At Least HMV’s Closure Has Increased Sales in Crystal Balls

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Nick Moules
17th January 2013

The unfortunate news about HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster this week has turned even your most casual observer into a retail expert.

Anyone can take a look down their local high street and forecast the next big failure, but at rebuildingsociety.com we’re excited about the next generation of high street retail and the signals these failures tell us about the future of the financial services market as we draw the comparisons between the two.

At the heart of this is value and choice. For years in the case of HMV, the consumer was left with a choice of which CD retailer to buy a CD from, competition that given HMV’s scale it could outperform to become the market leader.

But if informed consumers have a choice that offers good value, they will move, and there is very little that the behemoths like HMV and Blockbuster could realistically do to get around the shifts in market demand given the size of their business, which traditionally was a strength.

Banks are suffering from a similar lack of agility in financial services.

While they are still the place to go for a mortgage and current account, products like savings and loans can easily be matched elsewhere. Technology has enabled society to connect people in a way not previously possible and if the terms are good, deals will be done.

Mortgages could be the next product to face competition from new finance like peer-to-peer lending.

Back to retail, and an excellent debate on BBC’s Newsnight earlier this week saw predictions from guests centre on customer service and experience-based shopping as the next step in the evolution of the high street.

The principle is that if people are taking the effort to go to a shop they want to know that what they’re getting genuinely can’t be found on the internet, so it has squeezed out those in the middle with average prices and average customer service like Comet, HMV and Jessops.

We’re not suggesting every high street will have a Harvey Nics flanked by Poundland and Iceland while most people do their shopping online, but incurring the costs of running a shop has to make good business sense now, it is certainly not a staple requirement for a business to simply be on the high street.

What might become more common is in-town shopping centres like Westfield where access is easy and overheads can be lower if it is all centrally controlled, not to mention energy efficient units and third part marketing driving footfall.

Those who haven’t tried peer-to-peer might want to view the evolution of financial services in the same way they see their high street taking shape.

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