Geek Retreat, the self-described geek culture retailer, gaming café and events venue rolled into one, is on track to open 60 of its planned 100 new stores on UK high streets by the end of 2021, creating 360 jobs around the country.
While the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed its franchise-based store rollout plans, the team behind the franchise says they are now on track to meet its previously announced target of a total of 100 new stores in 2022.
“We are pressing ahead with our expansion plans,” says Peter Dobson, Geek Retreat’s chief executive, “and are on track to meet our target for new stores.
“Despite the impact the pandemic has had on the high street more generally, the Geek Retreat proposition and unique culture has proved particularly resilient and has shown us how important it is for people to have a safe please to visit and to share their interests with friends as part of a community.”
The Geek Retreat franchise, which opened its first store in Glasgow in 2013, now has 27 stores, all stocking geek culture merchandise like comics, graphic novels, posters, clothing, figures and memorabilia as well as games and trading cards. The newest opened in Truro, Cornwall, just last month.
It also has stores in town and city-centres including Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bradford, Bury, Camberwell (London), Chelmsford, Daventry, Dumfries, Holloway (London), Hull, Kidderminster, Leeds, Leicester, Lisburn, Liverpool, Llandudno, Middlesbrough, Motherwell, Newcastle, Northampton, Northwich, Nottingham, Southampton, Sunderland, Wakefield, and the Wirral.
Fans of everything from Marvel and sci-fi, to Warhammer and Pokémon – and even traditional board games, are welcome at the stores and play their hobbies in the café.
“[The high street] needs to offer something Amazon doesn’t,” Dobson told CityAM this week. “I think it needs to be more of an experience and something different, because everyone’s got so used to buying online that I don’t see much of a future for the high street in its previous form.”
To support the growth of the business, the retailer has also announced a series of new hires, including four franchise development managers who will support the expanding geographical footprint of the brand. A further 25 employees will join the head office team in new roles such as New Store Openings Managers, Event & Gaming Specialist and Head of Digital & Ecommerce.
Following the recent brand relaunch, Geek Retreat has also developed and launched a new menu in consultation with its franchisees. The full menu roll-out in partnership with leading food service firm, Booker, sees the introduction of a high-quality menu with vegetarian, vegan and kid’s options, ensuring there’s something to suit everyone’s taste.
“The next big step is to get to between 200 and 250 stores in the UK, and then European expansion, so we’re in the early stages of plotting that, and we’re looking to potentially raise a round of investment to drive it,” Dobson says.
“That would be the next step before we think about listing on a stock exchange.”
All stores commit to a COVID-19 secure environment, with strict social distancing and hygiene measures in place, to give customers extra peace of mind that they can visit in confidence.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.