/ Shopping, Technology

Your view: final curtain for Blockbuster and HMV?

Theatre curtain

In a new look comment round-up, we’re focusing on the demise of high street stores. HMV and Blockbuster recently went into administration, but what did you have to say about it? And who gets Comment of the Week?

Ludiger shared his HMV memories:

‘I remember HMV vividly. It was a truly grand place and I used to frequently shop there with my arms and hands, buying all sorts of products which they used to sell on their shelves and cabinets with my cash, and later debit and credit cards. Such a great shame.’

Ian B wasn’t as touched:

‘High streets should not be regarded as ‘sacred cows’. If people wanted to keep them viable they would be shopping there and not using superstores, online and retail park facilities. In my view, it’s a natural evolution and should be allowed to take its course.’

Sue was equally sad to hear about the fall of HMV:

‘They tried to keep going on the high street, but we have let them down by buying at supermarkets, online etc. They didn’t stand a chance. They won’t be the last and then high streets will die and be no more. It doesn’t help that the councils charge so much for their car parks!’

Car parking costs and Blockbuster

The cost of car parking was actually a theme that kept coming up. William commented:

‘I don’t think online retailers are fully to blame. I stopped using my local town centre many, many years ago when the council decided to turn all local street parking into pay and display. That’s what turned me into an online shopper.’

Den had similar thoughts:

‘I stopped using the high street many years ago because of parking charges. Fed up of rushing against the parking clock, not having enough time to shop and maybe have a meal at a cafe/restaurant. It’s not all the fault of the internet – councils have played a major role in the downfall.’

There were mixed feelings about Blockbuster going into administration on Twitter:

Comment of the Week – what’s your USP?

Finally, Clarioner explained why they thought HMV got into trouble:

‘They did not give buyers a reason to go to the stores. Every business in this economy needs to stand-out, if possible it needs a USP (Unique Selling Point) – it needs to be different or better in some way.

‘With John Lewis, this is customer service and warranty support. With PC World/Currys I truly believe they are only still here now because people want to go a SEE and TOUCH some of their products (not all).

‘With music, and video this is not so… no-one needs to touch it, you can preview the tracks online, and there is no after-sales service element. What HMV needed to do, was find another reason why buyers would want to go to the shops, or they should have started closing shops a long time back and switch totally to online only, if only to save the business.’

Congratulations Clarioner – you are this week’s Comment of the Week and will be featured on the Which? Convo homepage! What do you think about the current spate of high street stores going into administration? Will you miss them?

Linda says:
18 January 2013

Was really upset that HMV closing as I live near Exeter and there won’t be a decent video/CD/ etc place to buy or browse, downloading is just not the same, unfortunately too many people buy through the Net these days which is sad as our High Streets will become Ghost Towns, we’re becoming a stay at home nation (too unsociable) would be great if they could stay open on a smaller scale!!!!!!!!!

par ailleurs says:
18 January 2013

In its day HMV was a great place to be but they couldn’t possibly keep up with online sales. Of late the only HMV I’ve enjoyed was the big one in Oxford St. in London. They had a separate section for jazz and classical so you didn’t have to listen to the ghastly stuff being played in the rest of the store. As well as that they had staff who knew their subject and who could answer a query intelligently. There’s no way that could be done in any but the biggest cities and therefore the ‘ordinary’ stores became Jack of all trades and most definitely master of none. Sorry to see them go but as someone else said, it’s just natural selection.

Many of the weekly round-ups summarise unrelated issues and generated few if any comments. That’s probably good because we could have parallel discussions of the same subject.

Perhaps the round-up could be a place where we could go a little more off-topic than in the original discussion, so that ordinary Conversations remain more focused.

par ailleurs says:
19 January 2013

That’s a nice thought Patrick. In the same way I could in theory be trained up to work in a sports shop but I’d be a bewildered and not too helpful employee. No, the guys in the big HMV were enthusiasts with a real depth of knowledge that only someone who lives the subject would attain. It’s a shame they’re going but I still think it was inevitable.

Thank you Par Ailleurs for reminding me about the superb classical music department downstairs at the bigger HMV in Oxford Street. It was such a pleasant place to browse for music with knowledgable and enthusiastic staff, and with music reference books freely available to inform and educate the customer. The epitome of civilisation. I hope some body or company rescues this concept and keeps it alive. If only Chappell of Bond Street would branch out and take it on. I shall not miss the two HMV shops in my nearest city which are noisy, ugly, untidy, dirty, unhelpful, and poorly stocked. I preferred to buy music and DVDs in the excellent Borders book shop but unfortunately they went into administration and closed a few years ago [not much has been said about that loss; Ottakars bookshops went soon after, falling into the hands of Waterstones who promptly – and rightly – rationalised their holdings.] Thankfully there are numerous independent record and music shops in Norwich catering for all tastes and genres. There is also an amazing number of shops selling instruments, sheet music, and vintage or rare recordings in almost every format. The loss of HMV might take a little bit of pressure off these enterprising outlets who have certainly been struggling despite their appeal to dedicated afficionados, although the world of downloads is not confined to the hit parade and is also impacting on the more specialist and esoteric elements of the music scene.

I am wondering if this Comment Round-Up spot is an appropriate place to mention and show appreciation to the unnamed people at Which? Conversation who dream up and graphically realise the little images that decorate the home page headlines and illustrate the standfirsts for each article [see the Red Curtains above]. I was particularly taken by the little aeroplane-shaped jelly beans announcing the piece on the in-flight food price scandal crisis anxiety. Most of these pictures show a great deal of imagination and creativity, as well as relevance to the subject, and – presumably – have to be done quite quickly. Well done to everyone involved. How about some names and credits, Mr Steen?
Perhaps this should be the topic of another Conversation – it’s time we had one about “Which? Conversation” itself – Is it getting Too Chatty? Are we Losing the Thread? The Question Mark – Is its use still taught in schools#.

I too think we should be very grateful to the Which? team for all their efforts. I agree with John that it would be good to get to know more about Which? staff, and guest contributors.

I love the images used for the Conversations too, the most memorable being the gruesome one featuring a gingerbread man with one leg: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/critical-illness-insurance-cover-lose-leg-martin-wells-scottish-widows/ (I’m impressed that I found this easily with the search facility.) Many of the images come from Shutterstock, but these and the others are well chosen and using them as links to older Conversations is useful to promote continued discussion. I’m rather hoping it’s curtains to the endless variety of speech bubbles that have accompanied the weekly round-ups, because they are generally less interesting.

Alan says:
5 July 2013

Rule #1 – Don’t set up your warehouse in an expensive London suburb… build it somewhere like Swansea, just like Amazon and reap the savings, rather than foot expensive rates & staffing costs.
Focus on your core business and don’t diversify. HMV used to be a music company and not another (try to) sell everything shop.
SIMPLE (maths) really.
Maybe some executives lost the plot a bit on this one (and eventually their livelihood).