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Sims-esque web game aims to combat the retail tech lag

Looking to dole out retail management know-how and vid-game fun in equal parts, Canadian software player Retail Hero has launched a new web game that should help turn smaller, specialty retailers on to higher-tech operations. Anthony Ludmilin, president of the Surrey, Canada-based company, says that 40% of retailers in North America still run on very basic tech, particularly mom-and-pop outlets. 'They aren't aware of the benefits it can have on their businesses,' he explains, 'namely that they can increase their bottom line and track inventory more efficiently,
November 1, 2007

Looking to dole out retail management know-how and vid-game fun in equal parts, Canadian software player Retail Hero has launched a new web game that should help turn smaller, specialty retailers on to higher-tech operations. Anthony Ludmilin, president of the Surrey, Canada-based company, says that 40% of retailers in North America still run on very basic tech, particularly mom-and-pop outlets. ‘They aren’t aware of the benefits it can have on their businesses,’ he explains, ‘namely that they can increase their bottom line and track inventory more efficiently,

And given that Retail Hero sells a wide array of retail management software products, getting that message out to low-tech store owners was pretty much all the motivation it needed to develop Retail Champion, which launched in mid-September. Available as a free download on the company’s website, the game borrows a page from The Sims and Second Life and charges players with running retail businesses that escalate in degrees of difficulty.

Characters start off opening a simple hot dog stand, and as they begin to make more money, they move through the retail ranks, graduating to a pawn shop, then a grocery store, and eventually a franchise. Players win the game when they attract a buyer and successfully sell their franchise.

But there are a lot of challenges to contend with before the papers are signed and the sale is closed. As in the real world of modern retailing, players have to figure out how to overcome challenging obstacles such as financial losses to theft, the discovery of counterfeit items in an inventory and a surprise tax audit. The more technology characters purchase as they play the game, the easier it is to grapple with these issues and get to the end goal.

Retail Hero isn’t actively promoting the game, relying instead on word-of-mouth and viral press release pick-up. But despite the lack of push, Ludmilin says the game has caught the attention of many bloggers, driving more traffic to the website, and players from as far away as India have checked it out. The company is currently looking into creating a second version of the game.

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