Today’s proposed topic is what’s the most important thing you’re putting off and why haven’t you done it? Well I’m putting that idea on hold because I want to take this opportunity to express my fears for the future of high street CD & DVD retailing and to a lesser extent books.
If you live in the UK you have a choice where you buy your CDs / DVDs either online or on the high street, but if HMV goes to the way of Zavvi there may no longer be a high street option. Where I live we have two branches of HMV and an excellent dedicated classical CD shop. That is pretty much it if you want any choice. I would suggest that we have arrived at this sorry state for two reasons, the increasing number of online retailers offering discounted CDs and because supermarkets have moved into selling “popular artists”. I’m guilty too, I bought a DVD in a supermarket because it was two or three pounds cheaper than at Borders and unfortunately they disappeared about a year ago. In my defence I do prefer to buy on the high street but I can understand that if you’re doing the weekly supermarket shop and you’ve heard something you like on tv or the radio and there it is reduced in front of you… so easy.
I have no particularly loyalty to HMV but I do like to see what I am buying. It is unlikely that someone picking products in a warehouse will bother as to whether the cover is scratched or damaged. What they see is one of many orders to be fulfilled today. I’d like to think I’m wrong but unfortunately personal experience does not give me much encouragement.
My other concern is that if HMV go then Waterstones (books) may go too although I imagine this is a good standalone business. Again it is the same problem, you can buy books online and at the supermarket. One person who tweets regularly informed us that his book was on two for one in a major supermarket chain before Christmas. Even a national bookstore company would find it difficult to compete with this. And why would you want two copies?
If we lose HMV maybe someone else will pick up the challenge, but in 2011 with an ongoing recession, rising rates of interest and inflation it would be a brave company that embarked on such a venture.
I saw a documentary contrasting the number of staff required to run a network of stores against the very small number needed for an online business, it didn’t give me much confidence for the long term future of the high street store.