As I wrote yesterday, and has been well documented by retail experts, it's no real surprise that high street shops are going down like skittles. What I do find surprising, and not a little galling, is the failure of their management to react to changes around them. They carried on, Canute-like, as the waves of downloading and internet retailers washed over them.
Twelve years ago, I was in discussions with HMV managers at the Oxford Street shop. They had developed a system that allowed customers to make their own playlists from an immense database of music, and burn their own personalised CDs in the shop. They had a bank of half a dozen computers and several dedicated staff in the basement of the shop, with a huge display as part of trial. As a consumer journalist, I was invited to try the system out and report on it. Although it was clunky by today's standards, it was something no-one else was doing, and I was impressed. However, the project was cancelled after only a couple of months, as managers feared that if people could chose their own music one track at a time, they might stop buying single-artist CDs. What a pity. HMV had a chance to be a pioneer and they rejected it.
So what could HMV have done to avert the crisis? For one thing they could have embraced online sales much more enthusiastically. They could have created a huge buzz around new releases, with queues stretching along high streets. They could have moved into concert promotion. They could have offered free wifi in stores, with samples of songs and free downloads as part of the service. They could have held competitions for new bands. They could have developed an app with breaking music news and special offers. They could have done a whole lot more to make HMV a cool brand that people wanted to be associated with.
But they didn't. How the Mighty Vanish.