Top Five Longest-Running UK Indies: Chips

We celebrated the new, now it’s time to highlight the stores that have been through it all – and survived.

In the final entry of MCV’s Indie Retail Month in association with Gem, the spotlight is on five of the UK’s most established independents.

Our first indie in the category is Chips, and MD Don McCabe talks to MCV about de-franchising an indie chain that’s been around for 27 years.

Chips opened in the mid-1980s and at the height of its powers had its own magazine and an annual manager’s conference.

Unfortunately for the chain, the recession hit and ChipsWord had to close all 12 of its company-owned stores. But CHIPS Franchise Ltd, the sister company, lived on and now Chips is in the process of getting back to basics.

We’ve been in the process of defranchising ourselves,” MD Don McCabe tells MCV.

So effectively, we’ve closed the franchise company down and decided to focus back on what we do. The franchise was good, but the recession hit it hard. We’ve seeded the UK market with some good ex- franchisees. Now we’re unshackled we can start doing what Chips does best – being a bloody good independent retailer.”

The Chips franchise legacy is a string of other indies: Xpress Games, Joypad Games, Games Dojo, ThatGameShop, Shogun Games, M&MGames. The focus for the year ahead is very much to get Chips back to former glories.

We closed the franchise company down last month. We’re currently down to four stores, and we’re just putting a bit of meat on the bones and getting ourselves sorted to see what we can do next year,” added McCabe.

This year has very much been about consolidation and building ourselves back up again. It’s been a tough few years thanks to the recession and we’ve not been immune from it unfortunately. I think we’ve been hit as hard as GAME, Blockbuster, HMV – we’ve all been kicked in the goolies several times. A couple of good indies have survived, like Games Centre in Scotland. But then Scotland seems to be in perma-recession so maybe they weren’t affected as much. But we’re good, we’re back on track, and we’re moving forwards.”

With a new focus and pared down store count, McCabe sees a bright future for the long-running indie.

He says: We want to end the year with a very positive bank balance. That’s aim number one. We know we can make money; it’s just a case of not spending it and getting back to being a good retailer.

The problem is when you’re franchising and so on, it shackles you. There were several mistakes we made, but you learn from them and we won’t make those mistakes again.”

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