Game banks on real-world experience to bridge on and offline sales

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Games marketplace and store chain Game Digital has opened the first of two gaming arenas that aim to give online gamers a real-world location to experience, test and try all the latest gaming hardware and software.

The new Belong arena opened in the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, and is the first new venture since Game formed a partnership with Sports Direct. A second Belong arena is scheduled to open in Thurrock on the eastern flank of London next month.

Each arena has space for 50 gamers to play the latest games on the latest hardware and mark a move by the online company to start to offer a real-world customer experience for its customers and prospects.

The company already has a number of much smaller Belong venues around the country, but this marks a significant step forward.

“The existing 19 Belong arenas continue to perform well with all key metrics advancing, a considerable affirmation of the offering. Opening the first two arenas in collaboration with Sports Direct represents a significant step forward as we implement our strategy to increase the availability and scale of Belong, our experience based gaming offer and esports activities. The UK and Spanish mint retail markets continue to show growth and we expect this momentum will continue into our new financial year and the peak trading period, driven by a strong line up of new software releases.”

– Martyn Gibbs, Chief executive, Game Digital

The move also reflects a wider trend in the online retail industry of giving consumers access to good and services sold online in the flesh, with experts on hand to guide them.

This experiential retail idea is hoped to be what could save many High Street chains from going under.

John Lewis and Halfords have both seen bottom line benefits to opening stores up to being experiential. JLP devoting a fifth of its store floor space in its flagship Oxford Street store to experiences such as a nail bar, coffee, lectures and more. Halfords meanwhile attributes a 10% rise is sales to 2 million in-store fittings and repairs.

Research by Barclaycard suggests that staging events in stores has a very real effect on income. It says that they answer customers’ desires for more engaging high street experiences and that people who attend them spend more.

It questioned 2,002 shoppers and found a marked enthusiasm for in-store events among younger shoppers. In the 18 to 24-year-old range, 15% say that in-store events after hours would encourage them to choose one retailer over another.

At the same time, its analysis found that UK retailers who stage in-store events and experiences have seen their annual turnover increase by, on average, 14% this year. Barclaycard has seen consumer spending on entertainment grow by 10.5% during the year, compared to last year.

Barclaycard questioned 251 senior retail decision-makers in September 2017 and found that more than a third (36%) of retailers now host in-store events such as classes, courses and exclusive sales previews, and that 19% plan to start doing so in the next three years.

“Retailers who take advantage of the opportunities in the experience economy can really reap the rewards,” said. “Our research has found that shoppers increasingly want to stay in stores for longer, rather than head home with their purchases.”

– George Allardice, head of strategy, Barclaycard Payment Solutions


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