Games Workshop's Heroic Knights victorious despite Chaos Lords stalking Brexitland

The fantasy retailer is now worth more than the once mighty Debenhams 

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Tuesday 05 September 2017 12:42
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The Chaos Lords of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000
The Chaos Lords of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000

Hail the triumph of the Heroic Knights!

Games Workshop, which makes and sells fantasy games, books, and miniatures, has sent its armies into battle with Debenhams. And they’ve won.

Well, not quite. But it is a startling fact that the Warhammer 40,000 creator is now worth close to 20 per cent more than the once mighty department store chain (credit to retail analyst Nick Bubb for the spot).

That won’t change anytime soon. The Knights capped their victory by declaring that profits will be, erm, “above market expectations” sending the shares to new record highs.

Come on guys! How about a bit of marketing when you update the market?

What you need to say is this: Our forces have stormed the Citadel of Chaos and we have won! To the victors go the spoils, so your dividends will be garlanded with gold.

We’re a little worried that the Hordes of Chaos are still out there (and bosses certainly should be because they’re called the Conservative Party) so we’ve some uncertainty ahead of us. But we’re ready and willing to fight the good fight.

Isn’t that more like it? There’s a lot of us that would just love to read something like that. And it’d give those parts of the city currently decamping to dull old lawful neutral Frankfurt a smile too.

Anyone enduring a forced move to Germany’s infamously dull financial centre needs something to smile about. All the more so given the fact that, if Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is right, they won’t even be able to jump on a cheap flight to get to London’s theatres, or other venues, for the weekend. There might not be any flights for a while after Brexit doomsday.

Actually, Games Workshop has rather benefited from the chaos being sowed by that dreadful party, whose senior figures might lack the severed heads, spikes, and mismatched armour of its best miniatures but are clearly still Chaos Warlords.

The majority of its business comes from overseas, and overseas earnings have been inflated thanks to the pathetically weak pound delivered by Chaos Queen Theresa May.

However, it appears that the company isn’t immune to her misrule. Hence the use of the word “uncertainty”? There’s nary a British business out there that doesn’t use that word in its missives right now.

It's not just down to artificially inflated foreign earnings that has Games Workshop in the stock market’s sunlit uplands, however.

You’ve probably worked out by now that I’ve been known to cross the threshold of its outlets in the past. My son and I would be playing Blood Bowl if we could just find the time to paint the damn figures (it’s not a small undertaking).

People once looked down their noses at geeks. Now we’re mainstream. Everyone watches super hero movies. MCM Comic Con events around the UK and Ireland sell out. Netflix flogs dizzying numbers of subscriptions on the back of Stranger Things, and Jessica Jones, and the Defenders.

This is a trend that obviously benefits Games Workshop.

It hasn't all been plain sailing for the company. A nasty profit warning rocked the business back in 2015. However, instead of decrying their lot, its bosses rolled up their sleeves and got to work, something Debs bosses might like to consider trying.

While it sells a lot online, Games Workshop shops are successful because they’re destinations. You’ll often find them full of kids, sometimes along with their (more or less) reluctant parents in tow, pouring over figures, or participating in events.

Bricks and mortar retail can work if you focus on giving your customers what they want, and then looking after them when you do.

Really, it's the best way to fight back against the Lords of Chaos, even for those businesses that lack Games Workshop’s magic.

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