It is bad days for high street retailers. In the last 10 days Jessops, HMV and now Blockbuster have gone bust. There is plenty of blame on the internet and a certain Amazon for all of these going bust. However, there were certain reasons due to which all these failed, despite the internet having some hand in it. Here are my 2p on the issue:
Camera and telescope experts. You could go to these guys to get cameras, accessories, films, prints, and telescopes as well as binoculars. However, the prices were high. The accessories range, e.g. if you wanted an Infra Red film, was lacking, and the biggest issue I had was that the staff lacked the knowledge to be selling cameras. If you asked them which one was better, they’d often shrug their shoulders and point to one or two numbers. A bit of passion and very basic training was all that was required. This in combination with the fact that they could not compete on price terms led to their downfall.
Solution? While Jessops may never come back, if they were to fix things and come back, they need to stop blaming the internet and look what they have to offer. Camera experience and expertise. Make camera buying an experience rather than a chore. Be passionate about what you sell. Be excited. Know what features make what products stand out. Know a few buzz words like CMOS sensor, vibrant colours, aperture, etc. Most of all, pay your staff enough and train them enough so that they can fulfil these requirements.
The case of HMV is a very different one. They ruled the British isles as far as music went. Yes, there have always been competitors, but HMV were the place to go if you wanted music. However, that has long since not been the case. The emergence of internet suppliers, cheap retailers, and newer technologies put the old business model at risk. They were trying to run too many businesses badly, rather than one properly. Selling merchandise, books (why!), gadgets and technology and DVDs to save a sinking ship was only going to delay the process. Once again, the prices were not at all competitive compared to that of the internet.
Solution? Once again, we will probably never see HMV come back. However, if this was 5 years ago, what HMV could have done, and probably could still do is come with an online music catalogue. Sell music online, and not in the case of CDs and DVDs, but digitally as well. If the likes of HMV were competing with say somebody like iTunes 5 years ago, I am sure services like Google Music and Amazon MP3 may not have started. More so, this would have allowed HMV to become a major player not just on the internet, but also become a well known name around the world too.
Probably the one that was most obvious. In fact, it is a miracle it has lasted this long. Services like Love Film and Netflix had long made this service redundant. The recent movies on demand services have been the last nail in the coffin. The prices edged on being unreasonable at times, and that was not just the rental or buying rates. Food was competing with cinemas.
Solution? Probably the easiest way was to join the others, but provide better services. For once, I imagine this will never be a high street store ever again, but may exist as another version of the on-demand or films by post service.
These turn of events have probably caused alarm bells for quite a few major chains as well as small independent shops. Luckily, the small ones have mostly lessons to learn, but not much to change. The bigger ones probably have to quickly adapt to changing market as well as consumers. People are turning more and more to online services, but that does not mean that the high street does not offer anything. It still does, and people still prefer the experience of having something physical to buy. They also allow you to go to a shop, and come home with something, which is something the internet just cannot offer.
What to do then? Make what counts matter. If your store has a speciality, make it about the experience. Train your staff and pay them enough so that they are actually passionate about what they sell and do. At least make it interesting for them. Quirky counts as much as serious does. Most importantly, be flexible and adapt. Just because it worked for five, ten, or even a hundred years, does not mean that it will work in the next one or two.