GameStop isn’t doing well. In 2019, it closed up to 200 stores. Which was a scary thing. Then, its winter 2019 retail sales came in during January 2020 and we learned the store had a 27.5% decline in sales. As 2020 begins, even more storefronts are being shut down. Except this time, it isn’t like the items are being sent back to corporate. These are legitimate close-out sales that end up feeling ridiculous for a number of reasons.
A big part of that is the obvious. Walking into a GameStop store closing sale can immediately get someone wondering what they can get and how little they’ll pay for it. When I walked into my first store closing sale, I was greeted by 30-70% off signs, sheets showing exactly how cheap items would be, and novelty items people probably wouldn’t even buy at discounted prices stacked at the front of the store. Mileage will always vary at a thing like this, but there were major wins. All preowned games under $19.99 were five for $5. At one store, new Switch games were 30% off and used games were 70% off, while new PS4 and Xbox One games were 50% off and used ones were 70% off. It triggers impulse purchases, like a $12 Loungefly Kingdom Hearts III keyblade purse or a $6 copy of Scribblenauts Showdown.
Once that initial shock passes, something else settles in, though. Yes, there are ridiculous deals. It can be insane. But you start settling in on the other elements. Like there’s a sense of unease that comes from a GameStop store closing sale. Each one I stepped into was largely abandoned. Racks were empty. Consoles were gone. Fixtures were being sold. It was hollow. (Though, perhaps some might have said it has felt soulless since the ThinkGeek items were phased in.) It doesn’t feel right somehow, these stores in particular being gone.
Especially when you have the human factor to consider. I’ve stepped into two stores that were closing. In each, the staff was at a bare minimum. The employees didn’t have the usual friendliness you’d expect. How could they, given the circumstances? It’s a jarring thing, walking into one and not getting a pitch about preorders, Power Up Reward programs, or similar offers.In one closing GameStop I visited, there was only one employee there. I talked with him for a while about the situation. I couldn’t help but feel that here was someone who loved games and did nothing wrong, but mismanagement had put him in this situation.
Which leads to the final ridiculous element of a GameStop store closing sale: the merchandise. The things that made GameStops great were often in short supply: the games. Yes, you’d see some remnants of new and used games, but they were hardly the show-stopping, beloved, recent releases. Rather, they were the yearly sports iterations, the Anthems, and the copies of Vampyr for the Nintendo Switch that apparently no one really wanted. The Pokemon popcorn maker, the racks of themed socks, that same Loungefly Kingdom Hearts purse I bought and will likely never use due to its impracticality, and the legions of ugly, cheap figures remained. The attempts to diversify stock are still unwanted, with the actual systems long gone.
It is tragic. It is Toys R Us all over again. GameStop is a store that could have evolved. Poor decisions are killing it. Now, walking into a dying one involves seeing all these ridiculous things. Some benefit us, such as getting a great game like Slay the Spire for 30-50% off. Others make us see how horrible this is for other people, as we watch people who don’t deserve this losing jobs. We also see firsthand some of the poor merchandise decisions that might have helped lead it to this point. It’s a sad turn of events.