19 October 2020 16:37
Geek Retreat said it would open 100 new sites in the next two years. Photo: Geek Retreat Geek Retreat is bucking the high street trend, and has said it will open 100 new stores in the next two years. This would create about 600 jobs. The board game and toy retailer said sales had been buoyed off the back of popularity of franchises such as Marvel and Stranger Things. Boardgames, card trading and tabletop games make up an industry worth £8bn ($10.4bn) in the UK and is predicted to grow by 3.1% annually over the next three years.
The planned shop openings are a rare bright spot in a time when retailers are closing down at a rapid pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New data over the weekend showed that the first half of this year saw a record number of store closures in the UK due to the virus. According to research by the Local Data Company (LDC) and PwC UK, 11,120 chain operator outlets have shut so far this year, while 5,119 shops opened. This means a net decline of 6,001 — almost double the decline tracked in 2019. That count could be higher still, as researchers did not take into account shops which have yet to reopen following the COVID-19 lockdown, with the grim expectation that many will never operate again.
READ MORE: Coronavirus pushes 11,120 UK shops to close Geek Retreat has put emphasis on ensuring its stores are safe and accessible to those on the autistic spectrum or with mental health issues. Peter Dobson, chief executive of Geek Retreat, said: "We have made sure all of our stores are welcoming and accessible to gamers whatever their interests, providing a place for our loyal customers to get out of the house and play safely post-lockdown. The franchise, which opened in 2013, currently employs 110 people in 14 shops. New shops will be popping up in Bournemouth, Northampton, Liverpool and have recently opened in Northwich and Chelmsford. Watch: Why job losses have risen despite the economy reopening East Anglian town earmarked for new store for 'geeks' Geek Retreat's Chelmsford store - the chain is looking to expand throughout the UK including in Suffolk and north Essex Picture: GEEK RETREAT Geek Retreat High street chain Geek Retreat says it is planning to expand into Suffolk and north Essex – with the first of its stores likely to be in Bury St Edmunds. Share Email this article to a friend To send a link to this page you must be logged in. The gaming culture retailer says it is planning to open 14 stores now, with a further 100 in the pipeline over the next two years, creating 600 jobs. It is looking at lease options in the Suffolk town. The stores – which are open to everyone – aim to provide vulnerable customers such as those on the autistic spectrum or with mental health issues with a "safe place to meet and play in an inclusive, welcoming, and social environment". MORE – Shoppers across region stay home as pandemic resurgence blights recovery The expansion follows the "immense popularity" of franchises such as Marvel and Stranger Things – where customers can enjoy "geeky interests and games", it said. The Geek Retreat franchise opened its first store in Glasgow in 2013 and now employs 110 people. Its store offer includes a comic bookstore, gaming cafe and events hub. You may also want to watch: It currently has 14 city centre stores, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Motherwell, Bradford, the Wirral, Nottingham, Middlesbrough, Llandudno and two in London. The most recent outlets to open are in Northwich and Chelmsford. Others are due to launch shortly in Bournemouth, Northampton and Liverpool. All stores are operating to coronavirus rules, the retailer said. Chief executive Peter Dobson said: "The UK's gaming and hobby sector is a real success story and Geek Retreat is a home for the communities who are at the heart of this phenomenon. "The wellbeing of our customers and staff has always been incredibly important to us – now more than ever everyone should expect a friendly, safe and clean environment to meet and play. We have made sure all of our stores are welcoming and accessible to gamers whatever their interests, providing a place for our loyal customers to get out of the house and play safely post-lockdown. "This is particularly important for our more vulnerable customers, like those on the autistic spectrum, or with mental health issues where being in an inclusive, welcoming, and social environment is very important. It is strength of the relationships which our stores build with local communities that is a key driver of growth."