Board games and comic book retailer Geek Retreat has announced plans to open another 100 stores on British high streets in the next two years.
The ‘geek culture’ firm said the popularity of entertainment franchises like Marvel and Stranger Things had enhanced demand for ‘geeky interests and games’ like trading memorabilia, card games, posters and action figures.
In a sign of confidence for bricks-and-mortar businesses, it hopes to create another 600 jobs from expansion into cities such as Northampton, Bournemouth and Liverpool, up from its current 110 employees and 14 stores.
Aside from selling memorabilia from brands like Star Wars, Geek Retreat venues also host cafes selling milkshakes, as well as games tournaments, comic book signings and quizzes
This is despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing it to postpone gaming events and the ongoing troubles with the hospitality side of the business.
Aside from selling memorabilia from brands like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Harry Potter, Geek Retreat venues also host cafes selling milkshakes and hot dogs, as well as games tournaments, comic book signings and quizzes.
High-selling products include Pokemon and wizards game Magic: The Gathering, while role-playing pastime Dungeons & Dragons is another favourite.
‘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,’ remarked chief executive Peter Dobson, who co-owns the firm with Stephen Walsh.
‘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.’
Geek Retreat sells products from fantasy genres like Japanese manga series Yu-Gi-Oh!
Dobson added that customer safety has been ‘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.’
The game franchise’s new announcement comes after fantasy miniatures creator Games Workshop registered a booming summer sales performance as more customers took advantage of the lockdown period to paint more figurines.
The Warhammer maker, which Geek Retreat also sells, posted a fourth consecutive year of record revenues and profits last year and has been one of the best-performing companies on the UK stock market in the previous decade.
Pokemon merchandise are some of the most popular products sold at Geek Retreat
It is a market leader in the wider £8billion UK tabletop games industry, which is predicted to grow at 3.1 per cent per year over the next three years.
Geek Retreat has only been around for a comparatively shorter time, having only opened its first outlet in Glasgow in 2013 after co-founders Stephen and Carina Walsh remortgaged their home to finance their new venture.
Further assistance came from the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator and the Scottish EDGE funding competition, which awarded them £30,000 in 2015 to help them expand their franchise model.
It has delivered impressive growth, and it said the recent launch of stores in Chelmsford, Essex and Northwich, Cheshire saw their highest-ever opening days to date.