All entries for Friday 05 January 2007

January 05, 2007

The High Street takes a hit, and it's their own fault

Just as the post-Christmas blues seem to be a great time for people to declare bankruptcy, it seems it’s the same for businesses too, especially if they’re High Street retailers.

Music Zone have gone into administration as Amazon rake in millions of orders. HMV are facing similar problems.

Today Games Workshop issued a profits warning, with its margins kindly described as ‘wafer-thin’. Little Chef has made heavy losses and has also gone into administration.

The first three can all blame the internet, but maybe there’s another factor which explains the fall from grace of all four.

HMV and Music Zone have both tried to meet the challenge of the modern entertainment industry. And both have failed. Their websites are no match for Amazon or any of the other online success stories. Their stores still offer virtually the same goods as they did twenty years ago.

But importantly, the atmosphere in their shops isn’t good enough to tempt people to pay High Street prices. Where bookshops have caught onto the idea of installing coffee shops in their stores, HMV and Music Zone could have had juice bars where you can sample the latest music. They could have walled off areas for classical and jazz, creating different atmospheres under one roof. They didn’t, and so their shops are little more than warehouses charging relatively expensive prices.

Little Chef failed to modernize too. The decor, logo and style is very 1980s, but their prices have risen with inflation. The food they turn out isn’t good enough to justify the prices.

And it’s the same story at Games Workshop. Although there is a more interactive element to their stores, prices are still too high in relation to internet stores. The shops don’t look very modern or inviting, and they’ve been going backwards – in image terms – for years.

All four have image problems to overcome, but show little sign of doing much to make themselves interesting. I’d be surprised if more than two of them were still in business in 2008.


Mears and Snow

I spent last night glued to BBC Two, which at last provided a night of TV worth watching (a rare event recently).

First up was Ray Mears’ Wild Food, in which the cameraman seemed to be having the time of his life. The Australian outback provided incredible scenery and the Aborigines who Ray was meeting filled their stage with ease.

There was a lot of deviation from the show’s purpose – i.e. food – but I didn’t care too much. It was the most beautifully shot programme since Planet Earth.

Dan and Peter SnowNext was a one-off featuring Peter Snow, his son Dan, and some shiny graphics that follow the former around like a loyal dog. It was ninety minutes of pure, unadulterated economics, wrapped up in the cotton wool of individual stories about how Britain’s changing economy is affecting the country. The Times said the graphics resembled something leftover from Torchwood, but I reckon it made the show so accessible that it ought to be shown to every secondary school pupil as part of careers advice.

And then there was Newsnight, which was a mixed bag. The report on healthcare in Sierra Leone was fascinating, but the story on food labelling looked like a boxing match where the two opponents had no interest in making any punches.

Thank god there’s an alternative to Z-List Big Brother.


Music takes one step forward, two steps back

From this Sunday, ‘old’ tracks will be eligible for the Official Singles Chart, meaning a return to the Top 10 for tracks released over six months ago.

Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars was released in August 2006, but is still going strong online. In fact, with the ‘new rules’ it’s expected to return to the Top 10 this Sunday.

If the rules had been in place before Christmas, Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas (Is You) would have been in the Top 10, as would an ancient Proclaimers track.

So let’s get this straight a minute…

The charts have been lying to us all this time! What was in the charts has only been what was deemed (by someone) ‘new’ music.

When was it decided Snow Patrol was no longer new? (Stop sniggering at the back!).


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