What’s missing from this photo? About seventy-five squabbling siblings, several (though not enough) overwhelmed staffers, a couple dozen frazzled parents (including me), and the line leading out the door past Starbucks. Because, when it comes to the economic “downturn,” the only thing down at GameStop stores I have visited recently is their inventory.
Halfway between the Christmas Eve peas and mashed potatoes, I recalled “THE GAME”. It’s capitalized to express its utter necessity to my pre-teen son. Although the mall lot allowed a bevy of prime spaces, GameStop was packed like a can of sardines even as Santa made his way through the eastern seaboard (updates courtesy of NORAD). I waited patiently for 30 minutes to pay while being thrashed by anxious customers in my same predicament. I can’t imagine there was anything left to buy by the time I straggled out, bruised but not broken. I had THE GAME in hand.
Alas, the relatives dished out GameStop gift cards galore–and we found out on Friday morning that apparently, the rest of the world’s kin did the same. And that ALL of them planned to use the cards now. At the same location. At the same time. On the same games. Or so it seemed. After failing to find everything at the nearest store–which was so busy we had to wait 20 minutes in line just to be let inside–it was off to another mall. Me, the three kids, two neighbors and somebody’s cousin from Oklahama. And ALL of them were loaded with GameStop gift cards.
I dutifully took my place in line while my charges jostled with the 50 or so other card-carrying kids. I was impressed by the “Buy Two Used Games, Get One Free” sale. One mom about to drive to Texas with triplets waited to purchase a stack bigger than a ten-gallon hat. Trade-ins took twice as long, but they offered good money plus a discount for used games. They even suggested we buy a used game over new, which saved us $10 and gained us rights to return. My youngest scored several “Buy One, Get One” deals, and huge “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” boxes flew out the door. I know because I was hit by them.
GameStop seems to be playing this recession right. Deep After-Christmas discounts? Check. BOGO offers to move excess inventory? Check. Agressive marketing, value branding? Check. Even the annoyingly long lines create a certain buzz. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that even when money is tight, many parents are willing to sacrifice to keep the kids happy. While I doubt that GameStop’s fourth quarter will be its best ever, I guarantee their December numbers will be better than most. And while I don’t own any stock in the company, maybe it’s time to buy some. As long as I don’t have to wait in line!