Following consistent success last year in the collectibles category, the video game retailer has plans to keep expanding its non-video game offerings, continuing to partner with collectible and toy companies such as Funko and ThinkGeek for exclusive merchandise.
“For us it’s all about the brand extension into a lifestyle play,” says Clint Walker, Director of Merchandising at GameStop. “It’s really just changed by the way the fans are consuming their content. It’s all about 365 on-demand, with the way the content’s being facilitated.”
Walker says GameStop had a strong start to the year, with not only major video game launches in Kingdom Hearts III and Jump Force, but also with partnerships coming out of last month’s Toy Fair New York.
During the trade show, GameStop announced a major collaboration with Hasbro, yielding exclusive merch for brands including Overwatch, Power Rangers, and Fortnite. The most major announcement, however, was the Transformers-Ghostbusters 30th anniversary collaboration. The first product in the line is a transforming Ecto-1 named Ectotron.
“[Ectotron] is off to a tremendous start in terms of preorder and presell,” Walker says, “and it’s really kind of speaking volumes to some of the nostalgia and the retro feel we have in terms of our strategies.”
Looking forward to the rest of this year, Walker sites Nintendo as a major player for the spring and expects all things Pokémon —especially the Trading Card Game — to make a major comeback with the release of the Detective Pikachu film. He says the company expects the movie to be “a potential halo effect” on Pokemon products, similar to the impact of Pokémon Go at the height of its popularity.
While GameStop anticipates everything branded Detective Pikachu to outperform base trend, the retailer expects the movie to bolster all Pokémon products, including Pokemon Center products, which will be available at GameStop first.
Another major property for this year, according to Walker, is Disney and its subsidiaries, especially Marvel (thanks Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home!). This may seem like an untraditional choice for GameStop, since these properties don’t necessarily have video games attached to them, unlike last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. However, Walker says the company is happily moving into all things pop culture when it comes to collectibles.
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“We’ve learned a lot in terms of what products resonate with each type of gamer,” he says. “Oftentimes, some of the largest games just don’t resonate to products as well as we would like … The thing for us is just truly capitalizing on the video game traffic first, but also making sure that our assortments are tailored towards the fan.”
One unique thing GameStop sees fans looking for? Villains. Unlike many of its competitors, Walker says GameStop tends to do better with products featuring the bad guys from a franchise. One example is the GameStop-exclusive Goldar Power Rangers figure. Perhaps, he says, it brings out some nostalgia and the little bit of evil we all have inside us.
“I think even looking back to some of the classic villains, whether it’s Skeletor or anybody else from the days that we grew up…” Walker says, “those consumers that are young adults now, they aged up, they’re into consumables, they have more of a disposable income, and I think that really kind of resonates.”
Other trends Walker sees in collectibles and merch this year include anime (Dragon Ball is one of the company’s top 10 properties) and lots of retro content.
As part of the a shifting focus to all things fandom, GameStop plans to improve communication for its PowerUp rewards program and refine its in-store presentation to create “more of a destination in store and home for ease of shopping.”
Ultimately, Walker says the trend toward merchandising partnerships and fan-focused product isn’t going away any time soon. “I’m very excited to see the collectibles, toys, and consumer products business thriving in terms of just overall demand,” he says. “There’s no lack of appetite to consume.”