When GameStop first opened its doors in the early 2000s, the store became a shopping destination where gamers could pick up the newest video games, consoles, and gaming magazines. With the dawn of online shopping, the popularity of mobile games, and the rise of fandom culture, GameStop is evolving. While physical video game sales were down in the first and second quarters, the company’s sales reports show that one specific category is thriving—collectibles.

Sales in collectibles—including figures, clothing, board games, and other non-game merchandise—grew year-over-year during GameStop’s first three quarters last year, as well as during the holiday season. (The company is expected to release fourth-quarter sales results in March.)

In its quarterly press releases, GameStop attributed collectibles’ growth to “continued expansion of licensed merchandise offerings and unique product offerings,” “new and improved product offerings,” and “notable growth in apparel.”

Kristina Ventura, vice president of collectibles for GameStop, says the company tried a variety of programs with collectibles before developing its five-year product assortment portfolio roadmap. So far, she says, the category grew incrementally over the past few years.

“Whether they play games or watch a show or movie, like any true fan, our customers love to collect items to express their interests,” Ventura says. “A collectible— such as a statue, action figure, or Pop! Vinyl; or a fashion item, such as a T-shirt, a lanyard, or socks—is a way for them to express their fandom and their individuality.”

Ventura says introducing collectibles also provides opportunities for GameStop to host launch events and pique interest for specific brands, even without a new game or system release. She says the company works closely with suppliers to provide items that GameStop customers will want.

“Our merchants are fans, and they love to bring exclusive ‘in-world’ items to the market that speak to the fans,” she says.

Ventura says the most successful collectibles tend to relate to video games, stemming from the store’s roots. And pop culture fandom collectibles are successful, too. In fact, the popularity of Fortnite and the opportunities to sell select toys based on the game surprised GameStop.

Fallout Pip-Boy Kit from Bethesda, one of GameStop’s best-selling collectibles last year.

In addition to increasing its focus on collectibles, GameStop is re-evaluating its role in the marketplace to evolve and expand its consumer base beyond the traditional 20-something gamers. Now, the company leans into its employees and their collective video game expertise.

“Having a knowledgeable staff that are fans themselves has facilitated our reputation as a place for everyone from gamers to parents to get personalized advice and informed answers,” Ventura says. “This engagement is hard to get at a big-box retailer or via online shopping.”

The shift away from physical video games and toward digital downloads further solidifies GameStop’s role as an information resource, where an in-store team can provide in-depth video game knowledge.

Looking ahead to this year, Ventura says GameStop is in the process of improving its in-store shopping experience and product assortments to better serve its customers. This year includes a variety of new intellectual property launches, and GameStop plans to continue growing the collectibles aspect of its business.

“Our team has worked diligently to provide compelling assortments,” Ventura says. “Our merchants are collaborating with Funko, as well as many other suppliers, to provide unique products and create an inspiring lineup of statues, action figures, and apparel for fans of all ages. So, start saving your money now, as Q4 will have must-have collectibles to inspire the creativity of our customers.

This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Winter 2019 Issue No. 2, click here to read more!