HMV results a sign o’ the times
- 01:08 pm, Mon 9th Jan 2012
High St music store HMV’s report that like for like sales have fallen 8% compared to last Christmas shows the relentless change in the way we shop. Some High St music sellers have already bitten the dust and HMV is desperately trying to refocus its business away from CDs and DVDs towards technology products. These now account for 12% of its sales with a company target to lift that to 30%.
Music shops find themselves in a similar position to post offices, bookshops and travel agents – struggling against change in the way we do things and buy things. This is not something we are always comfortable about. We may love the discount price on Amazon and then bemoan the closure of that handy little bookstore down the road. We may buy all our music through I tunes and then miss the days when you could browse through the racks at the music store. We are perfectly capable of acting one way then regretting its effect or blaming some other external force on the closure of the bookshop and the record shop. But one is making life very tough for the other.
This matters not just because our own habits are changing but because of the effect it is having on many of our town centres. Wolverhampton has a high rate of empty shops. It is not alone. Other small cities face a similar problem. The internet and changing public expectations are informing our consumer habits. For town centres to work now they have to have the right shops and the right retail offer. They have to have the right mix of shopping, cafes and restaurants. For those who don’t have this, operating near to places that do have it, it can be a tough competition. Shoppers will still go to the shops but they won’t pay over the odds for things they can buy much cheaper online. And if there’s a better retail offer nearby, they’ll go for that instead.
I don’t believe the days of “physical” shopping are over. Far from it. And personally I like the way that browsing in a bookshop you can stumble across something you didn’t know about but looks like an interesting read - a more human way to make new discoveries than “people who bought this also liked this”. But I am realistic enough to know that those online discounts do have an impact on the High St. Just ask HMV.