For their 20th anniversary, ThinkGeek surprised its customers and fans with a disheartening announcement: thinkgeek.com was closing. Fans were confused and concerned about losing access to a favourite geek merchandiser, but after checking out their booth at at the recent San Diego Comic-Con, I can confirm that the brand that refers to itself as “the premier retailer for the global geek community” is stilling kicling.
Representing ThinkGeek, account executive Megan Harris assured me that the geek merchandise retailer is still going strong. Though the ThinkGeek-specific website is gone, most of their popular products have been shifted to their parent company, GameStop (or on EB Games in Canada). There are also still 40-plus ThinkGeek retail stores across the U.S, merchandise remains on display in GameStop and EB Games stores, and the ThinkGeek branding, including their monkey mascot, Timmy, remains somewhat active on social media.
The connection with GameStop is not new, but it does create a bit of a disconnect for customers. While there’s obvious fandom crossover, GameStop’s clientele tend to be younger and are typically gamers looking for merchandise related to their favourite gaming IPs. ThinkGeek’s clientele skews a bit older, though the retailer certainly has something for everyone. “ThinkGeek customers are the people who still remember their first console,” said Harris. For many like myself, ThinkGeek isn’t simply a resource for geeky merchandise. It’s a resource for totally responsible adults who want to wave their geek flag in a more professional or domestic manner. My Handbag of Holding and D&D convertible wallet travel with me to the office on the regular, perfectly accentuating the rest of my professional nerd attire. And for those times when I’m not so professional and just want to squeal about my favourite fandoms, decorate my home, or my kids beg me for the latest adorable (or frightening) toy or gadget, ThinkGeek’s got those things covered too. The company strives to keep up with the trends and typically produces items based on their fan base’s response.
The fact that fans new and old can find fun and satisfaction in the items in ThinkGeek’s catalogue is what Harris appreciates and they are making their presence known at conventions like SDCC to maintain that all important community connection. There was a steady stream of traffic picking up all they had to offer, though, Harris noted, they limited each item to 100 per day in hopes of preventing disappointment for visitors who didn’t arrive until later in the weekend. This year’s SDCC exclusives covered everything from Office Space, to Pokemon, to the brand new season of Stranger Things, and X-Men’s Phoenix, which I had to get two of because older sisters are very demanding. “It’s a great blend of nostalgia and now,” said Megan, showing off some of their wares.
For their 20th anniversary, ThinkGeek featured an anniversary pin for themselves, and also commissioned artwork to celebrate the milestones of several other fandoms, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Dark Crystal, Star Trek, and my favourite, Farscape.
Listening to and interacting with fans on their site is the kind of customer service that has strengthened ThinkGeek’s brand over the years and, hopefully, will continue. Though this move might have caused some disturbance in the Force for the geek merchandise community, let’s hope things settle down quickly for Timmy in his new home.