Tag: retail

HMV pooch put down, Blockbuster busted

nippergonerHMV’s pooch has been put down. Staring into a rifle rather than a gramophone, Nipper’s one of the latest goners in the struggling high street. The question is just why exactly he and the chain have taken this long to croak.

His Master’s Voice had been shouting – with a sickly sore throat – for quite some time about how it is still relevant. HMV tried to launch a digital on-demand service, it committed more of its shelf space to electronics, and attempted to lift itself out of an inevitable quagmire. All the nostalgia is fair enough considering the brand’s longstanding legacy (though this Telegraph article makes a compelling case otherwise) – what doesn’t make sense is the illogical idea that Britain’s high street is integral to its national character or even its larger economy. Britain went through the luddite movement once already. Haven’t we learned our lesson? Once the technology is out there, you can’t turn back the clock, and trying to do so is understandable, but stupid.

Shopping online makes sense. This is why it is so successful. Given the choice between getting on a bus, standing in a queue, paying more, and with a limited selection – compared to one click ordering in under a minute, cheap, for exactly what you want or need – is it any surprise the consumer has largely chosen the web? It is possible that a retailer will figure out a hybrid model at some point in the future, and bargain or pound shops are unlikely to have many problems in a recession, but for the sort of commodities that don’t need to be tried on, the internet is a better option.

Any sympathies in wake of the bust must be directed toward the thousands of staff that lost their jobs because management refused to innovate in an age where taking risks and doing so is the  only way to succeed. Consistently playing catch-up, and thoroughly outpaced, it is a miracle HMV managed to hold on as long as it did. As for the unfortunate staff: let the demise of HMV, and all the others, work as a warning that in a permanently connected society it’s now nearly impossible to rest on your laurels and run a successful operation. HMV, of course, is only one of the most recent. Jessops (which previously shared the same chief executive as HMV’s last) was another casualty, before it, Comet, and before that, more. It has just been announced that Blockbuster will go into administration – South Park aired an episode about the inevitability of this outcome in October 2012.

Britain’s high street hasn’t been about some vague and nostalgic notion of community for a long time. Its steady transformation from local merchants and butchers to identikit hubs of big brand shops, that look the same in every British suburb, was complete years ago.

Adam Smith described Britain as a nation of shopkeepers, and that – first published in 1776 – is still true today. But it is something that must change. The high street’s death rattle has only just begun. An economy committed to hiring people to sell products – let alone barely producing –  is bound to fail, and we can only expect more casualties to come.

According to some critics, the blame is solely in the hands of management. Speaking with ChannelEye, Luke Ireland, business strategy adviser and non-executive director, said: “It is no surprise that we see three more major retailers succumb to the power of the internet.

“Don’t blame tax avoidance or government policy blame the management for not embracing the internet.

“It’s not going away and unless you fundamentally build it into everything you do your business will fail. I feel for the staff but if you work for a retail business which ignores the internet I’d look for another job.”

 

HMV “fights losing battle” for quite a while

HMV_NewcastleIllegal downloads, competition from online stores and legal streaming services have all contributed to HMV fighting a losing battle.

The once popular music store, which was a haven for 90s teens buying their first singles and albums, has become the latest casualty on the high street, announcing earlier this week that it was to go into administration.

The company, which has around 250 stores nationwide, made the announcement claiming that like-for-like sales were down 10.2 percent for the half year to 27 October and the Christmas period had not helped push profits up.

Trevor Moore, the former Jessops boss who took over as HMV CEO in August, said in a statement that the company had held discussions with its banks over the weekend but failed to agree on new terms for its debt.

“The board regrets to announce that it has been unable to reach a position where it feels able to continue to trade outside of insolvency protection and in the circumstances therefore intends to file notice to appoint administrators to the company and certain of its subsidiaries with immediate effect,” he said.

Michael Perry, a retail analyst at Verdict, said the chain had been “fighting a losing battle for some time,” pointing out that it hadn’t been able to compete with the likes of Amazon on either price or range, while grocers had also been slowly claiming market share.

“Illegal downloading has also had a part to play, particularly over the last few years as consumers look to save money. To many, the monetary benefits of downloading outweigh the risk of being caught, resulting in online piracy continuing fairly unabated,” he told ChannelEye.

“The same can also be said for legal streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix, which have largely negated the need to purchase physical media for many consumers.”

And the public are also suffering. Not only are there around 4,500 jobs at risk, but customers are left with vouchers that they can’t use.

High Street misses out on maternity fashion buzz

bumpHigh Street stores are reluctant to stock maternity clothes because they fear there will be too much training involved, a retail analyst has suggested.

However a fashion expert, who writes for maternity fashion site Does My Bump Look Good in This?, has disagreed, claiming stores are missing out on a huge demand in the market.

Maternity fashion has become increasingly popular over the past few years, with expectant women, especially those in the business world, relying on this line to keep their style from the first stages of their pregnancy to the very end.

“It’s no longer about tracksuit bottoms and leggings,” a fashion expert pointed out.

“Women want to embrace the latest styles, and stay on-trend through the nine months, and maternity lines are great for doing this,” she added.

However, retailers have been slow to offer this on the shop floor, with small ranges only offered in large flagship stores, which many people are unable to easily get to.

And although there is an abundance of maternity fashion online, it can often be hard for pregnant women to order clothes over the net as a result of their changing figures.

“The high street is missing out on a huge boat,” the fashion expert pointed out.

“Pregnant women want to be able to try before they buy, especially when it comes to jeans and dresses, by not offering these ranges in many stores, retailers are alienating customers wishing to spend, on what is essentially a new wardrobe.”

Clive Longbottom, an analyst at Quocirca, however, had a different view claiming the demand wasn’t there with women only looking to purchase maternity wear later on in their pregnancy.

“[Women who] have gone through pregnancy will use standard clothes for as long as possible, maybe moving from a 12 to a 14 (well, a dress size or two) during the first four or five months and only then look to maternity wear as a move further up would result in badly fitting clothes,” he said.

“I think the majority will then go through a period of still wanting to look good – but towards the end (say, seven months on), comfort becomes the major concern, so elasticated waists and blouses that can billow a little may be OK for many.”

He said  this left the main high street shops with a problem as they would then have to come up with a set of designs that fitted in with their standard seasonal offering for a group that was only a small part of a small part of their target audience – those who were more than four or five months pregnant but less than seven months pregnant – in lots of different sizes.

He also pointed out that staff would have to be trained to deal with the needs that a pregnant person has in making sure that things were not too tight.

“Overall, a lot of cost for little return,” he said.

“Leaving it to Mothercare and other specialist stores where women can go, be amongst others in the same position and who will give more balanced judgments than “you still look fat in that”,” would work better he added.

However, the fashion expert disagreed, claiming maternity fashion was no different to other ranges stocked.

“There’s tall, plus size and petite ranges in high street stores, and you don’t see trained staff around for those.

“Maternity is, in my view, just another range. Pregnant women don’t lose their sense of style just because they are having a baby. They don’t need a trained staff member to advise them, they just need a range they can wear, and style themselves.

“The problem is that in so many stores there isn’t this choice, which means women have to try and shop off the rack- this is more likely to warrant trained staff,” she added.