Are High-Street Retailers on their Last Legs?

Written by Ben Hardwidge

January 8, 2011 | 09:43

Tags: #2011 #high-street #retail

Companies: #hmv

Are High-Street Retailers on their Last Legs?

Once I'd recovered from the headachey bloatedness caused by Christmas frolicks, I was left with a post-Christmas dilemma. The postal service was facing a huge backlog of post from the Christmas rush and snow epidemic resulting in delays, and I'd just finished watching the first series of Mad Men on DVD. My inner irrational compulsive angel told me to get the second series as soon as possible and, while I usually order DVD box sets online, the postal problems prompted me to brave the post-Christmas high-street sales.

It had been a while since I'd been into an HMV store, and I was soon reminded why. I found Mad Men Series 2 in the sale for £15. I'll repeat that: it was in the sale, with £10 off, for £15. That's over £4.50 more than it costs on Amazon at the standard price with free delivery. I bought it anyway, shuffling past the hoards of hungry shoppers filling the small gaps between the racks of discs to queue for about ten minutes. I only allowed my body to relax for a few seconds once I got outside.

My first reaction was to think that the world of high-street retail probably doesn't have much longer left to live, and this was backed up to a certain degree by the recent news that HMV is set to close 60 of its stores following disappointing Christmas sales. Sure enough, the 'Time's running out for HMV' headlines started appearing soon afterwards, but I then asked whether this was really signalling the end of HMV's high-street business.

*Are High-Street Retailers on their Last Legs? Are High-Street Retailers on their Last Legs?
HMV plans to close 60 stores across the UK, but does this mean the high-street is on its deathbed?

For a start, HMV might have overpriced stock, even in a sale, but it was still absolutely rammed with customers after Christmas. Then again, the December snow appears to have stopped many people from braving the high street, and let's also not forget that we're not in a great financial situation. Many people are dealing with job cuts, and they're unlikely to be splashing out on music, games and movies when they're more worried about paying for food and accommodation.

It would be easy to associate HMV's store closures with a mass forsaking of high-street retailers in favour of online stores. This certainly mirrors my own shopping habits, but then I'm a tech-savvy shopper, and I'm hardly representative of the whole UK population.

This prompted me to wonder which stores HMV is actually planning to close. If we were talking about stores in towns that only have one HMV store, then that would probably indicate a shift away from high-street sales in general. However, if we were talking about stores close to each other in larger cities, then that might indicate more of a consolidation than a retreat. I therefore decided to ask HMV exactly what was going on to get a better picture.
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