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because they haven’t heard of them. Things like Waterstones’ staff recommendation cards are a cheap option that’s easy to sample.” Pinder agrees: “If you’re not offering clear and easy customer navigation, then you’re not really doing your job as a retailer.

“But compared to music and film, which are relatively straightforward to categorise, more thought needs to go into displaying games given that you’re dealing with a wider range of products: three major platforms usually on different lifecycles; new release and catalogue; console and handheld; high-value and budget.” Going forward, giving shoppers a chance to try the games first will also be important.

“Sampling is a gaming retail imperative,” says Saunders. “It’s about bringing the world of gaming into stores. Gaming is all about participation, so why is this so underplayed in-store? Too many retailers concentrate on simply presenting their products.” And why should this be limited to demos of the latest titles? Why not present peripherals in a way that demonstrates their benefits? The possibilities are endless. “You have to be open to the idea of evolving and introducing new concepts all the time so that as a brand you respond to developments and opportunities in retail design and technology that will help keep your store offer updated and relevant,” says Pinder. “Sampling is certainly an important part of this for us – especially when it comes to games, the most interactive of all entertainment formats. Many of our

Pinder handles both the games and technology departments at HMV


Location: Westfield Stratford City, London Innovation: Sampling areas including ‘competition arena’, cleaner design/layout, comprehensive displays collating online and boxed products by format.


If you’re not offering clear and easy

customer navigation, you’re not doing your job as a retailer.

Ewan Pinder, HMV

stores have playable units, and we have numerous Gamerbase hubs.”

TOP OF THE SHOPS Gaming begins at the point of purchase, when a consumer takes full ownership of their chosen title. Retailers are part of that, connecting with the consumer long before the Press Start screen – and it is important they make the most of this. “We believe strongly that, despite the undoubted benefits in terms of range and convenience that downloadable games offer, physical stores should remain a key element of games marketing,” says ERA’s Bailey.

“Shops offer a different experience to online and are a more effective way of generating impulse and gift purchases.” Saunders adds: “All gaming retailers should be looking to change their model.

“Online is a preferred channel of choice for vast numbers because it’s convenient, but it doesn’t engage or connect with a customer on anything other than a rational level. These are often fickle and price- sensitive individuals who are only buying on price or know precisely what they want.

Sampling is vital to attracting customers

“Gaming itself is a vibrant experience, larger than life, immersive, full of amazing twists and turns, adventures and escapism. So, the store should be the place where this can be experienced.”

MANAGING DIRECTOR, EXIENCE “Our objective was to create a fundamentally new experience for GAME stores. “Westfield was chosen as a high- profile site where a strong cross- section of our audience would be receptive to ‘new and different’. “Our main drivers were product sampling and interactivity. In other words, try-before-you-buy.

“With such a high price tag, gaming is a high-risk purchase for many. There is huge importance for the customer to be able to see and try the product ahead of purchase. “We drew much inspiration from

Toys R Us, Apple store, Nike, Adidas and Sony in New York. Also from Hong Kong airport and specialists in Mumbai. Toys R Us in New York was the most compelling in terms of interactivity, theatre and sheer energy.”


Location: Falmouth, Cornwall Innovation: Sampling areas, café/bar, games-themed cocktails, publisher events


“The most striking difference Loading has would be the lack of retailing. “We’ve instead focused on working with publishers and sellers instead to promote their products. Stocking titles was something I wanted to do originally once I went beyond the beer mat planning stage but I saw the margins – it just wasn’t something I could do.

“Because we don’t charge people to play the games, we don’t push a title to people based on what would make us the most money. We’ll leave something on display if it gets played, then people tend to see it’s being enjoyed and give it a go themselves. “We’d love to work on getting concession space with retailers. So rather than investing £40 straight away, a customer can grab a drink and get 15 to 20 minutes to sit and sample the title they’re interested in.”

June 8th 2012 23

The GAME Westfield store focuses on demos, says Saunders

Dance says a relaxed atmosphere is the key to Loading’s success

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