Blog > UK Hobby & Game Store Makes a Digital Pivot to Survive Pandemic
February 26, 2021
UK Hobby & Game Store Makes a Digital Pivot to Survive Pandemic

Niantic gave 1,000 nominated businesses complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year. Now, we are sharing their stories. This week, we take a look at how a hobby gift shop in England adapts to the challenges of operating during a pandemic and how the Pokémon GO community helps generate new visitors to the store.

Storefronts are finding creative ways to stay in business during the disruptions of a pandemic.

Take a look at Shauna Withnell, who owns Saint’z Dragons, a unique hobby gift store in Colne, Lancashire, UK. Saint’z Dragons has a wide range of eclectic items and funky finds ranging from dragons, voodoo dolls, tarot cards to comic books, board games, trading cards and more. Withnell claims to have a little bit of everything, and something for everyone.

Saint'z Dragons owner Shauna Withnell
Saint'z Dragons owner Shauna Withnell

Less than a year before the pandemic hit, Withnell moved to a more centralized location that is significantly larger than her previous store and holds much more inventory. After the shock of having to shut down due to the health crisis, Withnell decided to pivot her business strategy from only having a storefront to creating her first ecommerce website.

Withell comments, “The first lockdown was very frightening and felt like I had been hit by a wall. I thought it was the end of my business. I had no choice but to adapt, and decided to move everything online. It’s what’s kept us alive.”

Withnell was determined to stay in business, working every day to jump start a new website managing phone orders and handling deliveries. She was surprised by how much support she received from her community. Customers were pre-ordering merchandise and giving her technical advice and support for her new online retail presence. The online store was the driver to keeping the business just above water, but it was still struggling.

Becoming a Niantic Sponsored Location

Withnell has been passionate about Pokémon since she was a young child and played Pokémon GO since it first launched. She explained that the Pokémon GO community in the area is significant and spans multiple generations.

Many local Pokémon GO players recognize Saint’z Dragons as a community hub and safe space for people to shop and play games, including those who have learning difficulties. The store has been caring and accommodating to people with mental health disabilities, always making them feel welcome. Having access to places like Saint’z Dragons that host board game nights and Pokémon Trading Card Game events gives people the opportunity to interact and make friends with other people and players.

So, it’s no surprise that several local Pokémon GO players nominated Saint’z Dragons for the Niantic LocalBusiness Recovery Initiative, resulting in a Pokémon GO Gym representing the neighborhood hobby gift shop.

“I was over the moon when I found out,” said Withnell.

Since becoming a Gym, she has seen an increase in foot traffic locally and has connected with new customers despite the storefront being closed due to the pandemic. Having an online presence combined with being represented as a Gym in the game has resulted in orders coming in from all over the world.

Withnell continues, “This is a lifetime achievement for me. No other business in the area has achieved recognition by a global phenomenon. It makes me feel like a massive success.”

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