Once e-tail only, ThinkGeek expands brick-and-mortar presence
Since GameStop’s August 2015 acquisition of then pure-play e-tailer ThinkGeek and its parent company Geeknet, the company has transformed the online world’s foremost purveyor of licensed merchandise and collectibles (what gamers call “loot”) into a successful brick-and-click hybrid. Since last year, the company launched four brick-and-mortar locations. Now, ThinkGeek plans to dramatically increase its brick-and-mortar presence by opening 25 more stores in the U.S. this year and 25 more internationally, under the moniker Zing Pop Culture.
In an interview with RetailWire, Mike Mauler, EVP and president of GameStop International, explained the instrumental role that the storefronts have played in helping the company take “loot” sales to the next level.
“Nobody really goes online looking for a Star Trek pizza cutter, but you go into a ThinkGeek store and you see one and you just gotta have it,” said Mr. Mauler. “We see that a lot. A lot of impulse purchases. A lot of people interacting with the product and having fun. The kind of thing you really can’t do simply by going on a website to look for something specific.”
ThinkGeek is also committed to creating a seamless omnichannel experience for its customers including:
- Implementing click-and-collect, which enables customers to order from the retailer’s website for local pickup;
- Initiating ship-from-store in about half its locations;
- Filling inventory gaps by enabling customers who are unable to find what they want in a store to order it for delivery to their home;
- Developing mobile apps for iOS and Android, giving customers other options for gaining product information and making purchases;
- Mining data from its brick-and-mortar store to inform promotions it runs on its website.
Mr. Mauler described a shift over the past few years in how customers interact with licensed merchandise and how media companies emphasize it. He used Game of Thrones as an example.
“Now people will go into a ThinkGeek store and have a season premiere Game of Thrones party and buy coffee mugs and shot glasses and t-shirts, so consumers are really embracing a different way to experience the [intellectual property],” said Mr. Mauler.
ThinkGeek stores have also allowed GameStop to reach new demographics. The percentage of female and family shoppers at ThinkGeek stores is 60 to 65 percent, as opposed to only 35 to 40 percent max at GameStop outlets.
Mr. Mauler said that the company predicts a billion dollars in sales within the “loot” category for GameStop by 2019.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What can pure-play e-tailers learn from ThinkGeek’s successful transition into brick-and-mortar and its impending expansion? In what areas of business other than “loot” might pure-play e-tailers succeed in expanding into brick-and-mortar?