Look at the high street chains that are suffering the most. For the sake of convenience we’ll focus on them since their success or failure is more visible. Their collapse is the collapse of the supporting businesses behind them – distribution, manufacture etc. This isn’t to say eCommerce is just for them.
So, who is losing out on the high-street? It’s the middling chains, the smaller firms, and the ones that are becoming obsolete. Looking at each in turn:
The Squeezed Middle
Chains like Barrats, La Senza, Woolworths, MFI. None of them could be legitimately described as “a giant”, but they are also familiar high-street names. What’s happened to them? According to a variety of reports, articles and theories there are any number of things to blame but the most obvious one is that they just weren’t selling enough. They maintained large retail outlets alongside much larger firms since that was how they chose to compete. If Woolworths opened a tiny store with a small frontage off the beaten track, they wouldn’t be competing with other retailers. That’s not an option on the high-street where footfall and being close to the town centre is key for a company like that. When things take a downturn it’s these firms that suffer not the giants, because the middling firms can’t discount the way the giants can yet their costs remain as high.
It’s always been hard for one-store independents and boutiques to survive in tough climates. They rely on bustling high-streets and boom times to cash in on some of the money the giants don’t hoover up.
One industry that has changed more than most because of the internet is the music industry, and by extension music retailers. HMV are a genuine high-street giant, but they are closing retail outlets all over the country in response to declining music sales. To give an idea of just how hard it’s getting for HMV and the like here’s a mind-blowing stat: 25% of ALL music sales are made via iTunes. That’s only going to get worse (or better if you’re Apple!) as more people opt for the incredible convenience of pressing a button to buy a product. They never run out of stock, you don’t have to search for it, it’s never too crowded, and it’s cheaper. Top that, HMV! They cannot, so they are losing business.