Some indies see their store count fluctuate as the years go on, but Game On is one of the few that has racked up more than a decade of happy customers with a single outlet.
Based in Saffron Walden, the store has been operating for more than 13 years. With the workload shared between its three members of staff, Game On prides itself on being more than a games retailer.
As well as the latest titles for the current generation of consoles, the firm also stocks trading cards and Games Workshop items – in fact, it’s one of Games Workshop’s Top 20 UK outlets.
It may seem like an odd array of products to find in a games store, but as well as offering financial benefits, they help to make shopping at Game On a rare if not unique experience.
“These products are not only good margin makers, they also compliment what we offer and give people another reason to visit our store,” says Game On owner Matthew Brady.
“We get gamers, but also people that are just interested in models and painting and so forth. And there’s crossover too, such as the various Warhammer games, and there’s more titles to come.”
Stocking a broader range of products has actually proved to be so lucrative for Game On that it is actually looking to stock more rather than investing in new or additional premises, focusing on bolstering their income rather than their outgoings.
“We are not looking at expanding at the moment in terms of new openings,” says Brady. “But we are looking at more alternative physical product, such as toys and board games. Ultimately, we would like to expand our store base but the location has to be right.”
And while the retailer has the obligatory web presence, Game On is keen to make sure the site doesn’t draw attention away from the store.
Instead, many of the website’s features have been tailored to driving higher footfall on the High Street.
“The online side of our business is auxiliary, but our customers also use our site to see what games we have in stock, and then come in and collect them,” says Brady.
“They can also contact us via e-mail, find details on our other services, such as console repairs and disc cleaning – and that’s on top of information on pricing. Our website is another way to keep customers happy and another avenue for them to contact us.”
Of course, satisfying consumers is becoming increasingly difficult thanks to the rise of supermarkets and the continuing domination of national chains, but Brady has adapted his business model to accommodate for this.
“It is very tough – especially when they’re selling below our costs and below their costs,” he says.
“It’s even harder when customers come to us and say ‘supermarkets are selling Call of Duty for £26 and you’re selling it for £50 – what’s going on there?’ It’s frustrating.
“That said, we do get loyal customers who come back, because it is about availability, customer service, customer knowledge and the option to trade games in as well.
“We didn’t previously sell pre-owned games, but it’s become more necessary otherwise you don’t have the margin. You might not make much money from a new game, but when they come in and trade it in again, you start seeing some money back. We do trade-in on DVDs
To have survived almost 15 years in the business from a single store is a commendable feat, but more important are the lessons Game On has learned along the way. And as the company continues to offer its customers more than just the latest games, other indies stand to learn a few things themselves.
“If you do specialise in something, specialise in it well,” adds Brady. “We don’t sell everything, we just focus on what we do really well and make sure we know all about it.
“We treat Game On more like how a traditional shop would be, and build a relationship with the customer. We are more than the supermarkets, who just put the box on the shelf.”
MCV and Nindie.com offer a rundown of the best indie game stores in the UK. Click here to see the full list.