TGN Editorial – Press Announcement Pique

By Enrico Nardini
In 40K
Jan 29th, 2015
7 Comments
4308 Views

Associate Editor Enrico Nardini pulls out a pernicious problem present in Games Workshop’s latest press announcement. See what has him piqued!

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There are times when I feel like Games Workshop is in a position where they can do no right. 2014 did show improvement in some areas. Did you ever think you would see bundle deals that had an actual and meaningful discount? How about new starter sets that once again, could be considered a value for your gaming dollar (including units you might actually want to purchase)? Yet, in the age of the $25+ single figure blister, it’s hard to not think that there are still systemic issues in GW’s attitude and business model that may be causing their continuing profit backslide.

The one thing we know for sure is that the backslide is real. For a very long time, customers upset with GW policies that were perceived as less than consumer friendly, were often criticized as doomsayers and chicken littles. These chickens seem to have come to roost, as GW continues to post press announcements featuring a drop in sales (this time by 6.6%). Now, I understand that these press releases are supposed to be full of flowery glad-handing intended to reassure investors, but I began to feel a tinge of irritation when I read a certain section.

“Our current initiatives of ever better weekly new product releases, the low cost one man stores in retail and the stockist programme in trade, are designed to lead to growth.”

No. Just no!

No. Just no! Ok. Yes, the weekly product releases are likely a good thing. Some consumers may find them overwhelming, but often in the miniature industry, if you aren’t producing new releases, you aren’t on the radar. However, the idea that the new one man stores are designed to lead growth is absolutely laughable.

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I went into an official GW store over my winter break while visiting family. The second I passed the doors, I was greeted with, “We’ll be closing for an hour break in 5 minutes.” My first thought, “This is bush league.” Look, my local game store might take a 15 minute bathroom break if they are understaffed that day, but to have a store closed for an hour in the afternoon on a weekend is absurd. (I should specify that I’m talking about shops in the USA. I’m aware other cultures have differing norms regarding this.)

Now, I’ve been gaming for 24 years. I’ve been gaming with GW products for almost as long. But, imagine if I was a new customer and had just walked through the door for the first time. What kind of message is that sending to your prospective customer? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but I didn’t wait around for an hour – I doubt someone new to the hobby who saw “cool toy soldiers” in the window would either.

If you can’t support your own retail stores functioning within normal service expectations, close the stores.

This is madness. If you can’t support your own retail stores functioning within normal service expectations, close the stores. Or, and here’s a crazy idea that might actually serve your customers better, provide better support for your local independent retailers. Older hobbyists will remember programs like the Outriders, which traveled to independent retailers, running events and drawing customers into the stores to play, paint, and most importantly, purchase.

Smaller stores save on rent but lack space.

Smaller stores save on rent but lack space.

I don’t entirely understand why you would create stores that cannot service customers in anyway comparable to a well managed LGS, but I imagine a fear that they are not aligned with its (GW’s) values” might be an issue. We’ve certainly seen evidence of their control issues, both past and present.

Also, please don’t think I haven’t considered their desire to maximize their profits. I understand that a GW store is making considerably more per box than what they would get wholesale. I also understand that there has been an effort to drive customers towards online sales. What I cannot understand is how Wizards of the Coast can consistently provide support for the LGSs that make them profitable with events, promotional product, etc. and Games Workshop cannot.

So what do you think? Do you like the single employee, small store model? Could GW be doing more to support local game stores? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

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TGN's Ambassador of Awesome is here! Enrico Nardini is Tabletop Gaming News' Associate Editor, preaching the gospel of awesome to gamers everywhere.
  • Mark Mondragon

    Sounds like they are not hiring for the store hours. You mentioned a ‘cultural difference’ its actually a legal issue. If they staffed properly they would have two part time employees to deal with the mandated breaks, and an overlap off staff mid day to accommodate the required breaks for employees working over 4 hours. How they are dealing with the 15 min breaks with a simgle operator is beyond me.

    • Tony

      In many jurisdictions, although a ten or fifteen minute coffee break is quite widespread, it is not in any way, shape or form legally mandated. That is, no employer is legally obligated to give such a break to their employees. Because it is so commonly given though, many people do assume it is law.

      • Ira Clements

        Its on the books in Cali

        • Ian Hunter

          But the laws in California are so different from all the other states it is almost the exception to the rule. But you are correct.
          They closed the GW store (funny enough it is the one pictured above) near me so I never experienced the one man store. But I am not sure how it works if the “one man” gets sick or can’t make it in. Is the store just closed?

          • BaconSlayer

            The metro areas usually have a ‘floater’ that cycles throughout the stores and/or the metro manager.

  • elril

    So, if the one employee is having a rough stomach day, the store is randomly closed through out the day in 5-10min increments?

  • crazytuco

    I’d be very curious to see some sort of data, even if it’s only anecdotal, as to what gamers prefer, a GW store or an independently run LGS. As far as the cities in the US where I have been that had a GW store, there were also non-GW gaming stores as well. I’d be willing to bet that most people who play 40k or WFB also play other non-GW games whether they be board games, D&D, MtG, or some other minis games. Why make a special stop at a game store that only sells one game when you can stop at a game store that sells everything you’re interested in spending money on?

    The closest GW store to me is in Portland, OR. I’ve been by it but never gone in (the one time I went there it was closed, they don’t open until 1:00). There’s no way you can tell me that the PDX Games Workshop store moves more GW product than Guardian Games which is about 15 minutes away.

    So if that is true for other areas, why keep the GW stores open? Do they make enough in sales to support themselves even? Cutting hours of operation and employees down to one man looks bad and that type of action often drives customers away who see it as a sign that the business is not long for this world.

    Like the author of the editorial I am old enough to remember the GW of the late-80’s and early-90’s, and the Outrider program. I don’t have time to go dig out my old copies of WD to see what a blister of five pewter beastmen (one of which had a plasma pistol and a chainsword!) cost and compare it to today’s prices in an effort to see if GW product is any more or less affordable. I often wonder if the vitriol (including my own) regarding prices doesn’t stem in part from the perception by many that GW does not give a flip about their customers anymore.