Belfast Telegraph

Blockbuster's credits roll

Film rental chain becomes the latest High Street failure

Film rental company Blockbuster's collapse into administration after almost 25 years on the High Street is the latest blow to the UK's embattled retailers.

It is yet another firm to see its business slip away to online retailers, in Blockbuster's case to companies like Netflix and Amazon's LoveFilm.

They allow customers to have films, games and music posted to their home or live-streamed online.

It has no stores in Northern Ireland but previously owned video rental company Xtravision.

Blockbusters' administration continues a run of some of the highest profile retail collapses since the demise of Woolworths in 2008 has deepened the crisis for UK's high streets.

The biggest failure of recent months was the demise of consumer electronics chain Comet, resulting in the loss of 6,900 jobs after administrator Deloitte closed all the stores without finding a buyer.

Others to go into administration in recent months have included sports retailer JJB Sports, the outdoor retail chain Blacks - later rescued by JD Sports Fashion for £20m - and budget fashion chain Peacocks, which saw 388 of around 600 stores saved in a deal with Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

Gift retailer Past Times was another to go under in a new year rush of failures at the start of 2012.

The post-Christmas period has been even worse this year after camera retailer Jessops also closed last week and music store HMV called in administrators on Monday. According to recent figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), more than one in 10 shops were empty in October last year.

The BRC said the UK town centre vacancy rate of 11.3% was the worst figure since its survey began in July 2011.

Northern Ireland, Wales and the North -amp; Yorkshire region are also seeing record numbers of empty shops.

As well as structural issues such as competition from internet retailers and supermarkets, the failure of chains such as HMV and Comet also highlights the pressure on shoppers from higher energy bills and fuel costs.

In the case of Comet, it was knocked by the lack of first-time home buyers, who had been key customers for the electricals business. And as banks have become more cautious over debt-for-equity deals since the financial crisis, many firms saddled with debts from past private equity takeovers have been left to fail despite underlying good trading.