Posted by drew10 on Oct 2, 2007
Independent Retailers: The Battle To Survive

Independent Retailers: The Battle To Survive

Indie stores have long been the cornerstone of the gaming industry. For many years they were the only places to offer part exchange on your video games, and for the most part you were guaranteed to get some honest advice on the game which you desired to purchase.

Nowadays it seems that in the face of massive competition from stores such as Game, Gamestation, HMV, Virgin and supermarkets, to name but a few, some indie retailers have to plunge murky depths just to keep their businesses afloat.

The main way, it seems, that indie retailers can stay one step ahead of the “big boys” is to break street dates. This is a common practice among the indies as it guarantees sales titles that are most likely to be cheaper in the main high street or online. But does this practice serve them well or damage the industry as a whole?

Let’s look at video games as an industry and compare it to say, the movie industry. When a movie is released it gets a simultaneous release country wide and this breeds excitement and anticipation for the film. If thirty or so small cinema’s were to show the movie three days early because they couldn’t compete with the multi-plex cinema’s in terms of price or quality of screen would it harm the release? That is debatable, but what you would get is a diluted situation that has less of a commercial impact as a whole.

It is a problem that is understandable; indie stores are trying to survive in a saturated marketplace where software and hardware mark-up prices mean greatly reduced profit margins if you only have the cash flow to bring in under a hundred copies of any new title. So the way to make sure you sell through all of your copies is to offer something that other stores cant, the major release two or three days early. Believe me, from my time as an indie store manager gamers will travel a long way to get their hands on a pre-release copy of a new title. Personally, I never liked breaking street dates, it lessens the impact of the big releases but it does keep customers coming back to your store so some would say it is a vital weapon in the indie stores armoury.

However there are other ways the indie stores could help themselves. Keeping a customer base is essential and having personality in the store is vital to this. Too many times I have heard a indie store sales assistant patronise someone for their lack of knowledge, or worse sell a parent a crap game just to get it off the shelf.

However, even more crucial to an indie store surviving is the second hand market. The industry doesn’t like it but who cares? Trading in of games is what keeps the industry ticking over. It enables gamers who can’t afford new releases to enjoy them later down the line and it lets us all revisit games that have been overlooked! (See the ten most criminally overlooked titles in the top ten section.) But this is where most indie stores get it hopelessly wrong. In a bid to maximise profits they match the appalling trade-in prices of high street stores like Game. When what they should be doing is offering higher trade-in values, this brings people into the store and keeps them away from the larger retailers. Filling your shelves with more titles at slightly less profit and increasing turnover is just plain sense. Not to have the same old second hand games on the shelf for £30 but to have a constant stream of titles at £25 is what they should be looking for.

I still try to support the indie stores when I can and I think we should all help them out because they are a dying breed. It is curious to note that not many of them like it when you point out all the things they are doing wrong! Oh well!

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One Response to “Independent Retailers: The Battle To Survive”

  1. moonhead says:

    Online retailers break street dates all the time I don’t think it matters to much really as long as it is no more than a couple of days before, with the numbers that usually ship before release day it doesnt make a difference. It happens in all entertainment even films, with good quality DVD screener pirate copies of even the top films finding their way into peoples DVD players before the glitzy premiere and it does not harm the earnings or reputation of the big blockbusters. The two main problems that indie retailers have are prices and service. Indie stores just cannot compete price wise with either online retailers who with their lower overheads can undercut RRP’s by between £10 – £15 and the bigger buying power of the larger games stores and supermarkets. With service they shoot themselves in the foot most of the time due to their presentation and staff, their staff tend to be snotty superior hardcore gamer types who look down there noses at somebody for not knowing the next big Japanese curio from the latest greatest FPS this needs to be changed they need to be all encompassing with good advice covering all games and gamer types of which there are now loads and loads from mature to casual to hardcore to kids and even now female all are gamers and all deserve to treated equally as customers. This is where the big chains win out they may talk crap and give rubbsh advice most of the time, to the uneducated gamer it all sounds good and they hand over their cash. The issue of presentation is not really all the indie stores doing but more to do with societies misconception of the sort of people who play games what with the gangs of hooded youths who are apparently responsible for all the worlds ills. Parents, mature and less educated gamers are far more likely to stick to the clean llines and clinical presentation of their local high street chain than the dingy poorly lit slightly smelly back street indie store and supposed hooded youths. I fear for the death of the indie store but think its death is inevitable as the gaming landscape changes and things move ever forward what with the trend for downloadable distribution and increased competition on the highstreet and online we probably will not even notice that indie stores have died we will be to busy playing the latest and greatest AAA title that we have just freshly downloaded. After all thats what gamers do they play games and where they get them from is not always important as long as they get them.

  2. […] to Ebay, a few weeks back on these very pages Drew quite rightly lamented the demise of the independent retailer. One quick look at Ebay though and you will see small shops selling games very competitively […]

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