We've been very lucky here in Loughborough to be the recipients of yet another gaming store. Those of a more grey-haired disposition will remember the old Skytrex shop, then later years produced Wargames Inc and a GW store. The two former stores eventually closed their doors, and whilst the GW shop seems to hang on in there you'd be thinking that the continued frosty financial climate isn't likely to prove an ideal moment to open somewhere that isn't a) a coffee shop. b) a hairdressers or c) a fast food takeaway. Complaining about the standardization of our High Street is probably a bit like shaking your fist at gravity or some other force of nature. You may as well get on with it and accept that we'll never return to the halcyon days of Penny Farthings, the ZX81 personal computer or decent hobby shops.
So it's with a great deal of surprise and trepidation that I'd heard the latter was due to open it's doors this Bank Holiday. Clutching a few quid for a can of spray paint I decided I'd have a nosy and say hello. First off, was the size. It's actually two shops knocked into one, and the owner had given over a great portion of it to gaming tables. As it happens Dave Marshall of TM Terrain and Lester (both from our local Club) had brought along the Malifaux board which looked really nice. All the tables seemed to be buzzing with activity. The positive effects of this is that it gets people interacting and creates a community atmosphere. The downside however can be that a store like this can become more of a hang-out than a business. This was a previous issue with both the Wargames Inc shop and the early House of Heroes comic shop - lots of people milling about, gaming etc, but nothing being spent to support the store financially. In my own personal opinion, if you benefit from the use of something for free you should always be prepared to give something back in order to retain it. If you can't afford to do that, then at least offer some of your own free time to show your support.
Whilst there is plenty of GW items on the shelves, many of the products on sale give a good idea of the range of what I'd call "Games Workshop alternatives". Which means plenty of Sci-Fi and Fantasy stuff. This is not surprising given the prices and aggressive branding that GW has undertaken. I definitely think there's a good size market out there for a more affordable (and more creative?) beast than that promoted by GW.
At this point I may comment on how there's little in the shop for historic gamers like myself. But at the end of the day a business has to play to its strengths, and if there's a bigger attraction amongst the public for the sci-fi and fantasy end then that's what you have to aim for. I'm just happy that I can drop by and conveniently pick up some paints, brushes or sprays now and again. Alternatively I was impressed by the boardgames that were on sale. In particular several copies of "Dead of Winter" the zombie survivalist boardgame that had proved nigh on impossible to get at a decent price elsewhere, was here on my doorstep for the eyebrow raising cost of only £49.99 (I almost paid £75.00 for it several weeks back). Today there was also a good deal on their comic section with 20% off.
I managed a brief chat with the owner himself, John, before I left. We talked of the difficulties involved in business start-up and also how the table space was currently hired out to customers for free, although he may later introduce a nominal fee - which I think is only fair.
In conclusion, it's a great little store that's welcoming, friendly and hopefully has a long life here.
The address is: 4 Bedford Square. Loughborough. Leicestershire. LE11 2TP.