Entertainment UK has surged past GAME to become Britain's most powerful retail buying team, MCV has learnt – sparking concerns throughout the publishing community over the buying and distribution company's increasing influence on the UK games charts.
According to testimonies from a number of major publishers, the company – which employs a full-time staff of 1,084 – is now seen as the largest buying power in the market, handling approximately 27 per cent of all units pushed into retail each year.
The growth is a direct result of Asda's continuing success in games and the expansion of the mainstream market – a snug fit for EUK's general retail partners.
However, publishers have raised worries over the consequences of the supplier's expanding size – which is boosted by its exclusive accounts with Asda, WH Smith, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Zavvi and its owner, Woolworths.
One sales boss at a major US publisher told MCV: We've treated them as the biggest for a fair while now. Once EUK lost the Tesco account to Handleman in 2007, they went cap in hand to other supermarkets for their business. It came at a cost for publishers – because Asda turned up the heat on price. It's caused a fair amount of tension.”
Another senior sales exec at a smaller UK publisher told us: They're massive – you worry about querying stock movement or other problems too much because if you lose your relationship, you lose access to over 25 per cent of the market. They've kind of got you by the balls like that.
And, of course, you can't just sell your family game into Asda – which made complete sense with [former Asda partner] Igloo back in the day. You've got to sell it into all of their partners as well.”
Concerns are mounting as the publisher bosses turn their attention towards the Christmas period – and the role EUK could play in their success or failure during the crucial peak selling season.
One reliable source told MCV that a desperate publisher paid in excess of 350,000 just for decent marketing support” in one of EUK's retail chains last Christmas.
He added: God knows what that could reach if EUK keeps on getting more powerful. It's actually a bit scary.”
EUK told MCV in a statement: As far as overall value market share is concerned, the only publicly quoted data available is via TNS. Whilst this varies by format and time of the year, the latest data for console software would suggest that a combination of Game and Gamestation continue to lead the market.
Across EUK's customer base, there are a huge number and variety of available promotional opportunities, to suit a broad range of marketing budgets. EUK works closely with both its retailers and the games publishers alike, to ensure that both parties are maximising all such opportunities.”