East Anglian town earmarked for new store for ‘geeks’

Geek Retreat's Chelmsford store - the chain is looking to expand throughout the UK including in Suf

Geek Retreat's Chelmsford store - the chain is looking to expand throughout the UK including in Suffolk and north Essex Picture: GEEK RETREAT - Credit: Archant

High street chain Geek Retreat says it is planning to expand into Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex – with the first of its stores likely to be in Bury St Edmunds.

The gaming culture retailer says it is planning to open 14 stores now, with a further 100 in the pipeline over the next two years, creating 600 jobs. It is looking at lease options in the Suffolk town, but says Norfolk is “absolutely” on the list of desired sites too.

The stores – which are open to everyone – aim to provide vulnerable customers such as those on the autistic spectrum or with mental health issues with a “safe place to meet and play in an inclusive, welcoming, and social environment”.

MORE – Shoppers across region stay home as pandemic resurgence blights recoveryThe expansion follows the “immense popularity” of franchises such as Marvel and Stranger Things – where customers can enjoy “geeky interests and games”, it said.

The Geek Retreat franchise opened its first store in Glasgow in 2013 and now employs 110 people. Its store offer includes a comic bookstore, gaming cafe and events hub.

It currently has 14 city centre stores, including Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Motherwell, Bradford, the Wirral, Nottingham, Middlesbrough, Llandudno and two in London.

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The most recent outlets to open are in Northwich and Chelmsford. Others are due to launch shortly in Bournemouth, Northampton and Liverpool.

All stores are operating to coronavirus rules, the retailer said.

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Chief executive Peter Dobson said: “The UK’s gaming and hobby sector is a real success story and Geek Retreat is a home for the communities who are at the heart of this phenomenon.

“The wellbeing of our customers and staff has always been incredibly important to us – now more than ever everyone should expect a friendly, safe and clean environment to meet and play. We have made sure all of our stores are welcoming and accessible to gamers whatever their interests, providing a place for our loyal customers to get out of the house and play safely post-lockdown.

“This is particularly important for our more vulnerable customers, like those on the autistic spectrum, or with mental health issues where being in an inclusive, welcoming, and social environment is very important. It is strength of the relationships which our stores build with local communities that is a key driver of growth.”

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