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