WH Smith to ditch games… but will anyone notice?

The ghost of EUK is still haunting the High Street – with WH Smith this week telling MCV that it is to ditch entertainment products – but it seems there have never been more opportunities for games companies to take advantage of new routes to market.

WH Smith, one of the UK’s longest-running retailers, was caught up in supply problems following the collapse of Woolworths and its distribution subsidiary EUK at Christmas.

And a paucity of stock has not only driven consumers elsewhere, but sparked the firm to re-evaluate its status as an entertainment provider.

The EUK collapse did not come as a complete surprise to us, although the timing was particularly unhelpful,” a WH Smith spokesperson told MCV.

Long-term trends in entertainment look set to continue. We are continuing to implement our strategy to reduce our presence in entertainment to focus instead on books, news and impulse and stationery.

We are committed to providing our customers with a tailored convenience offer.”

It might not sound convenient for publishers who sold their 360, Wii, PC and PlayStation games through the chain. But the news won’t trouble them too much, as retailers such as Morrisons, Waterstones, John Lewis, Next and Borders have all stepped up to join the likes of GAME, GameStation and HMV to satisfy a fast-changing retail landscape.

Morrisons has told MCV that entertainment goods have been a key driver for growth – with game sales specifically booming at the supermarket chain.

All entertainments goods are performing above plan, but gaming is outperforming DVD and music as would be expected with the current market dynamics,” games buyer Jon Biggs told MCV.

And with the firm having switched to using Music Box Leisure as its permanent entertainment distributor in the wake of EUK’s collapse, the supermarket is now poised to boost its games offer further.

Biggs added: All our new and re-fit stores have increased space for gaming which is internally recognised as a very important part of Morrison’s non-food offer.”

Meanwhile, Waterstones has beefed up its games offer, now offering Nintendo’s Touch Generation range in over 100 of its book shops across the UK – a third of its stores.

Borders is another bookseller also looking to tap into the booming games market via its GAME concessions.

The firm’s head of retail operations James Sneddon told MCV that he’d like to see a GAME in every Borders store, much like we have a Starbucks and a Paperchase in every store.”

And MCV understands clothes retailer Next is eyeing a move to start offering games in-store this year after a successful two years selling hardware and software through its catalogue and online store.

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