Struggling video game retailer GameStop has argued it’s ‘essential.’ Now it’s preparing to fully re-open some stores even as most of the US remains in quarantine.

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A Brooklyn-area GameStop in September 2019. Ben Gilbert/Business Insider
  • Around the world, non-essential businesses are shuttered as people stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • With millions of people stuck indoors, video game hardware and software sales have exploded.
  • Embattled retailer GameStop, the world’s largest video game retail chain, argued it was “essential” and stayed open until March 21.
  • GameStop has since shuttered one-third of its US stores, while the other two-thirds have moved existing services to curbside, contactless pickup – but it’s about to start fully re-opening stores, and has plans for a wider rollout “in the coming weeks,” according to a new announcement from the company.
  • “The Company has begun the process of re-opening stores in Italy, Germany, Austria and the states of South Carolina and Georgia,” GameStop said in the announcement, “and is preparing for the potential to re-open in other operating countries and states in the coming weeks.”
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Video game sales are surging while millions of people are stuck indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic. And GameStop, the world’s biggest video game retailer, is jostling to open stores back up, the company said late Tuesday.

GameStop announced it had begun to reopen some American stores, starting in Georgia and South Carolina, and said it was preparing to potentially reopen stores across the US “in the coming weeks.”

Though many businesses deemed “non-essential” – including GameStop – were told to pause operations indefinitely in March, some states are opening businesses back up, even as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. In Georgia and South Carolina, both states announced plans to re-open some businesses and public places that were previously considered off-limits during the ongoing pandemic, despite criticism.

“The Company has begun the process of re-opening stores in Italy, Germany, Austria and the states of South Carolina and Georgia,”GameStop said in its announcement, “and is preparing for the potential to re-open in other operating countries and states in the coming weeks.”

Video games have seen record sales since the pandemic began, and the company appears to be hoping that trend could buoy the company’s yearslong decline.

Sales of video game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards topped $US1.6 billion for March, according to The NPD Group’s monthly report – “the highest reported spend for a March month since the $US1.8 billion achieved in March 2008.”

GameStop NYC
GameStop’s primary business is buying and selling used games, like those seen above. Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

In March, GameStop argued its business operations were “essential” because they “enable and enhance our customers’ experience in working from home.” The company also reportedly told employees that were still ordered to come to work to wrap their hands in plastic bags, and kept stores operating as late as March 21.

There is reason for the company to want to reopen stores as soon as possible. In Australia, where GameStop’s stores remained open during March, the company saw a “sales increase of approximately 64%,” GameStop’s announcement says. Meanwhile, one-third of the company’s US stores have closed since the start of the pandemic; the other two-thirds are operating on a limited basis with curbside pick-up of online orders.

It’s unclear how operations will be affected, if at all, in the two US states where GameStop is re-opening – the company has several dozen stores across both states.