Graham Conway-Doel – Owner of Geek Retreat Wakefield, Harrogate and Leeds

A couple of years ago, Graham Conway-Doel, a Baptist Minister of 25 years, was exploring different
options for investing a lumpsum of money. He already had a pension and exposure to stocks and
shares but really wanted to find an ethical investment that allowed him to put something back into
the community. He looked a property and the potential to become a ‘good’ landlord but wasn’t
convinced this route would help enough people.

In his search, he came across Geek Retreat. He had played Dungeons & Dragons but wouldn’t really
describe himself as a ‘Geek’. He very quickly recognised that the stores offered something unique to
the local community and have a real impact on customers’ well-being. After spending time with his
wife visiting stores and seeing the Geek Retreat experience firsthand, he knew he believed in the
proposition and, as a result, took on the franchise of Harrogate 18 months ago. This was quickly
followed by two more stores, and Graham Conway-Doel is now the owner of Geek Retreat Wakefield, Harrogate and Leeds .

Graham regards his stores not just as businesses, but something that supports many different
people, from 18 people he employs, their families and the hundreds of loyal customers that visit to
make friends, feel safe and be part of a community. The inclusiveness of the stores when it comes
to different groups such as the LBGTQ community is also very important to him.

Taking on three franchises has been a big challenge for Graham, but one he has relished. He
describes the support he has from Geek Retreat HQ as very supportive and positive. The franchise
model works very well, with products and events provided centrally and regular meetings with the
Franchise Success Team. Help and advice is there if he needs it.

All three of Graham’s stores are enjoying growth, with turn-over on the right trajectory. He said:
Geek Retreat has been a blast. The Franchise Support Team have been super-helpful and I really do
feel part of a bigger business but one where I can put more back into the community by providing
safe, inclusive, friendly and fun places for people from all walks of life – this was the number one
priority for me


New research by Geek Retreat, the geek culture retailer, gaming café, community hub and events
venue, shows that 15% of Brits have set up their own business in the past ten years, and of these,
44% did so in the last three years. The findings also show that more women (52%) have started their
own business in the past three years, compared to men (30%).

Retail and financial services were the two most popular sectors for start-ups, according 19% and 16%

The top three drivers for making the decision to go it alone were to earn more money (43%), two
fifths (41%) said that they wanted to be their own boss, 35% said they needed greater flexibility
which they believed they would achieve if they ran their own business.

Whilst over two thirds (68%) said that they run the business on their own, 19% said they had an
equal partner and 13% said they had set up with members of the family. However, when it comes to
exit strategies, plans are somewhat lacking. Over one third (37%) said they hadn’t thought about
what they will do with the business when they retire, 23% said they would close it down and 18%
said they would pass it on to a family member.

The Geek Retreat franchise, which opened its first store in Glasgow in 2013, now has 36 stores
compared to ten at the end of 2019, reflecting its huge popularity on the high street because it
offers local communities and individuals a safe and inclusive place to enjoy their hobbies and

It has seen an increase in enquiries over the past 12 months from entrepreneurs who are keen to set
up their own business, but also see the benefits of the model which offers an established brand,
training to get the up store up and running as quickly as possible, and on-going support from an
expert team.

Peter Dobson, CEO of Geek Retreat, commented: “Our research shows the last three years have
seen a surge in people setting up on their own as people see greater financial and lifestyle
opportunities as key benefits of being their own boss.

“At Geek Retreat, we encourage an entrepreneurial spirit and offer franchisees the independence to
grow and expand, but with support from our central Franchise Success Team who provide expertise
across all areas of the business to help them succeed.”

Geek Retreat Celebrates Phenomenal Success with Disney Lorcana: Rise of the Floodborn Release Weekend

In an unprecedented weekend of gaming excitement, Geek Retreat, the leading national retailer for all things geek, proudly announces the outstanding success of the release weekend for Disney Lorcana: Rise of the Floodborn, the second release from the latest trading card game collaboration between Disney and Ravensburger.

The game has quickly become a sensation, captivating both TCG players and Disney enthusiasts alike. The first set, released on August 18, was met with immense enthusiasm, setting the stage for an even more spectacular follow up.

Record-Breaking Release Weekend

The launch weekend of Disney Lorcana: Rise of the Floodborn on November 17 saw queues of eager customers outside Geek Retreat stores before doors opened at 10 am. Reports indicate that stores experienced a surge in sales, with some stores achieving thousands of pounds in sales within the first 10 minutes of opening. The new daily sales record was an astonishing 36% higher than the previous record.

Geek Retreat also shattered its previous records for the average sales per store, single store sales, total weekend sales and sales for a single product release. 

This success is attributed to the substantial stock secured by the central buying team, the dedicated efforts of stores in creating and fostering Lorcana communities, and the overwhelming interest in the game.

Strategic Moves Lead to Unprecedented Success

Anticipating the immense popularity of Lorcana, Geek Retreat took strategic measures to ensure a smooth supply chain and meet the forecasted demand. In February of this year, Geek Retreat established a dedicated central buying team to secure favourable terms and availability of stock for its stores.

Peter Dobson, CEO of Geek Retreat, expressed his pride in the team’s achievements: “Establishing closer relationships with Ravensburger has been pivotal in our successful central buying strategy. We receive excellent support, open communication, and stock allocations that align with our sales forecasting. This has resulted in a record-breaking weekend, and most importantly, Geek Retreat customers have been able to readily access and play with the products that they enjoy in our friendly and inclusive environments.”

Peter Dobson concluded, “I am blown away by these numbers, but this has come as a result of a huge coordinated effort that has touched every part of this business across both the head office and the franchisees. I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved here.” 

Due to its overwhelming popularity there will be a reprint of The First Chapter available in stores in January 2024. 


Geek Retreat, the geek culture retailer, gaming café, community hub and events venue, has enjoyed a record August with average monthly store revenues 36% higher than the same period in 2022.  

Over 40% of this growth has been powered by sales of Disney’s Lorcana, the all-new collectible trading card game featuring traditional and fantastically reimagined Disney characters called glimmers, which has proved a worldwide hit.  

Geek Retreat had early access to the first chapter of Lorcana, which was released in store on 18 August to customers, ahead of its mass market launch. Lorcana Set 2 is due to go on sale at Geek Retreat stores on 17 November in advance of its mass market launch on 1 December.  

The launch of Set 2 will be supported in-store with a series of events such as cosplay – where customers dress up as their favourite Lorcana character, learn to play and casual play.
Peter Dobson, Chief Executive of Geek Retreat, commented: “Despite the cost of living crisis and continuing pressure on high street retailers, Geek Retreat has reason to be cheerful.  The early launch of Disney’s Lorcana at our stores proved a huge draw for customers and this is recognised in the strong performance across the store estate.  With the launch of Set 2 in November, we anticipate similar enthusiasm from our loyal customer base.”

Interview with the British Franchise Association – Insights from Geek Retreat

Franchisor’s Perspective: Navigating Economic Challenges Successfully
Your franchise is booming, despite the current economic crisis. Why do
you think that is and can you share any insights into how your franchise
system selects and supports franchisees who are better equipped to
navigate economic challenges successfully?

In the face of a persistent difficult trading landcape, Geek Retreat, a UK-based game store
franchise has proven resilient. The CBI reported retail sales volumes in the year to July fell at
the fastest pace since April 2022 (weighted balance of -25% from -9% in the year to June).
Sales were expected to fall even more quickly in August (-32%). However, at Geek Retreat
their ‘Average Revenue per Store’ metric broke records in June, July and August – making
the summer the most successful trading period of the year so far.
In this article, we delve into the reasons behind this success and explore how the franchise
system selects and supports franchisees adept at navigating economic challenges.

  1. A Resilient Portfolio of Stores
    Geek Retreat’s journey through economic turbulence has involved a period of
    rationalisation, sadly resulting in the closure of certain stores. These closures were
    attributed to various factors, including anti-social behaviour, unattainable lease agreements,
    franchisee health and poor trading.
    The remaining stores in the portfolio have proven robust and resilient, having faced and
    overcome multiple obstacles. These stores have not only survived but are now trading
    positively due to their unwavering commitment to the Geek Retreat model and their loyal
  2. Community-Centric Approach
    At the heart of Geek Retreat’s franchise success lies a focus on the communities they serve.
    These stores offer a safe haven where people with shared passions can convene, fostering
    lasting friendships. This community-centric approach has not only solidified customer loyalty
    but has also made Geek Retreat an essential part of people’s lives, even during the cost of
    living crisis.
  3. Personal Commitment and Innovation
    Geek Retreat’s unique owner-operating franchise model, with 32 franchisees managing 37
    stores, underscores a personal commitment to innovate and invest in local communities.
    This commitment sets the franchise apart and drives its ability to adapt to changing
  4. Unwavering Support
    Supporting franchisees is a top priority for Geek Retreat. The franchise has developed a
    comprehensive support package comprising resources, advice, and training to help
    franchisees navigate challenges, avoid store closures, and return to profitability. This
    support was recently extended to include a central buying function that negotiates better
    terms and stock allocations with key publishers, ensuring the franchise’s competitiveness in
    a tight market.
    Additionally, Geek Retreat has partnered with Two, a trade credit provider, to help
    franchisees to manage cash flows during peak stock purchasing periods, providing
    franchisees with financial stability.
  5. Customer Loyalty and Feedback
    The unwavering loyalty of Geek Retreat’s customers is a testament to the franchise’s
    resilience. With an impressive Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +84, higher than even tech giant
    Apple, it’s evident that customers appreciate the unique experience Geek Retreat offers.

In conclusion, Geek Retreat’s ability to thrive in challenging economic conditions can be
attributed to a combination of factors: a robust portfolio of community-centric stores, a
personal commitment to innovation, and an unwavering focus on franchisee support. It’s a
testament to the strength of their franchise system and the resilience of their franchisees.

Franchisee’s Perspective: Adaptation during the Cost of Living Crisis

During the cost of living crisis, have you observed any shifts in customer behaviour or
preferences, and how have you adapted your franchise operation to meet these changes?

Stewart and Laura Brass, owners of a Geek Retreat store in Sunderland, offer insights into
how the franchise operation has adapted to changing customer behaviours and preferences
during the ongoing cost of living crisis.

  1. Embracing Experience-Centric Shopping
    One notable shift in customer behaviour observed during the cost of living crisis is the desire
    for a more experiential visit to the store. Customers are no longer solely looking to purchase
    products and leave; instead, they seek a place where they can spend quality time. Geek
    Retreat’s model, which includes opportunities for socialising, learning new games, and
    enjoying café facilities, aligns perfectly with this trend.
  2. A Second Home for Hobbies
    As people invest more in their hobbies to cope with economic challenges, Geek Retreat
    stores have become a second home for customers. Friends regularly meet in-store,
    embracing the core value of community that Geek Retreat promotes. This sense of
    belonging and camaraderie has become increasingly vital during times of financial
  3. Appeal of Alcohol-Free Social Spaces
    Younger customers, in particular, have shown a shift in behaviour during the cost of living
    crisis. An alcohol-free social space is now more appealing than ever, aligning with Geek
    Retreat’s inclusive and family-friendly environment. This shift has expanded the franchise’s
    customer base and solidified its role as a community hub.
  4. Expanding Product Offerings
    To cater to evolving customer preferences, Geek Retreat has expanded its product range
    offerings. Recognising that some product categories no longer sell as well as they once did,
    the franchise now provides a wider selection of stock in-store, ensuring a continuous
    conversion of shoppers to buyers. This adaptability ensures that customers find what they
    need while supporting the franchise’s sustainability.

In conclusion, Stewart and Laura Brass’s experience as Geek Retreat franchisees in
Sunderland illustrates the franchise’s ability to adapt to changing customer behaviours
during challenging economic times. By embracing experiential shopping, fostering a sense of
community, appealing to younger demographics, and expanding their product offerings,
Geek Retreat remains a thriving and adaptable business in the face of economic uncertainty.


Geek Retreat, the geek culture retailer, gaming café, community hub and events venue, has
announced that combined revenue from across its entire retail estate for the first nine months of
2022 is 138% higher than the same period in 2021 and 550% higher than in 2019, before the start of
the Coronavirus pandemic. The retailer has also seen record monthly sales this year and in April hit
over £1 million in monthly sales across its store estate for the first time. It has since beaten this
record three times.

Having enjoyed rapid expansion, the strategic priority of the business now is to make sure it is as
financially strong as possible, with a commitment to making every Geek Retreat store a success for
both the franchisee and the local communities they serve.

Geek Retreat has enhanced its business strategy to ensure its stores continue to increase turnover,
profitability and customer feedback ratings in a challenging economic climate and as the cost of
living crisis bites. This includes significant investment and support to help its franchise stores
become profitable and resilient enough to weather the ongoing economic uncertainty and cost of
living crisis, as the high street recovers from the devasting effects of the pandemic.

A new enhanced Franchise Success Team has been established, which provides training and support
on specialist operational areas, including finance, marketing, HR, operations, products and events,
media, and community outreach. Franchisees can access high quality training, on-boarding, 1-2-1
support, a library of templates and marketing materials, an extensive operations manual and access
to a peer-group community of other franchisees to share positive news, ideas and experience.

Store coverage
While 2022 has seen the closure of a number stores due to poor financial performance or changes in
franchisee circumstances such as illness, which meant the stores were no longer viable, the Geek
Retreat management team is working hard to get as many of them reopened as possible because
they offer something important to communities that are not widely represented in mainstream

Improved performance
The new strategy is already yielding results by delivering record-breaking days of takings in a store in
the last three months, setting a new record for highest sales a single store has achieved in a week
(Glasgow in July). In April this year, the business hit over £1m of sales across the store estate for the
first time. It has now achieved this four times during 2022.

New research shows that customer satisfaction is also extremely high, with three quarters of Geek
Retreat customers rating the stores as 9/10 or 10/10 and achieved a Net Promoter Score (the
likelihood that they would recommend Geek Retreat) of +65 or ‘excellent’ (+70 is gateway to world

Peter Dobson, Chief Executive of Geek Retreat, commented: “Like many businesses on the high
street, the pandemic had a big impact on us and made us think differently about what success
looked like. We want all Geek Retreat stores to maximise their potential, both financially and to
provide our incredibly loyal customers with a safe, inclusive, and entertaining environment.

“Our new approach is working well as we continue to achieve record sales days. This year we have
achieved an important milestone of £1m of sales in a month across the estate and we have broken
that record several times over since. Like all businesses in today’s economic climate, we are keeping
a close eye on performance, but I am confident that we have the best possible team and resources
in place to help franchisees who want their stores to succeed.”