Best Buy’s arrival in the UK comes at an ideal moment.
The UK’s market value is in the gutter – albeit temporarily – driven down by a mix of a weak release schedule, post-recession caution, a lack of new hardware and the distraction of an election.
Games’ heartland UK retailer GAME has seen some massive upheaval following a decline in profits.
And some argue that we’re losing players to other digital pursuits.
This is not a massive ‘Best Buy is here to save us’ proclamation, but it proves that retail must innovate and evolve to stay relevant.
After our trip to its inaugural store this week, it’s clear this is not some grubby retail park outlet as, let’s be honest, the likes of the struggling PC World and Currys sometimes feel like inside.
No, Best Buy’s stores promise to be impressive and of high-quality – the American outlet concept made real on British soil. And these UK versions even feature concepts and areas not present in their US counterparts.
Indeed, the firm has been taking its expansion into non-US territories very seriously.
They tell us that for months the exec games team has been slowly building, and instructing its growing team of in-store staff to pore through MCV to learn all they can about the market. It’s no leap to assume they have been closely watching their rivals, both those in out-of-town stores and on the High Street.
The head office team are an experienced bunch themselves; entertainment boss Marc Spence boasts a retail background from GAME, DSGi and Home Retail Group, while their head of games James Cooke spent years working for EUK, WHSmith, Virgin, HMV and so on.
Pre-owned, plenty of range, own-brand peripherals, and even ‘experiential’ elements - it’s all there.
Opening big areas in store for consumers to actually play games is a key move. Hardcore happy Gamerbase it may not be, but it does encourage players to get hands on with things retail otherwise takes for granted, like the Balance Board or instruments. Even the PSP gets a proper showcase at the store we saw.
Are you listening, GAME, HMV, and the rest?
But even at a basic level, the sheer size of these stores, and the amount of space dedicated to games, is impressive in themselves – and are probably a sign of what’s to come in terms of how Best Buy grows its market share.