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Provided you haven’t been living in a cave on Pluto with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears mumbling “wah-nah-nah-I-can’t-hear-you!” I’m sure you will be aware of the recent news of a few large retailers: HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, calling the administrators in over the last week. Since every John, Paul and Ringo seem to be sticking their proverbial oar in over social media I thought I’d provide my opinion on the subject. Before I start however, I would like to state that I sympathise totally with the front-line staff. I’ve got friends who do work or have worked in all three, they’re lovely people who I hate to see getting redundancy. I don’t like seeing anyone lose their job (well with a couple of exceptions, not mentioning any names, Dave and George).

Now that’s out of the way. There are a few reasons for these businesses folding like a consilatory “sorry you crapped-out” card.

Firstly, HMV. A company that has peddled its entertaining wares for close to a century. (Fun Fact: HMV in case you were unaware, was named after the Francis Barraud painting of a dog listening to “His Master’s Voice” on a phonograph.) Now HMV, as my mum pointed out, (yes, I have one, contrary to popular belief I was not created in a genetic experiment by mixing stem cells and Stella Artois) doesn’t exactly embrace older customers. Everything from the decor to the product layout was geared to young people. In my local HMV for instance, all the classic films were upstairs in a building with no lift while video games, T-shirts and Beats by Dre occupied the ground floor. Now you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with that, after all, it’s an entertainment store, right? I mean movies, video games and tech are the realm of the whippersnapper.

Well I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that; young people don’t buy entertainment in shops anymore, that is if they buy it at all. You can’t base your entire business model squarely on the one demographic who has a cheaper alternative. Young people use the internet. There’s only so many hours in a day. We don’t have time to shop in the high street in between all the alcoholism, STI’s and disrespecting our elders.

Between Steam, Netflix, Amazon, Play, Lovefilm, Spotify and torrenting, actually going to a shop seems a little, passé.

“What? You mean I have to go to the place? Then I have to carry both DVDs all the way home? What am I, Amish? Why don’t I just start washing my clothes in the river and beating them on a rock?”

You see we’re on the ball. We’ve read the papers, we know only old people and fools venture outside these days. Between the terrorists, gun crime, and climate change that lurks around every street corner we know the only safe place is indoors. Let the postman brave the post-apocalyptic wasteland beyond my front door to deliver my copy of “Nazi Zombie stripper flesh-eaters 2”. Well, to be more accurate the postman delivers a little red card telling me I wasn’t in, because it was more than his job is worth to actually knock on the door (but that’s one for another day).

In fact, the only concession HMV seemed to make to the older generation were the recent guidelines regarding employee appearance. A move that famously managed to alienate a huge section of the young, pierced and tattooed customers they aim at. Had they accepted that their new customer base was older and less internet savvy and marketed accordingly they may have survived.

The second firm to go was Blockbuster. The place people went to rent videos before the internet waded in and hulk-smashed the industry.

I will admit to feeling a little sorry for Blockbuster. I remember walking past my local one and seeing a pasting table outside covered in flyers begging people to become members. I thought at the time that it would be a shame if they closed down. After all they were just a lame duck trying desperately to cling on to a business model that couldn’t survive without massive changes that it didn’t seem to really understand. They reminded me of myself when I refused to stop calling Starburst Opal Fruits (a pain I carry to this day).  This seems to be precisely the problem. Blockbuster steadfastly refused to diversify it seems. No, selling the occasional overpriced Haagen-Dazs doesn’t count.

The one move Blockbuster did make to try and weather the storm was to start selling more pre-owned DVDs. Sometimes the DVDs didn’t even appear to have been pre-owned by an angry cat. Although frequently the discs did look like a Jackson Pollock painting and a lot of them did state in big letters that they were rental only and not for sale so I’m not sure what the deal with that was. That’s one for Blockbusters legal team I would imagine.

I have to admit though, I’m not totally devastated by the news that large chain retailers are closing down. I’ve seen people claiming that the British high street will never be the same. Nobody was nearly as concerned when these behemoths drove independent record shops and video rental stores out of business. The ones who had staff who you could actually ask for help without often getting a look as blank as a Starbucks’ tax return. Getting upset that HMV has ceased trading is a bit like getting upset when Nazi Germany was defeated although you didn’t really care when they crushed Poland because hell, not that many people live there. Ok, I admit, it’s not that much like it. For a start, the Nazis had better uniforms (pink t-shirts? Really?)

Lastly, although they were the first to go, is camera retailer Jessops. People don’t seem to care about Jessops as much, but I suppose when your product range averages in the hundreds of pounds you’re not going to be the every-man of retail. To be frank, I’m not sure if Jessops did anything wrong or whether they just lost out to jack-of-all trades, master-of-express-delivery Amazon, somehow I can’t imagine the London Camera Exchange clobbered them. I wont speculate too much on Jessops though, I only visited one once. As a passionate but poor photographer I walked in, realised quite the extent to which I couldn’t afford so much as a lens cap and walked out again.

Of course it’s not only bad management and fate that are responsible for these three corporate suicides. If anything they were murder-suicides. Many of the very people who claim to be upset at the high street disappearing are the same people who only ever buy anything online or who file-share. Despite my earlier generalisations I do like to buy things from a shop occasionally. (It’s nice to have something the day you pay for it for a start.) But we all have to take some of the blame. We can’t stop using physical shops in favour of the internet and then complain when the “IRL” (in real life, it’s internet slang, I know, it makes me sick too, LOL) retailers go out of business. We can’t all have our cake and eat it and share it over the internet so other people can eat it too without paying the baker.

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