Sceptical reaction to pre-owned trials

Indies and analysts have already written off plans by supermarket chains to sell pre-owned games – just a week after trials began.

Last week MCV reported that Asda and Tesco had started to test the viability of a trade-in offer in a small number of stores – two Tesco branches and one for Asda.

This was shortly followed by news that Argos had begun its own trial.

However key trade voices say they are unconvinced that used games fit with what mainstream stores otherwise have to offer.

Second-hand isn’t as simple as people perceive it to be, it requires a lot more work than selling new games,” commented Don McCabe, joint MD of CHIPS.

You need a very good system to handle and monitor pre-owned, and you need a dedicated person in-store. And with the hours Tesco and Asda operate that will be difficult to do. You also need a person behind the scenes to plan it – GAME and HMV have that, but there are not that many people out there that have these skills.”

Nick Bubb, retail analyst at Arden Partners, added: I can’t see them getting the footfall to make it work. There is a real skill in inventory management that is hard to replicate by a non-specialist.”

Bubb pointed to Wal-Mart’s failure to ‘seriously threaten Gamestop’ as a key example of why non-specialists can’t always compete.

Gary Noakes, head of three-store indie Game Player – which specialises in used games – added: Unless they do this properly it will not work. Even if they employ experts I simply cannot see it working. The bulk of supermarket customers are not these type of gamers. Shoppers go to shop for food and impulse buy.”

Until recently, pre-owned games were a staple of just specialist retail – HMV moved into the category 18 months ago as it bolstered its games offer. But pre-owned also represents a large, if unmeasured, part of the market, so it’s no surprise big retailers are eyeing its potential.

At the moment the supermarkets’ trials are just that – an experiment. And further roll-out will depend not on the view of rival retailers, but if consumers demand it.

Our position on pre-owned is that we are trialling a proposition in a few stores and will extend distribution depending on the trial results,” said Tesco’s senior buying manager John Stanhope.

There is nothing more to say at this point.”

Asda’s head of new business for music, video and games, Andrew Thompson, added: It’s early days for us – this is a one-store trial. We have 81 different one-store trials running at the moment, six of which are in entertainment. We run around 200 trials a year for all different areas, and we have a definitive trial process that determines whether or not we can roll it out to a few more stores, which in turn influences further roll-out.”

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