Why mourn failing High Street retailers?

HMV occupation

HMV occupation

Sincil Street

Sincil Street

Whilst we may feel sorry for the staff who have lost their jobs or will lose their jobs, we should not mourn the loss of Jessops, HMV or Blockbuster. All three were rubbish retailers who will not be missed.

My experience of Jessops was they knew nothing of cameras. They would feed a customer any bullshit to flog a camera.

My experience of HMV, loud, moronic, distorted music blasting out. It was as though they deliberately wished to drive people out of the shop. You did not walk in and think, I wonder what that is, it sounds interesting, I might like to buy it. I would walk in, turn on my heels and walk out. Staff lacking any knowledge of music, very poor choice. In recent years they have completely lost their way, very little music, boxed sets of rubbish TV programmes, iPads.

I would differentiate HMV shops from HMV record label. The record label has been destroyed by greed, turning music into a commodity (which is all the HMV shops stock) and criminalising those who love music. This is true of all the big record labels. If you treat potential customers as criminals, then you deserve to fail. And who needs record labels?

HMV still trading are refusing to honour gift vouchers. Staff should do the decent thing, ignore management edicts and honour these gift vouchers. After all nothing to lose, you are losing your jobs and not getting paid. Some staff are now occupying HMV stores due to the failure to pay their wages.

My experience of Blockbusters, badly scratched DVDs that were unplayable, very poor choice of films, multiple copies of the same Hollywood rubbish. Small selection of foreign films was better. Unbelievably rude staff who seemed to be Asda rejects.

Indie record shops do a far better job, try Ben’s Records in Guildford, Resident Records in North Laine in Brighton, Off the Beaten Tracks in Louth in Lincolnshire, Record Corner in Godalming.

London Camera Exchange know their stuff, do not try to sell you anything, and you do not feel you are dealing with a chain.

For DVDs, libraries offer a far better choice, as does Ben’s Records.

These retailers are no loss. They made every High Street look the same

Boston has recently been griping at the dire state of its High Street. But why should anyone visit when every High Street looks the same, Clone Town, same shops.

It is corrupt and incompetent planners in bed with greedy developers who have made all our High Streets look the same. Councillors now wringing their hands and shedding crocodile tears are the same councillors who gave planning consent and backing for unwanted retail development that crushed independent businesses. Our High Streets are now paying the ultimate price of Clone Town, now they are all the same boarded-up shops.

Aldershot is the classic example of a town destroyed by a local council with hypocritical two-faced councillors shedding crocodile tears over the dire state of the town centre. The same council is now in bed with McDonald’s trying to destroy The Tumbledown Dick, an old coaching inn in Farnborough.

Loss of these rubbish retail chains provides a space for independent retailers to move in and offer a better service.

Lincoln is unusual in that it has a high number of independent coffee shops. But this owes no thanks to the City Council. When Stokes tried to create a downstairs coffee bar in their lovely old building on the High Bridge in Lincoln, they faced a two year battle. Sincil Street, the only remaining heritage outside the Central Market, is facing destruction It is an area of small, local businesses.

Contrast with North Laine in Brighton, lots of quirky independent businesses very popular.

Local businesses recycle money within a local economy, chains drain money out of the local economy. If you are worried about the dire state of the High Street, the last thing you want is national retail chains draining money out of a collapsing local economy.

The next chain to fail will be Waterstone’s.

A petition has been launched by two independent bookshops blaming Amazon for failing High Street. They are wrong. It was the chains that killed our independent shops and turned our towns into Clone Towns.

It is Waterstone’s that has killed our independent bookshops. When they do deals on books offering for half price or less, it is predatory pricing designed to destroy independent bookshops. We have lost a quarter in a period of five years. Waterstone’s displays books based on what the publisher will pay, not on merit. I have yet to find a Waterstone’s that has Neverseconds on display or staff that know of the book, even though it has had masses of publicity.

Contrast with Bassano del Grappa, four independent bookshops happily co-existing.

When Costa and tax dodging Starbucks blitz an area with coffee shops, they do so to drive the indie coffee shops out of business.

Yes, Amazon dodges tax, but then so does Starbucks. Address the tax dodging, but do not muddy the waters by conflating with other issues.

There is something seriously wrong with our economy when it is dependent upon pointless consumer spending in the High Street. This dates from the 1950s when it was seen we were producing far more than we needed. People had to be conned into buying what they did not need. We have also seen a massive expansion of retail space. Neither was sustainable. The planet cannot sustain, neither could the High Street at a time of austerity and triple dip recession. What we are seeing is necessary readjustment, from a system that was not sustainable, where people shop locally, value independent retailers, value their local heritage.

We should see the loss of HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster, and hopefully Waterstone’s, as an opportunity to rejuvenate our High Streets. Places where once again it is a joy to be.

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3 Responses to “Why mourn failing High Street retailers?”

  1. TheBigForest Says:

    Totally agree with your shout out for Resident in Brighton, the most fantastic indie store and their internet service always delivers too. People who really care about music and their customers.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Thanks, please pass on to Resident, as you say, they are a great record store.

    My first encounter with Resident was on hearing Undisciplined Art by Jacob’s Stories in Brighton Books (next door to Iydea, a great place to eat and watch the world go by). I asked what it was, and was told pop down to Resident.

    I could not find what I was looking for and asked. They went straight to the shelves and picked it out.

    I ran off copies for friends. They liked, and asked would I pick them up copies next time I was in Brighton.

    I called Resident and did a deal with the owner. Next time I was in Brighton I picked up half a dozen copies of Undisciplined Art, most of which I gave away as gifts.

    A wonderful gift. Not only excellent music, but very unusual. A black CD made to look like vinyl (even had grooves), limited edition with a handmade cover woven from grass, and a limited edition art work (each one unique).

    Next time I was in Resident, I asked anything else by this artist? I was told no, but expect a new release by this artist soon. I was talking to the owner Natasha and she said I would like Part II EPs by Mechanical Bride.

    I trusted her judgement. It was great.

    A few years later I checked out either Undisciplined Art or Jacob’s Stories. This led me to bandcamp and Shadowboxer.

    Shadowboxer are brilliant musicians.

    If you want access to music on the net then bandcamp is a must: high quality sound, easy to listen on-line (full album, no lofi few seconds samples), share and download. To date, bandcamp has put over $30 million direct into the pockets of grass roots musicians.

    Try Ex-Gay by Stuart Warwick from his album The Ordeal.

    Meanwhile HMV, they did not even know who was Imogen Heap! As I said, they are no great loss.

  3. mobilediscosurrey Says:

    clone high streets, its so annoying, visiting a town or city that you havent been to before and discovering nothing because its full of the same shops, i was really looking forward to visiting the Bullring in birmingham, we ended up leaving early because there was nothing we had’nt seen before. They should re name the bullshing to the ‘boring’

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