PCR Feb issue Independent Retailer: Chillblast’s Ben Miles

Chillblast’s Director, Ben Miles tells Michelle Winny, Editor of PCR about its recent Tactus Group acquisition, its involvement with F1 and how the explosive growth of the PC gaming market is driving product demand.

UK based Chillblast started out as a specialist importer of niche overclocking products; it has since evolved into one of the most highly achieving desktop PC builders in the world. The company clearly prides itself on the service it offers and is clearly highly customers centric. In an exclusive interview, Chillblast’s Director, Ben Miles had this to say.

What differentiates Chillblast from its competitors?
Many retailers outsource their PC building to other firms rather than build and test them in-house. This can lead to a number of complications including limited stability testing, inadequate attention to detail and careless construction. When you buy a system from Chillblast your computer will be built by one of our own highly qualified system engineers, all of whom have years of experience at the highest levels of PC construction.

What’s Chillblast’s company background?
Chillblast was founded in 2001, originally as a resource for tech news and reviews. As the readership grew, the opportunity was taken to introduce an ecommerce element to the website, initially focusing on niche cooling hardware for overclocking, and then later expanded to include PC components. As Chillblast’s reputation as a PC builder grew, the decision was made to concentrate purely on this aspect of the business. Chillblast has grown to become the UK’s most awarded PC manufacturer with 29 “best PC brand” awards since 2010.

I understand Chillblast was recently acquired by Tactus Group what does this means for the company?
Tactus was an existing supplier to Chillblast, using its wealth of international supply chain experience to assist in the creation of unique device types for business customers and home workers. As Tactus developed its strategy to grow its PC Gaming portfolio of businesses through acquisition and investment, it was only natural that Chillblast’s pedigree in PC Gaming and Tactus’ expertise in scaling and global supply chains would make for a perfect synergy. There were also other alignments, as Chillblast was one of the select few Microsoft direct partners for Windows OS, while Tactus is Microsoft’s Partner of the Year 2021. With the acquisition of Chillblast, Tactus has the immense brand equity it needs to drive its PC Gaming aspirations in both domestic and international retail and e-tail markets.

What e-commerce initiatives is Tactus currently driving ahead with?
Tactus has a diverse portfolio of complementary businesses, including PC system and component specialist CCL Computers, a class-leading IT repair business (Mend-IT), a long-standing business VAR (BIST Group) as well as its extremely well-established home-grown brands Geo, Coda, Exa, Horizon, Nazare, Arka and Hypa.

What involvement in esports and F1 does Chillblast have?
Chillblast is an official supplier to the Williams F1 Team and provides all of the PCs used by its incredibly successful e-racing team Williams Esports. Using our state-of-the-art technology, Williams Esports competes at the very highest levels of competitive racing, including the Gran Turismo Championship, ENASCAR Series, Forza Racing Championship and of course the flagship F1 Esports Series. Over the years Chillblast has also supplied many of F1’s top teams with equipment for simulation, race car design and aerodynamic development. Chillblast is a brand long synonymous with Esports in general, previously providing PCs for the Insomnia gaming events as well as world-class teams including XL and Fnatic.

Do you have any growth ambitions or outside investments? If so please could you tell us a little more?
Chillblast is already an extremely well-established brand within the UK PC Gaming community. Our plan is to continue to develop our core audience of enthusiasts and competitive gamers whilst expanding the brand to new audiences through retail expansion, and by exploring opportunities in overseas markets. Tactus already has extensive experience within America, and multiple European markets so the foundations for rapid growth are already well established.

What growth trajectory are you experiencing in the gaming market and where is Chillblast headed within this sector?
The explosive growth of the PC gaming market was well reported during the pandemic, but the industry was already on a healthy trajectory, with double digit growth in 2019. A lot of pent-up demand from the past 18 months remains unfulfilled, as shortages in performance GPUs (Graphic Processing Units) and various other chipsets continue. Demand continues to outstrip supply but, Chillblast, with its incredibly strong vendor relationships with Intel, AMD, NVIDIA and Microsoft is well positioned to continue to deliver strong growth, even as life returns to some semblance of normality.

In what ways do you think the gaming sector would benefit in regards to change and the way people buy and use technology?
Gaming has always been a driving force in innovation with many of the technologies we take for granted today, including 3D accelerated automotive interfaces, augmented reality, self-driving cars and VR having their roots in the gaming industry. As the lines between reality and gaming start to blur – it’s genuinely easy to mistake an F1 Esports Grand Prix for the real thing – we see gaming taking an ever more pervasive role in people’s lives. The film Ready Player One painted a dystopian picture of a game-obsessed future, but the reality is that gaming is overwhelmingly a force for good, driving equality, community, healthy competition, and a level playing field for all.

How has business been for Chillblast these past 18 months?
The word “unprecedented” is perhaps the most overused word of the pandemic, but the last 18 months for Chillblast have been just that. Chillblast has seen explosive growth, with incredible demand being met with advances in technology progressing at a rate we have not seen for a decade. AMD and Intel have locked horns as they fight for Desktop PC CPU dominance and the winner is the consumer – with 2x the performance now available after years of stagnation. This has coincided with revolutionary new graphics technology finally delivering playable 4K, VR and high refresh rate gaming experiences like never before. All of this has led to a perfect storm which has delivered a 61% increase in revenue and an 56% increase in profitability compared to the 18 months previous.

What future growth markets do you identify as key areas for Chillblast?
Chillblast will continue to focus on its core demographic of PC gamers, but the net will be cast wider and further to capture new audiences both here in the UK and in overseas markets. There is also a fantastic opportunity to build on the brand heritage and history and release products beyond just gaming PCs themselves. There is plenty of product development continually happening at Chillblast so don’t be surprised if you see new classes of Chillblast products coming to a store near you very soon!

What does Chillblast sell the most of and why?
Chillblast is the market leader in high end gaming desktops. There is plenty of competition in the “cheap PC” marketplace and we don’t pretend to compete in those choppy waters – instead we focus on what we do best. Designing and building products for the discerning enthusiast gamer who wants the finest device to compete at the highest level.

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