Will you be the next independent retailer to open 30 stores in a year?

No (laughs). We do things organically. We’ve always played it safe and have always done things through natural growth. Opening another store every year or two – that’s how it will be. We’ve identified a couple of sites already so one will definitely open this year. And online we should experience more growth.

Are you going to stay in Scotland?

Yes. We’ve got an area and we’re spreading outwards but we’re not going to suddenly diversify and open 200 miles away from where we are.

Your website offers a wider range of products than those of other indies. Why invest so much online?

We’ve got a large range of products and there are only so many customers in store, so there’s no point in limiting ourselves. With our range of stock, we need to reach as many people as we can. Through the website we’re selling into Europe a lot of the time, and as it’s running 24 hours a day there’s a lot of growth potential.

However, running a store is completely different from how you run a website and we’re learning that.

How challenging is it competing with online retailers, supermarkets and large multiple chains?

Not any more challenging than it’s ever been. I think the biggest challenge at the moment is the economy and public spending. I don’t think supermarkets or the other retailers are any stronger or weaker than they were a year ago, I think it’s more external factors that are changing the business for us.

The Government is conducting a review on the VAT loophole in the Channel Islands. What do you think about this?

It’s long overdue. I think it’s what’s needed to have a level playing field. I’d love it if Scotland had a VAT loophole (laughs). Then I’d be sitting on the other side of the fence arguing the case for that, but there isn’t one up here. so I’m going to say good on the Government.

With all these challenges and transitions, what does the future hold for independent games retail?

It’s going to be an uphill battle, but if you’ve got the right proposition, the right business structure and you’re out there looking for opportunities, I think you’ll do well.

I think there’ll be fewer indies – the numbers are dwindling as time goes on. I’d like to think we’ll move out of what’s classed as the independent sector. We’d like to be seen as a mini version of a national chain now rather than an old-style independent as it used to be.

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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 here.

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