Aiming to be an innovation leader in the retail industry, GameStop Corp. said Tuesday that it’s partnering with IBM and the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M to develop technologies to better connect with customers.The GameStop Technology Institute will be led by Jeff Donaldson, who previously served as GameStop’s chief information officer. The company said it “will focus on enhancing consumer interaction technologies and developing business solutions that help drive traffic to all retail channels.”The Grapevine-based video game retailer, which has thrived with a huge network of small neighborhood stores, believes that the growth of online retailing presents an opportunity to enhance the brick-and-mortar sales experience, not kill it.“We see it as an integrated experience,” Donaldson said. “While there are going to be consumers who favor one channel over another, most consumers use them all. We see the store as a key component of the overall experience.”Donaldson said the institute will focus on research and development, with the goal of creating tools to help “digitize” the store experience. One idea is to use Wi-Fi networks to provide customers the same customized promotional information through a mobile device in a store that they would get if they were shopping online.GameStop plans to set up an innovation lab at its headquarters and establish test markets in Austin and College Station by the fall to experiment with new technologies in the field. It also plans to share its research with other partners to help “move the needle on change in the retail industry,” he said.GameStop will use IBM’s cloud development platform, BlueMix, to develop new applications.Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M, said the partnership is “trailblazing” for the school.“This is a major opportunity to engage faculty and students with real-time innovation, experimentation and testing in a retail store environment,” Hollinger said. “Our millennials are bringing their own experiences to critique and improve what GameStop is offering.”GameStop has been adjusting to new technologies in recent years as the rise of online and mobile games ate into sales of traditional games. Last year, its business was boosted by the release of new gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft. But the company lowered its fourth-quarter earnings guidance in January because of lower-than-expected holiday sales.The company is expected to release its year-end financial results Thursday. Last year, the company acquired two small retail chains to diversify beyond video games: Simply Mac, which has 20 stores authorized to sell Apple products in smaller markets, and Spring Mobile, which has about 100 stores selling AT&T wireless services.
Steve Kaskovich, 817-390-7773 Twitter: @stevekasko