The year has got off to a bad start for the High Street, with a number of large brands calling in the administrators. If nobody steps in to save them we’ll have to say goodbye to Jessops, Blockbuster and HMV – all staples of the High Street.
HMV’s fall from grace has been particularly dramatic, if not surprising. Its first record store was opened in 1921 and at its peak the company owned the Waterstones bookshop chain and ran a successful live music venture. Today its 223 UK stores are at risk of closure, with around 4,000 jobs on the line.
The downfall of all of these big names can be attributed to their failure to innovate and compete in a fast changing marketplace. HMV only launched its online download store in 2010, by which point many customers had built up a loyalty with iTunes or other digital music services. Blockbuster failed to compete with the numerous instant film streaming/download services available, and Jessops was brought down by ‘showrooming’, where customers browse goods in store and then go home to find the cheapest price online.
Showrooming is striking fear into the High Street, with recent statistics from the US stating 20% of shoppers used the tactic over the 2012 Christmas shopping period, a 134% increase on the previous year.
This trend isn’t all bad news, however. With shoppers looking online for the best prices, small businesses have the chance to compete with the big brands online – without the high overheads of a traditional shopfront. And with the recent advances in Cloud-based technology, a small business can now launch a stunning looking website for a fraction of the cost of legacy systems.
To a shopper searching for the lowest price on their smartphone, the small business you run from your living room will stand out from the big name stores if you can offer something unique or reasonably priced. The High Street may be on the decline, but by turning to the web, small businesses really have the chance to shine.