Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cardiff: Geek Gift Shop

Perhaps because I work for a really cool independent shop but sometimes I think about shops on the high street and feel a little mournful, because in my head (which is sadly different from practical, money-centric reality) they could be so much better. This has particularly hit home today.

February is an expensive month for me. At the start is a good friend's birthday and then within two weeks I have: Valentine's Day, my mother's birthday, my fiance's birthday, my mother-in-law's birthday and fiance's nephew's birthday.  Also at this point is my mother and father-in-law's anniversary and in the two weeks following there is my brother-in-law's birthday, another good friend's birthday and our own anniversary. It's nearly as horrible as Christmas and I rarely manage to save up as well. Nevertheless, a lot of those could be catered for in one shop - a really good geeky gift shop.

Cardiff doesn't have one. It has a Forbidden Planet and the fab Comic Guru (who I  love, but it rarely has the cool stuff I'd like to buy.) Firstly neither are gift shops - they are comic book shops that also sell some geek related merchandise. They are both small shops, with grimy poster-ridden exteriors and swap between gloomy and eye-hurting strip light interiors. Neither could be called particularly welcoming, despite generally having lovely staff, they are "serious geek territory" - enter at your own risk.

I would love if there was a gift shop - rather than a comic book shop - hidden away somewhere in the arcades. Somewhere welcoming with their door open (not with a badly sellotaped scrap of paper demanding the door is kept shut) and warm lighting. Somewhere you could walk around the display units (wooden, not finger print covered plastic) and see all the items.

And of course what items there are would be the important thing. Here's my quick idea of the items stocked in my dream gift shop (of course a lot of these probably don't actually exist..)

Actual from show merchandise: 
Sonic screwdrivers from Doctor Who, wands from Harry Potter, light sabers from Star Wars, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Portal gun) from the Portal video games, the mockingjay brooch from The Hunger Games, Batarangs from Batman. There is a massive wealth of cool replica items that pretty much always look awesome because they're from the actual show/movie/comic/animation.

The compulsory mugs with Red Dwarf, Firefly and Buffy logos plus cool

patterns/designs from the shows - shields from Game of Thrones, Gallifreyan writing from Doctor Who. But not just mugs: have you seen the awesome Lakeland range of items for Doctor Who including Tardis teapots, and Dalek cookie cutters?  Aprons that dress you like favourite characters, salt and pepper pots in the shapes of your favourite monsters, TV dinner trays with beautiful images from the show, glass chopping boards with logos etched into them, Star Trek Enterprise bottle openers and pizza cutters.

Stationary and office stuff:
Hundreds of pens with slogans and lovely artwork and more subtle ones you can
actually take without automatically revealing your inner geek - plain black pens with the Deathly Hallows symbol on, for example. Notebooks with glossy "from the movie" covers, but also retro styling and hand drawn versions. Mouse mats, the Arc Reactor from Iron Man as a USB stick, novelty USB hubs (Tardis, robots), rocket shaped post it notes, calendars, address books, diaries, laptop cases, phone and tablet covers.. 

Whilst some may argue that a door painted to look like a Tardis is just going too far, there are loads of geeky (and giftable) nods to your favourite fandom. Have a few scatter cushions on your sofa but now one's a Sherlock design, one is of The Birds (Hitchcock) and one proclaims Bazinga!  (Big Bang Theory.) Scream coasters on the table with a Naruto canvas on the wall. Of course having loads of posters available is necessary, but the odd cool thing would be nice like these Marvel night lights and Dalek Christmas Tree baubles.

Jewellery:Whilst this could potentially just be an offshoot on clothing, I think jewellery would be one of the most important elements of a geek gift shop. Something that accessorises you and what you are thinking, wearing your personality visibly for
all to see. Plus there is so much cool stuff; I'm still gutted that Harlequin Goldsmiths (who produced Doctor Who themed sterling silver and gold-plated earrings and necklaces) has gone into receivership. However there's loads of other stuff: Minecraft Diamond Pickaxe Pendant, Final Fantasy necklaces, Wolverine dog tags, Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter) pendant, Arwen's Evenstar earrings from Lord of the Rings, Game Controller cufflinks.

Whilst perhaps not having a cosplay section (because let's face it, that's not a gift - it's cool stuff you buy for yourself) having a few costume items and novelties like
the Fourth Doctor's Scarf, a Star Trek Red Shirt, some Sherlock deerstalkers and the like would be sensible. After that the options are basically endless, stocking from places like Last Exit to Nowhere (best hoodies ever!), and reaching deals with Qwertee to buy any excess after their Insanitee sales so there is constantly different and unique items would be ideal. Of course you'd also need to accessorise, so having Sherlocked bags, various rucksacks, comic book "collage" items like this jumper, even funky Supernatual pants, awesome wallets and belt buckles (here's a Batman set) and fab Superman converses, or Batman wellies for the little ones.

Whilst most cool geek stuff is going to appeal to children as much as it does to
adults, there is some really nice stuff specifically for children. Having a few of the Superman: I Can Read series (or Green Lantern, or Spiderman should you prefer..) on the shelves would be lovely. Add in the Marvel Colouring Book, Marvel Sticker Book, a toy Batcave, pencil cases, Lego Minifigures and sets (e.g. this fab Indiana Jones one), Minecraft merchandise like this Light Up Torch

Books and Comics:
Preferably the comic session would be more of the gift type - lovely graphic novels and compendiums: Watchmen, Sandman omnibus, Walking Dead, Death Note Box Set, Peanuts Box Set, Hell Boy and Sailor Moon

And then you can look at all the cool directories, encyclopedias, script collections and coffee table books. Some of the most fabulous things we own are our Batman "museum in a book" items - books/folders containing loads of sketches, old posters, script extras such as The Batman Vault. Books and literature is a section that could go forever but here a few cool things that I'd love to see in shops: Star Wars Origami, Screenplay of The Monty Python's Life of Brian, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule HistoriaStar Wars: Frames, Transformers Vault, Chronicles: Art and Design (The Hobbit.)

Games and Puzzles:
Of course, working where I do, I'm incredibly aware of the cool licensed board

games that are around. They range from Firefly: The Game where you roam around space completing goals, to awesome miniature games Star Wars: X Wing and Star Trek: Attack Wing. Of course if battling in space with awesome ships isn't your thing then there's a game where you all have to work together as Marvel superheroes in Legendary - and if you don't like Marvel then there is also the DC Comic Deck-Building Game. If you'd prefer high fantasy then there are several great Terry Pratchett games out (Discworld: Ankh Morpork and The Witches) as well as many games based on the Tolkien licenses.

Gift Wrapping:
A gift wrapping service would be offered, with several levels of fanciness and wrapping paper would also be available to buy for those who'd prefer to wrap at home. I love some of the wrapping paper that is already available such as these Cybermen (Doctor Who) sheets (I love the stylish nature of the BBC Shop wraps), this Lego Star Wars sheet, and this Super Mario Bros wrapping paper.

And for now that's it! What would you include in your dream geek gift store?

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