Archive for the ‘Stores’ Category


If at first you don’t succeed…

March 26, 2012

Todays events at GAME and GameStation have brought back some memories for all of us at Playtime, some of which are not very pleasant. When I say to all the staff at the GAME Group “We feel your pain” it is from first hand experience.

Playtime (originally known as Playtime Multimedia Ltd) went into administration in March 2009 – three years ago to the day – that GAME did.

And for the very same reasons. We found out first hand that it just isn’t possible to run a profitable business on the high street, selling just games.

We didn’t have 606 stores when we first closed – we had 10. We didn’t have 5,500 employees, we had 53. But the similarities are striking.

We got into retailing because we loved games, and wanted to work with them. That’s how GAME and Gamestation both started. And we grew as gaming became more mainstream, just like GAME did!

But when the supermarkets move in, there’s very little any specialist retailer can do. Online has grown but over 70% of games are still sold through conventional boxed retail channels.

It’s just that most people don’t come shopping on the High Street now. Shoppers flock to supermarkets for their weekly “one-stop” shop and pick up the latest release there, or they go to the huge shopping centres where they can park and “leisure shop”.

Any business analyst will tell you that most businesses need a Gross Margin of at least 30% to be sustainable. Supermarkets do it by margin mixing. High street brands do it in shopping centres like Bluewater and Meadowhall by selling expensive, premium brands.

Single product, specialist chains like Playtime and GAME are not sustainable if they have to sell most games at the prices customers expect to pay! And in any free market, that is the price you have to charge. I’m not complaining. I’m a great fan of the free market, even though we have suffered at the hands of it. If you get knocked down, get up, you brush yourself down, and try again!

I’m sure it would have happened a lot earlier to us and to GAME, had it not been for the pre-owned part of the games business. Margins in this area are much closer to the 30% GP required than they are for selling new games. Perhaps though that just stayed the execution.

So try again we did. We only have three stores now and we have diversified, both online and into collectables & other game related items. To be honest though, it still doesn’t make any money. We do it because we have lease commitments to meet and we are still gamers at heart – we love being around games & gamers!

I’m sure GAME will return too. Maybe not with 600+ stores. But if they can find someone to service the debt they’ve built up (or even wipe it out) they can then start again with a lower cost base.

There are still people who want to buy their games from a specialist.

For the foreseeable future anyway….


View from the Counter

April 22, 2009

So that didn’t work then did it….

Over the last five years, my brother and I tried to grow Playtime into a profitable business by opening a new store every 6-12 months.

Why do that? I hear you ask – well, it was a defense mechanism as much as anything else, the bigger you are the more we could benefit from economies of scale – marketing with publishers, buying professional labels, carrier bags etc, professional branding and merchandising in-store – the list goes on. Five years ago, we also saw the bigger indies doing well – Software Store and Eplay were winning awards and seemed to be going from strength to strength.

So why didn’t it work? Well, we were going well until last summer, then some American banker invented the words “Sub-Prime” and “Credit Crunch” and by the time we came out the other side of Christmas, we just weren’t selling as many games as we needed too. That it meant we had to shut the business should come as no surprise really – we are in a recession after all.

It is ironic that of the 10 stores we had when we shut, nearly all would still be profitable – if they were run by an owner operator – like most other “indies” are.

We found that we could run a couple of stores fine on our own, but when you get more than 3 or 4, you need to employ managers to do it for you – and good managers cost money, and they need area managers to help them, and purchasing managers to buy stock for them, and marketing managers to support them, and personnel managers to advise them – and the list goes on.

When you have the costs of a head office to cover, you need a lot more than 10 stores to make it work. This is the crux – in retail you either do it all yourself as indies across the country still do – or you need to have national coverage, to cover the costs of running a full head office. From our experience, there really is no in-between.


Playtime Barnsley – more piccies

July 24, 2008

I have added some more piccies of the opening to my gallery


Playtime Barnsley now open

July 21, 2008

We have officially launched the new store in Barnsley and I have posted a few piccies of the characters who came to help us tell the good folk of Barnsley….

Watch out - he breathes fire....

Watch out - he breathes fire....


Playtime Barnsley shop fit

June 20, 2008

The shop fit is well underway and as promised I have uploaded some piccies here of the work being done:

A full set for those really interested is here


Playtime Video Games is coming to Barnsley

June 16, 2008

We got the keys to our next shop in Barnsley last week so the shopfitters have been busy stripping it out and getting it ready. The address is 8-10 Market Street, Barnsley S70 1SH and we hope to be open in a couple of weeks time. It used to be a health food shop with treatment rooms on the first floor – not sure what that means but apparently it wasn’t very popular and they went bust. I never like to hear of people going bust but I can’t really see the people of Barnsley going for that sort of thing!!!!

Hopefully they will go for Playtime’s games instead. I always get excited at the prospect of a new store. The store will need new members of staff which I always enjoy. We started Playtime because we live and breath games – so if you offer someone else the opportunity to work in the games sector, its like bringing someone else into the brotherhood. If you are a gamer, what could be better than working in a game shop? We cant think of anything else really.

Barnsley will be our 10th shop and will take us to over 50 people (in the Playtime brotherhood!!! – that sounds sinister). Once the shop is a bit closer to opening I will post more updates, but in the meantime, here’s a mock up that our signwriter has done for us – I’m sure it will be better once it is done.


As you can see, after the Meadowhall store, this will be the second store where the sign is the same as our new URL – – It will be interesting to see whether people assocoiate the two with each other – ie the high street store and the online store. It will also be interesting to see if we get any of our Meadowhall customers coming into the Barnsley store – I know a lot of people who live in Barnsley go to Meadowhall to shop – it is that close.