INTERVIEW: Craig Johnson, Focus Multimedia

Budget specialist Focus Multimedia has a clear vision for growing its business, with new international markets, accessories and clever retail initiatives all part of the plan. Christopher Dring finds out more from MD Craig Johnson

What is Focus’ current position in the budget games market? What’s your market share?

We’re proud to be known as the No.1 budget PC publisher. Focus is consistently No.1 in the UK by market share, and we’ve been No.1 year after year since 2002. The May 2011 Chart-Track report showed Focus Multimedia’s market share at a healthy 26.2 per cent, asserting our position as market leader in budget PC, by units, by label. In reality, I believe our market share is higher due to the fact that we service more accounts than Chart-Track reports.

How have you managed to get to where you are today?

A vision and a plan, delivered with creativity, passion, forward thinking and enthusiasm. We enjoy what we do and it shows. Importantly, we enjoy close relationships with our partners. Focus has earned its reputation for being easy and fun to work with, and for delivering results that count. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re delivering back to all the developers, publishers, distributors and retailers we work with on a daily basis.

What is the key to making sure products sell 52 weeks of the year?

Quality, choice, value and visibility. Releasing substandard or overpriced product disillusions consumers and damages brands and markets. Focus only commits to high quality products. This reflects positively back on Focus and our publishing and retail partners, while giving consumers the confidence and desire to repeat purchase from our range.

Consumers want to be entertained on their PCs. Visible and well maintained stands situated within a good footfall area will effortlessly drive sales of impulse price PC titles. Focus is proof that consumers want to buy PC games and software. To date, Focus has sold over 26.5 million units, demonstrating the significant potential and strength in the PC market.

Casual gaming is such a big part of your offering. How much of your business do your Big Fish and PopCap titles make up? How are you planning to grow this area of your business?

When we pioneered casual PC games into retail, the success was immediately apparent. Charting our growth in the casual arena, we know there are devoted fans and early adopters to feed and newcomers to attract. From The Collector’s Edition to The Hidden Mystery Collectives themed double packs, our ranges give everybody exactly what they want. Looking to the future, we’re sure nobody will fail to notice our forthcoming casual games label.

How has your driving test software performed and how does it feature in your future plans?

Driving Test Success is the market leading brand, and it’s made the No.1 spot its own. We’re bringing more products through to market for retailers to focus on, including The Complete LGV & PCV Theory and Hazard Perception Tests and Driving Test Success: The Complete Guide to Passing Your Driving Test.

In what way has the budget market changed for Focus? Has digital and free-to-play eroded that side of your business?

The erosion is more evident across lesser products and higher price points. Properly supported PC budget games generally withstand the decline faced by full price titles. High quality, impulse price PC titles remain an ideal proposition for satisfying consumer demand for entertainment and gift purchasing.

What are your ambitions for the accessories market?

Focus has always stood out from the crowd, not just for quality and choice, but for presentation and creativity. Focus is not a ‘me too’ company, that’s not part of our makeup. Our aim is to deliver products that are new, attractive, consumable, refreshingly different and ahead of the game.

Why work on mobile and smartphone accessories first?

It’s a relatively young market with a lot of scope for bringing new and exciting products to market. There is a wealth of possibility yet to be tapped into.

Tell us about your ‘PC store on a stand’ concept. How has that performed at retail?

For any product to succeed, visual presentation to the consumer is critical. We work with retailers to deliver in-store merchandising solutions for any available space.Our ‘PC store on a stand’ represents clever and valuable use of space for any retailer, no matter what their primary commodity. Our solutions are simple and highly visual mechanics for driving incremental business.

PC penetration across UK households is huge. Not all PC users will necessarily look for product, but if they see it they will buy it. Once consumers have made a purchase, we know from experience they will be back to repeat purchase, for themselves and as gifts.The PC is a truly massive impulse purchase market and we are still only scratchingthe surface.

How does it benefit independent games retail?

With the ‘PC store on a stand’ independents can offer a complete range of impulse price PC games and software from a very small footprint. Focus tailors the display and content to suit each retailer’s requirements – from four or five titles to comprehensive range solutions. Putting impulse buys in front of every consumer who walks through their doors gives indies the opportunity to add on valuable sales to any purchase. Periodic range changes keep the offering fresh and current, delivering evergreen sales with products that sell every week.

What is your business target in terms of global expansion?

We’re absolutely committed to being the No.1 publisher in budget PC. The global vision is to emulate our UK success across all our English-speaking territories. The plan is already in progress and we’ve made great strides towards our goal. Australia and New Zealand are perfect examples, and we have our sights set on doing the same in other emerging territories.

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