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It has ‘no current plans’ for UK bricks and mortar – but GameStop does want to reach consumers across Europe using a mix of new strategies. What are they? Michael French spoke to international EVP Mike Mauler to find out

IT’S EASY to think games retailers are fighting a losing battle. With the rise of digital content, stores must be simply trying to stave off the eventual migration of consumers away from shops and to ‘Download now’ buttons, right? Certainly, some stores are bearing the brunt of such big changes. But not the towering behemoth

like GameStop. Just ask Mike Mauler, EVP of the global games giant’s international business. Two weeks ago, the firm announced

better-than-expected Q3 sales for the whole business. And despite the total hardware sales decline every retailer is seeing, GameStop specifically seems more enthusiastic than ever to maintain its growth – with real emphasis on international expansion. The firm told finance execs at last month’s BMO Capital Markets forum that it is sees more and more non-US opportunities for its stores.


But first, let’s get the inevitable question MCValways has to ask out of the way – does that mean UK expansion? GameStop has two stores on the mainland, inherited as part of an Irish retail acquisition. But that’s it for now, says Mauler. “We are currently not looking at expanding bricks and mortar in the UK,” says Mauler. But he adds: “Yet with a number of our digital businesses we are already in the UK – Kongregate’s customers are in the UK, our online gaming business Jolt has users in the UK, and Irish e-commerce already has British customers.” The comments echo statements made to us by his colleagues in August. So how will these holistic approaches help GameStop grow

internationally? To answer, you need to rewind 12 months.

Mauler stepped up to become international chief, responsible for everything outside of the USA, a year ago after serving ten years in charge of GameStop’s supply chain. From the off his plan was to get

GameStop global back to basics. “The big thing was to take a step back and focus on our core strengths – the way we deal with customers, our inventory, and how we deal with publishers. That’s been the theme for the year.” At the same time, GameStop has been in the midst of a transition, actively embracing online gaming, downloads and social media. GameStop’s initial plays into this arena were surprise moves for a bricks and mortar powerhouse. It bought the afore-mentioned Jolt and Kongregate. More recently, the retailer has been bridging the online-offline gap with DLC sales in stores and commissioning apps.

THE CLASSIC MODEL But Mauler still sees plenty of mileage in the core areas of bricks and mortar mail order for Europe. In terms of shops, GameStop is testing new store concepts – concessions, stores-in-stores and mall shops, plus kiosks, at sites across Europe. “What we’re doing with new store concepts are in the test phase – I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag

where “

There are markets where we are well established, but other markets where we are newer and are expanding rapidly. Mike Mauler, GameStop

we’re doing that, but we are pleased with the results,” explains Mauler. The aim is to find the right ways to enter non-GameStop markets, or improve its standing in others. “We want to be able to offer customers the buy-sell-trade reward model where we currently are in malls and street stores – but in some countries there aren’t that many real estate opportunities. So we’re looking to grow in markets where it might have been difficult in the past.” So, does that mean kiosks in the UK? Mauler doesn’t say. Probably because the bigger focus, which does scream ‘UKopportunity’, is e-commerce. GameStop has already launched six online retail sites for its international businesses. Says Mauler: “A year ago we had one e-ccommerce site in France and since then we have added Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain, Germany and Ireland. We will continue to expand that over the next year or so.” Where else would it expand to?

“We don’t want to say exactly which countries – but we will expand to countries where we do have stores and potentially some other markets.” It’s a coy statement. Sure, it

keeps the corporate press rep listening in on our chat happy, but although Mauler never says it himself, the notion of in that context doesn’t seem far fetched. After all, much of GameStop’s

progressive thinking of late stems from its October 2008 acquisition of French retailer Micromania. The $700m

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