Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

HMV won't be the last to suffer death by 1,000 clicks

As Mr Selfridge pirouettes around his store beholding the bright dawn of recreational shopping in ITV1's period drama for dumdums, there's an irony that this week saw another heavy nail thumped into the High Street's coffin.

HMV - that place where my crimp-haired friends and I met boys and bought Sisters of Mercy T-shirts - has brought in the administrators.

This is sad, yet wholly unsurprising. My local Toys R Us has closed down, hot on the heels of Jaeger, Benetton, JJB Sports, Past Times and The Disney Store. These are bleak times for retail.

HMV for a long time has not stood a chance against the 21st century. We all killed HMV. We killed it with our Spotify, Netflix, iTunes and LoveFilm accounts, with our sexy Amazon one-clicks, with our Asda impulse "shove a Buble record in with our shower gel" purchases and our curious fresh new human right to rob stuff off the internet.

We killed it with our antipathy towards smelling and seeing our fellow man. To hell with human interaction. I bought a new toaster, some audio wires and a PG Wodehouse novel last night on my phone, on the sofa, all in one tax-dubious Amazon basket.

Of course, in the 1980s and 1990s pre-mobile phone, pre-internet, well, human interaction was what we went to HMV for. Oh, HMV was a den of teenage hormonal iniquity.

It was genuinely one of the only ways to meet like-minded local twonks, other than the laborious process of the NME lonely hearts PO box section. Eyes met across a crowded Indie/Alternative section. Ah, the small, thrilling steps from earnestly discussing The Teardrop Explodes to potential atomic-level snogging in a park.

Great times, but, importantly past times. Facebook, BBM and Twitter have ruined HMV's usefulness as knocking-shop with a sideline in flogging CD singles and other "stuff".

And, to be frank, the joy of owning "stuff" - piles of DVDs, vinyl, CDs and books - has become ever-so quaint and eccentric now.

It's long been my suspicion that HMV was being kept afloat solely by single males filling their houses to the brim with Blade Runner: The Director's Cut DVD box-sets. But, surely, the main category of people HMV were relying on for business were people who hadn't worked out the internet yet, or simply couldn't afford it. I am not a trained corporate accountant, but something seemed awry. In future business seminars, I will point out why women's shoe shops will become obsolete, killed by stores like Asos.com (most women don't want to waste time in a shop that feels like a bad nightclub, waiting to be told by a mumbling teen that the size isn't in stock.)

I will also offer a meditation on the forthcoming death of the High Street "white goods" industry. Because why would anyone in 2013 go to the hassle of buying and arranging the delivery of a fridge-freezer in person?

Click, click, hooray. Yes, I want someone to blame for the dying High Street.

But the blame, it seems, is closer to home.

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