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Top 20 Indies - 2011

Ben Parfitt
Top 20 Indies - 2011

SHOPTO

ShopTo continues to go from strength to strength. The site won best Independent Retailer at this year’s MCV Awards, and has drawn a large customer base in the five years it’s been running.

It has many strings to its bow including its own iPhone app, text message ordering service, five-minute warehouse dispatch system (where items are packed in less than five minutes and sent out on the same day) and its recently launched news site.

The retailer has also strengthened its presence with marketing drives over the past year. It booked ads on pitch-side football boards earlier this year, and advertised Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in its first TV ad last November.
01344 451507; shopto.net

SEEDEE JONS

After SETTING up as a record store in the ‘90s, Seedee Jons has upped its range to include games, iPods and DVDs.

Based in Jersey, the independent has fended off stiff competition from the local HMV, and it even saw another independent games retailer close its doors in the area after being open for almost one year.

Seedee Jons sells overstock on Amazon to gain extra funds on products which perhaps haven’t seen strong sales in-store.

Sales administrator and manager of the games department Mike Wilkins says Seedee Jons has built a strong level of respect and loyalty with its customers.
01534 769405; seedeejons.com

DVD.co.uk

After its founding in 2001, DVD.co.uk began selling films before stocking video games in 2003. Games now account for around one third of total sales on the site.
The retailer delivers games to the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. It concentrates on one or two special offers for games that other websites aren’t promoting.

DVD.co.uk also operates a number of other websites, namely www.bladdvd.com, www.101cd.com, www.base.com and www.wdl.com. It is currently contemplating whether to partner with a digital games provider to break into the downloads market.
01451 823280; dvd.co.uk

INSANE GAMES

This Somerset-based chain has four stores which are located in Bridgwater, Street, Clevedon and Wells. It was set up in 1996 by co-owners Stuart Tracey and Steven Walker.

Insane Games stocks the latest releases on all major formats as well as retro titles for classic machines including the Game Boy, Super Nintendo and Mega Drive. It also sells Warhammer figures and DVDs available for customers to buy.

Instead of running one website it has four Facebook pages – one for each store – and an Amazon Resellers page which sells rarer stock. It runs a number of promotions on Facebook to drive customers in store.
01275 871612

MY MEMORY

Online Jersey-based retailer MyMemory was founded around eight years ago initially selling flash memory products.

To set itself apart from growing competitors, the firm entered the games market three years ago – which boosted revenue by 30 per cent in just six months. It stocks a vast line of games, consoles, strategy guides as well as Blu-rays, computer accessories and more.

The online store stays open 24 hours a day and seven days per week. MyMemory also stocks a range of other products such as gift day vouchers. It started off with around 600 products online but now has around 12,000 – and counting.
mymemory.co.uk

SCAN COMPUTERS INTERNATIONAL

This family-run business employs 150 members of staff at its head office in Bolton. The store builds and sells its own PC systems and stocks the latest consoles including Xbox 360, 3DS, PlayStation 3 and Wii.

It no longer stocks major new titles but has a small selection of back catalogue games. It also supplies accessories, hard drives, cables, cameras, phones, speakers, tablet devices and more.

Scan Computers International has five websites. One focuses on the UK market – www.scan.co.uk – with others based in Malta, India, Thailand and Portugal. The business was founded by Mr Shelley Raja in 1987.
0871 472 4747; scan.co.uk

GAMES CENTRE

This scottish chain has grown to a total of six stores since it was established in 1996.

Games Centre also has plans to open a number of new outlets over the next few years. Its website has been recently overhauled and boasts a large range of products, helping the retailer to achieve strong sales throughout Europe.

MD Robert Lindsay says Games Centre’s success and growth comes down to its ambition, knowledgeable staff and close relationships with publishers. He says he’d like Games Centre to move out of what’s classed as the indie sector, and be seen more as a smaller version of a national chain.
01698 429899; gamescentre.co.uk

GAMESEEK


With over 250,000 products, Gameseek has grown immensely since it launched in 2000 as a game information site.

Now it’s an online retailer based in Cheshire which sells a diverse range of goods from traditional consoles, PAL games and accessories to toys, books, clothing, PC hardware, gadgets, DVDs and Blu-rays. Over the past 12 months it celebrated its tenth anniversary and added thousands of new products.

Over the coming year MD Stephen Staley wants Gameseek to grow its product range further and build a third floor in its warehouse which will give it an additional 2,000 sq ft of storage space.
08712 882 472; gameseek.co.uk

SIMPLY GAMES

As one of the first specialist online game retailers, Simplygames.com says it has always achieved strong sales with Nintendo products and remains competitive on the latest chart games across all formats.

It was established in 1998 before industry veteran Neil Muspratt became the website’s owner in 2006. Last year the site was rebranded and its navigation was improved. A loyalty program was also introduced.

Simplygames.com says it despatches thousands of orders each week and has hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers. It also ships software and hardware to a range of countries worldwide.
0845 034 9646; simplygames.com

24-7 GAMES

Unlike many independent High Street retailers who have gone on to launch websites, 24-7 Games has instead done the opposite.

The retailer was founded in 2004 by Mark Harrison and began trading on Ebay and Amazon before setting up on the High Street.

Then, in February 2009 Harrison’s local Zavvi store closed and he purchased its fixtures and fittings. He opened his own shop in Maidenhead two months later.

24-7 Games offers its customers a range of pre-owned deals – including buy back offers – which encourage them to buy from the store again and again. The retailer also plans to open a second store in time for Christmas.
01628 629246

GROOVES

Originally starting out as a video rental store in the early ‘90s, Grooves went on to sell CDs, DVDs and video games – with around a quarter of in-store space now dedicated to gaming.

The Kirkwall-based retailer in Scotland’s Orkney Islands stocks all consoles and a range of games as well as some PC products. It even has a classic coin-operated arcade cabinet in its gaming area to pull more customers in, with Pac-Man, Galaxian and more installed on the machine.

Buyers can trade in games and receive discounts for future purchases. The store recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
01856 872239


XBITE

The history of Xbite tells a true homegrown success story. Nick Whitehead started buying and selling games on Ebay in 2004 from his Sheffield home – he would buy games and use his disc cleaning company Three-r.co.uk to touch them up before selling them on. 

The online gaming store has grown rapidly since, and Whitehead says this is down to its strong relationships with suppliers. He employs 25 people, operates from a 10,000 sq ft facility and is keen to source products related to video games to expand his company further. Whitehead has even contemplated opening stores in Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield.
0844 414 5296; stores.ebay.co.uk/Xbite-Games

GRAINGER GAMES

The fastest-growing specialist games retailer of the past few years now operates from 64 stores across the North-East.

Grainger has pushed the limit of what an ‘independent’ is. It opened more than 20 outlets last year alone and is on course to eclipse that figure this year. It’s run more like a larger national chain today than other traditional single-store indies, and stocks a wide range of new and pre-owned games and consoles at competitive prices. Grainger won the Independent Retailer MCV Award in 2008 and 2010.

The firm plans to open more stores and a second warehouse and distribution centre. It has hired a web and digital manager to grow its online business.
0191 218 1820; graingergames.co.uk

THE GAMES EXCHANGE

This retailer is living proof that you can get a lot more from a car boot sale than just tat and ornaments for your mum’s mantelpiece.

The Games Exchange started out selling games at a Sunday car boot stall in the early ‘90s before going on to stock videos, games and music at market stalls. A full store opened in Flint in 1999 before a second shop followed in Rhyl in 2002. In 2007 the Rhyl store moved into a larger premises.

Gamers can buy and trade in PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii and DS games, as well as purchase mobile phones, laptops, TVs and iPods from The Games Exchange. The retailer is now preparing to launch a brand new website.
01745 336644; thegamesexchange.co.uk

CONSOLE CONNECTIONS

Since opening in 1992 this independent in Truro, Cornwall has introduced a number of services such as disc repairs and promotions including two-for-one deals.

Customers have the choice of a host of pre-owned and new games as well as consoles. Co-owners Mark Conacher and Fiona Stafford say they will continue to strive to offer excellent service to customers. They also told MCV that they want to remain competitive in the future and are considering getting involved in the digital games market. A website is under construction with the retailer looking at digital downloads in the future.
01872 270105

GAME ON

From consoles to PC games and trading cards, models and toys, Game On offers its customers a diverse range of goods.

The Saffron Walden store – first established in 1997 – also began stocking LEGO earlier this year which it says has been very popular with gamers. It offers a console and disc repair service, too. The store moved to a better High Street location in 2000.

Game On is calling for more surprise summer releases following its strong sales of Sniper: Ghost Warrior last year. The retailer also has a website where it updates customers with the latest offers.
01799 506070; gameongames.co.uk

ECLIPSE HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Like many top indies, Eclipse has diversified over the years to ensure it remains a leading  games retailer in its area.

It began as a video shop in the ‘80s before MD Steven Ireland began renting the 3DO to customers. After this successful venture, in 1994 Eclipse Home Entertainment was born  and has stocked all the major home consoles, games and PC titles since. It now has two stores – one in Blackpool and one in Cleveleys.

It has recently started stocking Hexbug toys which have proven to be successful, as well as games posters, Pokémon cards and other toys.
01253 820800; eclipsegames.co.uk

GAMESTERS/THE COOL SPOT


Both of these stores – founded by Kev Taylor – stock major new titles across all games formats as well as an array of retro products such as the Super Nintendo.

Gamesters in Rotherham and The Cool Spot in Doncaster also have their own in-house disc repair and console repair services as well as a strong pre-owned offering.

A number of websites are in the works which are scheduled to launch later this year, including www.gamestersonline.com, www.coolspotonline.com and www.coolspotcomputergames.co.uk.
01302 761656

BARKMAN COMPUTERS

As one of the longest-running indie stores in the UK, Barkman Computers focuses on selling a strong selection of new games and hard-to-find back catalogue titles as opposed to pre-owned.

Nick Elliott founded the retailer almost 25 years ago and has built a loyal customer base since. He began selling early home computer formats such as the Amiga before going on to stock all consoles as well as PC gaming components.

The Barkman website was recently upgraded, helping to maximise pre-orders, day-one sales and customer interest.
020 8546 5941; barkman.co.uk

EXTREME GAMEZ

With over ten years in the games industry, Exteme Gamez has new and used games, consoles, accessories and DVDs on its shelves.

The retailer was established in 2000 by MD Stuart Benson after he bought out his previous employer’s store, Computer Solutions. Benson had been working there since the age of 16 where he learnt the ropes of retail. Seven years ago he went on to open a second store and brought in three full-time members of staff and one part-time worker. Extreme Gamez is also currently trialling a range of action figures and toys.
01530 412983

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This list was compiled in association with Koch Media and Nindie.com

Koch is a distributor of video games, accessories and DVDs. It was established in 1994 and focuses on the UK, Benelux and Nordic territories.
Nindie.com is owned by Koch. It was set up in 2006 as a community for independent retailers of Nintendo. 01256 385200

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