Independent retailers and hobby stores are celebrating a ‘rare win’ over Games Workshop who spent an embattled week at the outrage of a community who believed themselves “to be overlooked” by the British miniatures brand and its latest big box Warhammer launch, in favour of the online discounters and its own webstore.
Games Workshop, the name behind the popular Warhammer 40,000 wargaming franchise was forced to climb down this week in a note to independent retailers, informing them that a second launch of the highly sought-after Warhammer 40,000 Indomitus box set will arrive for them in time for Christmas this year.
The hobby specialist found itself at the sharp end of criticism of its network of independent stockists across the UK when it was discovered that the launch of its newest Warhammer 40,000 product, the Indomitus box set with a RRP of £125, would not be as readily available to them upon launch as suggested. In many cases, independent shops, reliant on the launch of a much-hyped, big box item like the Indomitus in order to keep their own doors open throughout the ongoing coronavirus measures, struggled to secure even three items, while others were told ‘they had simply sold out.’
The outrage was amplified when it came to light that Games Workshop had supplied renowned online discounters and marketplaces with high volumes of the hotly-anticipated product, with reports of one online seller ‘boasting that they had the product in its hundreds in reserve.’
The news struck a particular sour note with UK independent retailers who have already been hard hit by the sweeping temporary closures of High Street shops over the past few months, with the impact of zero footfall still only coming to light now. The arrival and the community buzz around the launch of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 Indomitus was held as a beacon of hope for many small businesses in the hobby game space.
“With a not so small RRP of £125 that product alone would keep the doors open at many small independent hobby stores for the next month or two, until we’ve hopefully got some semblance of normality back,” Duncan Conner, owner of Bus Stop Toy Shop told ToyNews.
“Indie retailers will certainly have lost sales, since even the most loyal of their customers will have tried to get themselves a copy online when pre-order went live over the weekend, and many will have succeeded. Plus, with an expected delivery date possibly as far away as just before Christmas, will the hype survive?”
With competition against the online discounters and marketplace giants rife and increasing ever more, particularly over the course of the last three months throughout which online shopping has witnessed a rise due to the UK’s lockdown measures, the move from Games Workshop has done little to instil confidence in the independent brick and mortar retailer in its own survival when faced with internet selling.
“Looking at online forums it’s not just us guys in Scotland [missing out], it’s happening all over,” said Andrew Magee, owner of Kingdom Comics in Fife. “It’s important because it’s lost revenue. If my players have to go to an online retailer to get it that’s money they are spending with them and not me, this is probably costing me about £1.5k in lost revenue.
“Small shops just can’t afford to lose that much business, we’re struggling through having been closed for months and now we’re back open we still can’t host gaming because of Covid restrictions. I’m looking at doing about 70 per cent of a normal month this month, that’s how much not having gaming in store costs me.
“High street stores have a hard enough time trying to compete with online. Higher rent and rates, higher wage bills as a percentage of turnover; everything is skewed towards the online guys. And now big retailers are giving them priority on orders for the big releases? It’s another nail in the coffin for the local game store.”
Games Workshop is yet to respond directly to ToyNews’ call for comment, but its latest message to the independent stockist, that more product will be available in time for Christmas, has offered some a ray of optimism, providing the buzz around the Warhammer 40,000 Indomitus box set can maintain its momentum until then.
“What’s interesting is that this pales in comparison when we look at the effort that companies like The Pokemon Company International, Wizards of the Coast (Magic the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons), Konami (Yu-Gi-Oh), and Asmodee UK have put in for us, without being asked, to support independent hobby retailers over the past few months,” said Bus Stop Toy Shop’s Conner.
“They have all worked incredibly hard on our behalf, and have shown through their actions (and financial support) just how much they appreciate the contribution that indies make to their business.”