Former taxman makes a killing with fantasy war games

A former tax inspector who runs his business from a Portakabin in Nottinghamshire is proving to be one of the winners in the cut-throat toys and hobbies industry of the 1990s.

In a market increasingly dominated by computer games, Tom Kirby's Games Workshop is recording booming sales and profits. Operating as both a manufacturer and retailer, the company produces a range of fantasy war games based on the Warhammer theme.

While the UK and US toy markets are seeing sales volumes down by 5 per cent year-on-year, Games Workshop yesterday reported a 47 per cent increase in profits, making pounds 9m on sales 40 per cent higher at pounds 45m.

The company opened 25 new shops last year, taking the total to 118 world- wide. Its monthly magazine, White Dwarf, which gives users tips on new game strategies, is selling 100,000 copies a month.

Updated versions of the miniature toy armies are launched regularly and shipped from the factory next to the Portakabin. Teenage boys and older generations rush to snap up the additions to armies with names like Orks and Goblins, Dark Elves and Imperial Guard. Devotees often play the warrior board games for days, or even weeks. A new game called Warhammer Battle is planned for September. Mr Kirby, a Yorkshireman who even addresses City bankers wearing jeans and a T-shirt, says the success of the company should come as no surprise.

"I know we make toy soldiers but we quite definitely do not see ourselves as being in the toy market. We are dealing with enthusiasts who love their hobbies. In our shops we teach people how to play the games and how to paint the characters. It becomes an obsession. It's completely different to buying a few toys and then chucking them away."

He likens Games Workshop to the hobby companies of the 1950s such as Hornby and Meccano. "Kids' teens is when they get really interested in certain things. Some stay with us for just a few years, others stay for life. We always say that our main competition is sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. People go to college and they find other things."

Games Workshop is already looking for new markets to explore. It has started an operation in Hong Kong and has yet to sell its games in Japan, where Mr Kirby feels they will be popular.

The company also has operations in Europe, where sales rose by 69 per cent last year, Australia and the US. In America the company has switched to direct selling after struggling to find suitable distributors.

The company has proved hugely lucrative for Mr Kirby. Shares in the company have tripled in value since floating on the stock market at 115p in 1994. Yesterday they rose a further 3p to 447p.

Earlier this year Mr Kirby sold shares worth just over pounds 3m, though he is not planning a huge spending spree.

"I am from Yorkshire and so is my wife. We've put it in the building society, though we might buy a little cottage by the sea."

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
people

Mike Tyson branded 'superhero' after a surprise good turn

Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Market Risk Manager - Investment Banking - Mandarin Speaker

£45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes