MCV speaks to GAME COO Guy Lister about how the High Street firm is approaching Black Friday this year and how the sales event has affected retail
What are your expectations of Black Friday 2016?
We’re expecting to see more retailers extend discounts over a longer period around Black Friday. This takes into account the timing of payday, which for many people occurs the following week. Indeed compared to our five days of deals last year, this time we’re delivering twelve days of sellout deals leading into ‘can’t miss’ deals on Black Friday and continuing through into Cyber Monday.
How has your strategy around Black Friday changed since its debut in the UK?
The biggest change has been the influence of online. This has changed both how we shop, and what we shop for.
Online sales now account for a third of retail sales in the general gaming sector – a figure that’s growing thanks to smartphones. Almost half of our web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets, an area we’ve invested in with our new GAME App allowing easier comparison and trade-in deals.
We’re also likely to see more deals on digital product than ever before. That will build on the growing trend – 60 per cent of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 customers have alreadybought digital content from us. And it’s worth remembering that in all one fifth of all digital sales in the UK were transacted through a retailer.
One of the concerns around Black Friday last year was the ‘extreme’ bundles retailers were selling – where multiple games were put in with a console for a cut price. In theory, this meant that consumers had less reason to return to retail for a period after the sales event. Is this still a concern?
Most of the consoles have been on the market for a while, so I don’t expect to see the content bundled with them holding gamers back from buying further titles. Where we do have new hardware, such as in VR or with the PS4 Pro, these tend to be bought by those who already have other devices so I don’t think this will hold gamers back. Indeed, we’re excited to have been a retail launch partner for each of the major VR devices that came to market this year, and with recent hardware launches including Xbox One S, PS4 Pro and NES Mini we’re looking forward to Christmas as much as the gaming community.
Another concern is that because consumers now expect the Black Friday deals, they will hold off spending ahead of the sales event. Is this something you have observed? Have you been trying to curve this and get consumers spending earlier?
Compared to our five days of deals last year, this time we’ve planned twelve days of sellout deals leading into ‘can’t miss’ deals on Black Friday and continuing through into Cyber Monday.
How would you assess the state of the games market at the moment?
The games market remains dynamic, players have never had more choice in how they access and engage in gaming. Just look at how eSports is growing and shaping our industry. I don’t expect those changes to slowdown and I’m excited for future innovations over the coming 12 months.
Software sales are down due year-on-year to a variety of reasons – a lack of games for PS3 and Xbox 360, certain games not performing as well as previous iterations… Is this a concern for your business?
The UK is a tough market at the moment for many reasons, but there are many critically acclaimed titles that we expect to see consumer picking up over the festive period. Beyond that we’re entering an exciting period with a number of new significant console launches expected over the next year and other gaming hardware developments such as VR, which will create stimulus for the hardware, software and digital market.
Do you see Black Friday helping retail recoup some of this lost revenue?
Black Friday is important for us as part of a wider sell-out season in the run-up to Christmas. We have a long tradition of delivering incredible deals on the biggest and best games and consoles and this year sees us extend those deals out over a far wider range of products. Customers can already take advantage of our ‘won’t be beaten’ trade-in offer to ensure they can get their hands on the best deals over the Black Friday weekend.