For GameStop, one of America’s biggest gaming retailers, ideas of teamwork and cooperation extend far beyond multiplayer online video games—all the way into the company’s physical construction department. “Ours is a very open work environment,” director of construction Jim Wentz says. “There’s a lot of support between departments.” This support will remain integral as the business continues to expand rapidly beyond its existing 6,600 international locations while also carrying out 300–400 renovations every year. It’s what keeps the company’s output sustainable.
GameStop’s red-and-white signage is typically found in preexisting spaces in retail outlets; once a location is chosen, the store is ordered and designed and its construction is overseen by the company’s six-member in-house team in Grapevine, Texas. “From the point our real-estate department finds a location and it gets approved through committee, we start contacting landlords and gathering information for our architects,” Wentz says. “We do all of this early, so the moment we have the lease signed for a new space, we have everything set up so we can start building that store.”
Many retailers often wait until after the lease is signed to begin planning a new store’s construction, but Wentz and his team prioritize efficiency and expedition. By following a streamlined process, they’ve trimmed the build time for new GameStop locations—from the start of construction to the store’s opening—to 30 days, on average. “Occasionally some leases fall through, but if you take that chance, you can open new stores faster,” Wentz says. “The sooner that store is open for business, the sooner the company is making money.”
At a Glance
Average project duration
The initial design concept for GameStop stores didn’t happen with quite the same speed. The company got its start in Dallas in 1984, when an early software retailer called Babbage’s opened its doors. In its first decade, Babbage’s merged with a variety of other software retailers, and in 1994 it formed GameStop as gaming continued to grow into its own self-sustaining industry. In 2000, GameStop acquired FuncoLand, another major gaming retailer, and by 2005 GameStop had also merged with EB Games, whose stores it has since remodeled and rebranded amid further acquisitions.
In the brand’s current store prototype, interiors are focused on visual presentation of the merchandise and include distinctive carpet patterns and millwork cash-wrap counters. The simple scheme aids Wentz and his team in their push for construction efficiency. “With the systems we’ve set up and the team we have here, if we do a carpet and cash-wrap change-out in a store, we can do that in one night in most cases,” Wentz says. “Our goal is to never close a store to remodel.”
Although most GameStop stores have a common design, the company has created some higher-end stores in the past few years. Only about 50 of these “Stores of the Future” exist in the United States, but their appearance is different, emphasizing entertainment, electronics, and accessibility. “These were fun stores to design and build,” Wentz says. “But at the end of the day, people are coming to GameStop because they know what they want, and that’s what the stores are ultimately there to provide.”
The GameStop construction team is not made up of hardcore gamers, but it doesn’t need to be. Simply designing and branding with entertainment in mind is what drives the layout and presentation in each store. The end result is a set of GameStop outlets dedicated to the various systems, technologies, and publications of the gaming industry, and that’s ultimately what the customers are looking for.“People come to us,” Wentz says, “because we know games.” ABQ
Meet Jim Wentz
Did you go straight into construction, or did you go to school first?
I did take a few college classes, but after high school I went straight to work, starting out at a cabinet shop. And I’ve been in the industry since then.
What was your first construction job?
I was doing cabinet work and eventually got a job working for a man that did custom trim work for residential homes.
How did you wind up working for GameStop?
I was working for a rather large millwork company, and I was supplying product to a company called Bombay. I then went to work with them for a while, but they went out of business, and one of my connections at Bombay was working at GameStop, and then I went to work for them in 2001. I’ve been there ever since.
What personal goals do you have in your current role?
I’m trying to help make everything we do as efficient as possible. Even though we are the client to our vendors, our clients are the people we turn the stores over to, and my goal is to give them the best store we can give.