Vicki Life, a former GAME employee, is preparing to open her own videogame store. Based in Welwyn Garden City, Vicki has taken it upon herself to hopefully provide a service that she feels the city deserves. It’s a risk, given the recent troubles of GAME and HMV. However risk is often not without its rewards.
Gamebrit took the opportunity to speak to Vicki Life to find out her plans for her independent gaming store ‘Life After Game‘.
What made you decide to start your own independent store?
It was the closure of the Welwyn Garden City (WGC) GAME in the Howard Centre that sparked off the idea. I had told any nervous customers who thought GAME might be gone, whilst the talks of administration loomed in the air, that I would still be in a shop, whether it be GAME or my own.
Although GAME and Gamestation are the same company, they are still marketing at different groups.
Tell us about the process of setting up your own gaming store?
I’ve been working alone for the majority of it, with some help from a couple of good friends. I’ve been working hard on a business plan which will be key when it comes to funding.
As we are still at the start of the plan, the focus at the moment is finding a decent store that’s accessible to everyone and also at a reasonable rent, as that was the main issue (high rent) behind the closure of the WGC GAME.
Between myself and my two friends, we have enough supplier contacts from previous ventures along with those who have called up since the MCV article.
Is Welwyn Garden City, a Hertfordshire town with just over 40,000 residents, big enough to support an independent store?
I strongly believe WGC is big enough to support an independent, considering that my old GAME customers came from affluent areas like Harpenden. The only store that specializes in games (obviously not including supermarkets and HMV) is Gamestation, which is too small to cater for all the customers from GAME in the Howard Centre, and is not in the best location either. Having spoken with staff, customers are still unaware of their (Gamestation’s) presence!
How do you think the locals will take to you and your store?
I think that the locals would take well to me, considering the loyalty that I have been building with them over the last couple of years.
When I first joined GAME, there was an issue with the poor standard of goods traded in (dog chewed Xbox controllers! Nice!) which I put a stop to. It took a while for the customers to get used to us a declining games without instruction manuals, or damaged discs. But in the same time, it showed customers the quality of the pre-owned they would buy from us. I was extremely proud of the pre-owned standard which is something that Life After Game would definitely boast about!
Do you think you can compete with the bigger stores/supermarkets? What will you do to separate yourselves from them?
There will be more of a focus on pre-owned games, which is why I don’t see Life After Game as really competing with the supermarkets. Also, a supermarket will never be able to offer the same specialist advice that an independent or games-specialist can. This is down to the staff and their knowledge and passion for games.
Gaming nights and events are definitely something we want to do. Especially around new game launches.
What were you’re thoughts and feelings leading up to and following the closure of your GAME store?
Before GAME closed, I was pretty optimistic that that store would not go. It turned over twice what Gamestation turned over, was in a much better location, but unfortunately the bottom line read another story. Due to the high rent and rates, the WGC GAME was doomed.
Now it’s gone, I’ve seen that they still had opportunity (where was the talks with the centre about renegotiating rates?) and that’s something I want to take them up on.
Do you think the GAME group made the right decision with the closures?
Other than how they have dealt with the process (fall into administration for five days, cut half the staff and tell them to jog on for their redundancy, then within weeks appear to be trading again as normal), I do agree with the decision in WGC, having seen the profit and loss statements and differences in rent and rates. The closure move is one that should have been made when they first took over the Gamestation brand, rather than trading for too long with multiple stores in town (like the three in Stevenage).
‘Life After Game’ is an ingenious title, is it intended to be a poke at your former employers?
Life After Game is actually a poke at myself. The idea was what happens with ‘Vicki Life after GAME’. And then Life After Game stuck and is now a favourite for the title.
Do you hope more people will follow your example and do you have any advice for them?