By Marcus Leach
The high street of yesteryear was a thriving hub of bustling activity. Shops prospered as viable businesses, customer loyalty was unquestionable and all was well with the world. But that was then and this is now, and the sands of time have brought around much change.
Now, as the 'closing down sale' boards go up all too frequently, the high street is becoming a graveyard of derelict shops, stripped to their bones by administrators trying to salvage every last penny before the businesses are closed once and for all.
What started as a gentle trickle of shops running into problems has, in the past few months, become something of a flood. Comet, Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster have all fallen foul of the changing face of consumerism. However, one must ask the question; did they really need to?
Many will blame the internet, the advent of the illegal downloader and ever fierce competition. Not to mention the perishing concept of brand loyalty; that now seems to be nothing more than a memory of times past, something else to remind you of the good ol' days. But in truth the internet could well have been the answer for the aforementioned companies, if only they embraced it.
Granted, consumerism has changed over the past decade, but that didn't mean businesses had to stand still and watch the world go by. They had the chance to embrace the brave new digital world, develop an online presence and move with the times. Instead, too many became rooted to the spot, entrenched in the ways of days gone by, suddenly unable to move when they realised their mistakes.
Andrew Villars of Arrowhead Consulting, a specialist in the retail and leisure sector, simply can't fathom how these one time giants of the technology and photography worlds ever allowed their own demise to unfold around them. After all, they all had a market share offline, so why didn't they transfer that to an online presence?
"They're [Comet, Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster] all essentially technology linked businesses, where the buying decision is now not made on the high street, it's made online in principle" said Villars.
"You get your reviews from magazines and online sites and then look for the best deals online. That has been the major shift in consumerism. The younger generation don't even think of music as being anything but online. So for firms not to have an online presence is beyond me.
"It's amazing to me that play.com were ever allowed to enter the equation at all. So why didn't HMV take that space? That space was available for them, when you consider the brand loyalty and market share they had offline."
The changing face of consumerism has seen a big shift towards the digital world, and Ray Clark, Event Manager for the Digital Marketing Show, believes businesses need to maximise their digital presence in order to thrive in what is becoming an increasingly competitive environment.
"The market place has changed unrecognisably over the past ten years, and an alarming number of companies have failed to evolve with it," Clark said. "Those that haven't have begun to fall by the wayside, whereas those with a strong digital presence have flourished."
Whilst some companies are belatedly opening their eyes to the need for a digital presence, take Morrisons' decision to create an in-house digital agency as a prime example, not all have reacted in time, and sadly thew consequences will be dire.
"I think this trend [businesses going bust] will continue unfortunately," added Villars. "So there will be additional casualties around this space. The winners of course will be those that have got a great online presence who will continue to thrive."
Back in 1979 Buggles and Trevor Horn were lamenting that "Video Killed the Radio Star". And now, to bastardise that slightly, it seems that "video has killed the high street store." Although, truth be told, it didn't have to, but many have let it.
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