Give us a brief history of Grainger Games so far…
The original Grainger Games was started by my Dad (Dan Bowyer) and I. We started trading as a partnership in 1997 with a market stall in the Grainger Market in Newcastle upon Tyne – hence the company name, Grainger Games. As we grew we became incorporated as a limited company.
Our first major breakthrough on the High Street was when we opened our flagship store in the Metrocentre. Although we had dipped our toes into the High Street sector prior to this, the Metrocentre store made us realise that we were becoming a serious presence in the retail market.
How many stores do you have now – and where are they based?
We currently operate out of 13 High Street locations. We have shops across the North East region (Berwick down to Durham) and in Scotland.
How many stores do you plan to open this year? And what's your ultimate store target?
Our current expansion plans will see us opening another seven stores this year. We are in the final stages of negotiation with six of those sites, which will be rolled out in two phases, between now and July. Our strategy is to expand in a controlled manner, with no ultimate figure as a target. As long as the right sites become available, and we remain in a position where we can expand into those sites, then we will do.
Do you plan to expand the chain south, across the rest of the UK?
Although we would never rule out expansion into new areas or even on a national level, we are currently strengthening our regional position. We need to ensure that our support and logistical systems are robust enough to cope with our current expansion plans.
Which of your competitors do you admire most – and why?
We admire all retailers, but especially GAME, Gamestation, CHIPS and the larger retailers. We are continually assessing and reviewing our business strategy and draw inspiration from all retail sectors, not just the gaming industry. We are always trying to improve our own service.
When did you establish your website? And are you seeing increasing sales coming from online?
We are onto our third website. Developing a suitable web presence is not as easy as we believed. It wasn't until we sought third party assistance that our website started to work for us.
We were already working closely with Complete EPOS, who designed our computerised tills and stock management systems. So we asked them for help. They designed our site for us. They made it easy to use, with a straight forward content management system. They also integrated our stock management system into the site. That way the website is always current with availability and price changes.
Were you expecting to win the MCV Award?
We always believed that we were good enough to win the award. We had that belief last year. However, self-belief is not always enough. This award means a lot to us, as it shows that our fellow retailers and industry suppliers are now recognising the hard work that we have put in to raise the profile of Grainger Games. I think that we always hoped for that recognition, but were never complacent enough to expect it.
How much of your business is part exchange?
Part exchange was our core trading aspect, when we first started out. We have never lost sight of that. We are still well know for our part exchange policy.
How do you promote/market your business to consumers?
We use many methods to reach our target audience. We operate a liveried Hummer H2 complete with demo consoles. Our Hummer can be found at many of our stores demonstrating the latest releases. As we grow in size and reputation, we are becoming more involved with our local community. We have supported a number of charities completing sponsored events, such as cycle rides and bungie jumps. We also make the Hummer available for promotional purposes. I also believe that word of mouth is a strong tool. If you are able to satisfy your customers and keep doing so, then those customers will return to you.
Have you noticed any change to your customer base over the past year?
Gaming has become more mainstream. As new consoles and game genres develop, gaming has become more accessible and more widely accepted. Gaming has become family friendly and interactive. Although there is still a hardcore gamer element, we are finding that there are games available for everyone, and everyone seems to be getting involved. Most people on the street would appear to have access to a games console of some sort. There is no longer a taboo associated with computer gaming.