Independent retailers, the Davids of Britain’s games industry, continue to surprise in their ongoing battle with corporate Goliaths of national chains.
James Batchelor and Nindie.com bring a rundown of the best indie stores around the nation…
CHIPS maintains its position as one of the UK’s largest independent games retailer, with almost 30 stores spread out all over the country encompassing a mix of company-owned stores and franchised outlets. As it celebrates its 24th year in business, CHIPS’ store count is set to grow even more as the firm strives to match the might of national chains. Only two weeks ago, the indie’s MD told MCV that former GAME and Gamestation staff were enquiring about how they can set up their own franchise. The company also works to stay at the forefront of games retail, trying new initiatives such as the interactive Xplace information kiosks in five of its stores, and maintains a strong web presence with long-running site www.chipsworld.co.uk.
0870 013 0028
The winner of the Best Independent category at this year’s MCV Industry Excellence Awards. Grainger Games has come a long way from its humble origins as a small stall in Newcastle’s Grainger Arcade back in 1997 – it now owns 26 stores around the North of England, with another to be opened later this month. Five of its stores were only opened last year as Grainger continues to expand in line with its ambitious three-year expansion programme and draws ever nearer to crossing the line between indies and nationals. Grainger Games prides itself on its strong customer proposition and its vibrant branding, as well as the close working relationships it has forged with many of the leading players in the industry.
0191 218 1827
Barkman Computers was first founded by Nick Elliot way back in 1987 and is now celebrating its 23rd year in business – not bad for a single store. Operating out of Surrey’s Kingston Upon Thames, the outlet is something of a rarity in the indie scene thanks to its focus on new product, and lack of a second-hand business. Barkman also boasts a more diverse range of titles, including hard-to-find delisted games, and a broad customer base of loyal regulars.
0208 546 5941
First established in 1992 by Mark Conacher and Fiona Stafford, the Console Connections empire consists of two stores: one in Truro, Cornwall and the other in Barnstable, Devon. Both outlets sell a range of used and new products, with a three-day exchange policy on all products sold. Its management team work hard to give the two stores a professional look, but are keen to maintain the special indie atmosphere that has proven to be so welcoming to customers.
Since its inception back in 2001, DVD.co.uk has extended its reach beyond the shores of the UK – it now ships products all over the world, including the US, Japan, Australia and a multitude of European countries. DVD.co.uk’s tempting offers on new games has drawn plenty of consumers to its pages, as has its Pre-Release Price Promise, whereby it will maintain or lower the charge for pre-ordered goods as the price fluctuates towards the game’s release.
The Lancashire-based independent was originally set up in 1994 by Steven Ireland, who has since hired a wealth of talent to grow his business. This team took the firm from strength-to-strength, peaking in 2002 when there were four Eclipse outlets in the region, catering for gamers in Blackpool, Cleveleys, Kirkham and Preston. While the company has sold its Kirkham and Preston branches in recent years, it is still considered to be one of the UK’s leading independents.
Game On was first set up in 1997 and provides Saffron Walden with more than just the traditional range of video games and consoles: it also sells the full Games Workshop and Magic: The Gathering lines, as well as other trading cards and collectables, capitalising on the massive crossover between these audiences and gaming fans. The firm boasts a discount loyalty scheme that has over 5,000 members, a key pillar in its great customer service offering.
Games Basement is an indie retailer that takes the competititve mail order market very seriously. Not only does the site offer a wide range of the latest games, it also offers a variety of import titles, free delivery on all products and a range of other interesting services. Gamers can trade in their old titles for loyalty points as part of an overall loyalty card scheme, where every purchase yields points that can result in further discounts. The site even offers a gift-wrapping service.
0845 643 5546
Founded in 1996 by Robert Lindsay, this company holds the title of Scotland’s largest indie chain, thanks to its six High Street stores. Games Centre’s latest outlet opened in Airdrie in July last year and each store boasts deeply knowledgeable gamers and competitive pricing. They are all open seven days a week and supported by www.gamescentre.co.uk.
DISKS & DISCS
Disks & Discs operates out of a single store in Stafford, but thanks to its prominent High Street location it’s a rather successful one. The indie prides itself on offering a truly comprehensive range of products, ensuring that every new release appears in store at launch. As a result Disks & Discs has seen great hits with games that fewer nationals stocked.
The brainchild of MCV Retail Advisory Board member Stephen Staley, Gameseek is one of the UK’s fastest-growing online games stores. The site has been trading since 2002 and offers a full range of games, as well as DVD players, Blu-ray films and even toys. Its flexible payment options and efficient shipping have made the site highly popular with gamers.
GAMESTERS/THE COOL SPOT
Started in 1993, this twin-brand chain currently operates out of three locations, with Gamesters stores in Rotherham and Scunthorpe and a Cool Spot outlet in Doncaster. Despite the two different names, the stores offer the same services, from pre-owned games to console and disc repairs. The company is also developing a two-pronged web presence.
GameXchange boasts no less than five stores around the country. Of all the outlets it has, the jewel in the GameXchange crown is the Stretford branch, which boasts a shop floor size that many indies can only dream of: 1,300 sq ft. This allows it to stock plenty of the latest games and merchandise, and dedicated impressively prominent areas to key titles.
0870 746 6070
Operating out of a single store in Kirkwall on Scotland’s Orkney Islands, this indie is primarily a records and music store. However, the popularity of games has led it to branch out and stock hardware, software and accessories for all major formats. It also runs a trade-in system, rewarding customers with discounts against future purchases.
MAY CONTAIN FUN
Perhaps better known as EverythingPlay.com, May Contain Fun is currently finalising plans to rebrand its website. As of June 1st, the firm will be known as FindAddBuy.com, a makeover that will see the launch of a new logo, revised navigation system and a site redesign. Launched as recently as April 2007, May Contain Fun’s site is a relatively new indie on the scene but is no less prominent.
This online entertainment specialist continues to run one of the best looking indie sites out there. Consumers can pick from a strong range of games, consoles and more, as well as additional products including DVDs, music, books and gadgets. Powerplay Direct operates out of its headquarters in Eastbourne and also boasts two large High Street stores in Leicester and Hereford.
SeeDee Jons began in 1993 as an independent music retailer, before becoming an Apple authorised reseller and moving to larger premises in Jersey. As the games industry grew, owner John Holley worked to bring SeeDee into that market. The company now sells a range of PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo products, while a dedicated games buyer ensures SeeDee Jons always has the latest titles in stock.
Popular site ShopTo.net is run by MCV Retail Advisory Board member Igor Cipolletta, who is supported by a team of 16 enthusiastic staff. The successful company is expecting a turnover of around 23 million in its current financial year and plans to increase this by at least 35 per cent in the following year. It is currently gathering more than 3,000 new customers every week.
This well-respected online-only indie retailer hopes to double its business on last year, having managed to achieve this for the past two years running in spite of the recession. Simply Games is also looking into the possibilities of downloadable games, potentially moving away from its current focus of engaging with customers through console sales.
THE GAMES EXCHANGE
Having begun as a market stall more than a decade ago, The Games Exchange now operates out of two branches in Wales. The company trades in both new games and retro stock, as well as other gaming merchandise. The Games Exchange also offers a multi-tiered loyalty card, with discount rates ranging from three per cent for newcomers to seven per cent for gold members.
IN ASSOCIATION WITH NINDIE.COM
Nindie.com was set up in 2006 as a community for the independent retailers of Nintendo. The service introduces a number of innovations to aid smaller retailers who sell Nintendo products. www.nindie.com 0870 027 8700