Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Local GW Hobby Centre - A Romance

This has been a post I’ve struggled to write for awhile – and I’m not sure if there is actually any point to it. Essentially it concerns the place of my local Games Workshop Hobby Centre in my hobby. I’m pretty sure that my position is reflected around the world – partly in response GW’s draconian pricing structure. I first got into the GW hobby in 2000, when I bought some transfers from the Wellington store in Mid-City. I liked the look of the Mordheim game so bought the intro set and a few of the add-ons. As a member of the local wargaming club I had exposure to the GW games.
You Could Fit a Baneblade in the Gap
At that time, GW were big supporters of the local hobby. They ran the New Zealand Grand Tournament as well as supporting other local events with prizes etc. They backed a local club – the Dragon’s Lair. The environment in which they sold GW’s product was also very good – NZ prices were between 0-5% the prices in the UK. Personally I purchased my entire product from the shop – and over the next few years that was extensive – as I built up 6-7 40k armies. The local GW’s input into my hobby grew as I started playing tournaments, first in 40k and then from 2007 on, in Fantasy. They initially set the groundwork for tournaments with their Rogue Trader system and provided enormous prize support. I spent a lot at the local shop and more at GWUK’s bits service as I customised my armies. I’m pretty sure I was a pretty lucrative customer. Then things started to change. Two things happened. Games Workshop stopped organising their local events – the Grand Tournament and Conflict – and the New Zealand dollar started to appreciate against the pound.
The reduction in prize support for local events and GW stepping out of organising events removed one point of interaction with the local staff. Prior to that, the Grand Tournament especially had been the annual highlight in the hobby calendar. While they weren’t always the best organised they were the most prestigious tournaments and they provided the opportunity to travel with mates for a weekend of gaming. GW decided that, depending who you listen to, that they weren’t core business or didn’t provide return on the time/cost invested. Over the course of 2-3 years, the price of the product at the NZ store versus either GWUK’s webstore or Maelstrom/Wayland was awful. I could buy from the UK suppliers pretty much at 40-50% discount to local prices. Personally, I would have preferred to support the local store – because as I said they were a part of my hobby – but I couldn’t get over the price differential. As a trader I know that over the long term you” always leave something for the next guy” (i.e. don’t try and screw the last cent out of a transaction, but I was never going to leave a 40% discount opportunity on the table. This backdrop made it hard for the local Hobby Centre guys. First, they lost core business as people shopped overseas and second, the Company line was that “veterans” were no longer core business and didn’t provide sufficient return for investment. The relationship between the Warlords (then NZ’s largest club) and the Wellington Hobby Centre deteriorated as a result of this change in focus and the GW pricing strategy. The comment was supposedly made by the Hobby Manager made that “I’d never send somebody to the Warlords as I effectively lose a customer”, alluding to subsequent exposure to internet retailers. Now unlike a lot of people, I have some sympathy with the local manager. He has targets to meet and I understand his motivation. However I also think it was a consequence of GWHQ’s pricing strategy. I also understood GW pulling support for local events – hard to make a case for local budgets for events when the customers’ dollars don’t go through the local Hobby Centre. Fast forward to today. So where are we? Well, I very rarely go into my local Hobby Centre anymore. When a new Army Book comes out I might buy it there or alternatively at the independent game store. Neither shop offers me much because as a veteran (GW) and not a roleplayer (LGS) I’m not their target market. As I posted recently, my purchase of GW product has gone through the floor since they instituted their embargo on UK sales to NZ. However, I’ve found a way around it if necessary – although I haven’t been motivated up until now – or I buy from my friends at Irresistible Force in Brisbane. The saving there (around 10-15%) is barely worth the effort but I support Gav Clarke with purchases because he caters for me as a customer. Irresistible Force are big supporters of the Australian tournament scene, run the Oz Masters and love the wargaming hobby. I can usually wait the extra delivery time to support them. Effectively, I don’t know whether I outgrew my local Hobby Centre or whether we abandoned each other. Perhaps like any relationship we just wanted different things in the end and we went our separate ways. I couldn’t offer them what they needed and they didn’t provide me with what I wanted. I guess in the end we just grew apart.


  1. I feel your pain....having experienced much the same here in Oz. I should add another thing that started to bug me a little about going to the GW stores...the fact that 99% of the staff talked to me in that rapid-fire, almost radio-announcer style of speech. Now I applaud their enthusiasm, I really do. But you would think that they could modify their sales techniques just a little between dealing with young teenagers in the store with their parents and a *cough* mature-aged individual who has been involved with the hobby over quite a number of years.......I swear it didn't matter how many times I'd been to the store I would get the same 15 intro questions spammed at me. It really took the shine off the store experience for me. Needless to say that 99% of my purchases these days are online.

  2. We use an independent supplier up here in Tauranga who is very good, but very disillusioned with GW. My purchases from him have definitely dropped on GW stuff.

    He does however stock and sell a lot of the GF9 terrain, resin, painted and ready to go from the box... I bought their large forest box for $35... two good size resin bases and 5 trees, all stable, with a bag of flock if I wanted to add it.. So much better than the GW plastic forest in terms of transporting etc and I get 2 forests for cheaper than 1, and it is resin...

    Whats good about his shop, is he has 2 tables, you can go in and play, he is a gamer, his staff are gamers, they run informal 'tournaments' every weekend for small point armies of FOW, 40K and fantasy...

    I feel bad for him when GW's pricing has basically meant he only orders in GW stock when people want it, because he can't afford to stock too much. Most local's buy off the net due to financial constraints..

    I enjoy going to his store, GW wellington (courtney place), and GW in auckland, not so enjoyable..

  3. If you're in Wellington, and have had the same experiences as Pete, do consider going to visit Luke out in the Hutt and his one man store in Queen's Arcade (not Queensgate).

    You may be pleasantly surprised.


  4. I did, met the same employee as I had talked to the previous week in town. Was asked the same questions. However this probably reflects more on that particular employee than the store. Be sure to check the opening times as the store is not open full time.

  5. I pretty much got into the Hobby because my 5 year old son played “Dawn of War” and the Space Marines fighting the orcs, the tanks and the ‘splosions’.
    When walking past the GW store, it was waaay too tempting for me to join in with my child’s overt desire for some cool toy soldiers.
    His desire to play with them also brought me to the local club (thence to internet retailers).
    GW’s tactic of targeting the kids is a good one for the long term viability of the wargaming hobby. Having a good experience at the age of 10 hopefully leads to 20 years olds getting into it big time when they have independent income and available time and again once the kids are a bit older.
    I too would pay a small premium to support a local store vs internet traffic, not too mention the ability to get my furry mits on something “now”. However a 20% premium is quite a with comparative prices over 40% different, you would have to be batshit insane to shop locally.
    But this does lead to a breakdown of the relationship between retailer and club, and no one is winning from this. The retailer faces financial failure, the club faces losing attendance and (with the embargo) the supplier loses business also.
    It seems hard to ask the question “Are you completely out of your mind?” to a large corporation. And there is never going to be a good answer to “Why” in these days of public relations dorks acting as editors of the “free and frank” communication between customer and company available for smaller companies.
    That said, the opportunity remains for competing companies to get the “oxygen” they need to compete and at the end of the day, competition is really good for the consumer.
    So, while it sucks now, things could get really good in the future.

  6. I have had an interest in Games Workshop games since 1990 ish. So most of my life. I remember heading into Pen Dragon in downtown Auckland to get my fix. Even then it was an expensive hobby (that maybe more reflective of the limited income of a 12 year old).

    In terms of company loyalty I have, for most of those years, been an advocate of Games Workshop.
    For a few years I worked a Red Shirt in the Auckland City branch. I can tell you hands down the profits are not reflected in staff wages :P

    Even after leaving the company I was an advocate however more and more I find myself seeing the gaming world through different lenses. I really cannot understand GWs logic.

    When they first introduced the “F%&k the ROTW”policy, my first thought was that it would probably cause a short term lose but they would bring out quality miniatures that people would have the desire to buy.
    However $73 for a single ogre model is stupidly expensive in anyone’s. The company policy has always been to “get them when they are young” but how could any child convince their parents that the above mentioned transaction makes any sort of sense.
    Has the new policy changed my spending?
    Of course
    Since the change I have purchased only a few paints directly from the GW store. I know own a decent size Trollbloods force, am looking into Infinity and if there are any local historical games, and am daily checking out updates from Mantic.