Bye bye Blockbuster

Here we go again – this is getting depressing. I can claim no first hand experience of Blockbuster – our video and DVD rental stores were independents and they withered away 10 years ago – HMV (see above) stepped into the breach.  But Blockbuster has been grimly holding on.  The shocker is quite how many stores they have – over 500. A reminder that the peril for service businesses is that they become cash businesses with more and more outlets trading unprofitably just to keep revenue flowing through – and using debt to cover the lean periods.  It rather looks as if Blockbuster has been unviable for years but didn’t have enough cash to rationalise and to cut to a number of stores which might have been profitable. Or is the retail rental concept now so tarnished that this was a business they couldn’t pass on or close so they soldiered on until the bankers pulled the plug.  You can call this upheaval the market correcting itself. But our communities depend on many different kinds of service which on the evidence of this one may themselves be unprofitable.  What happens if there aren’t enough stores within reach to buy what you need or want – so you catch the bus supplied by your nearest grocery high street name to stock up as much as you can carry (not everyone has a car).  Not everyone has broadband access or the confidence or desire to use a computer at home.  The internet has been a wonderful way to reduce the costs of trading for start-ups.  But the goods cost as much as they always did. And now we have the hassle of waiting in or going to depots to collect them.  Is this the kind of life we would choose for ourselves? Or have we sleepwalked into it?

Nature abhors a vacuum and I for one am thinking of ways in which we can create interaction and community as our high street chains steadily retreat from their customers.  And service managers study dashboards to monitor the quality of customer experiences.  But we’ll have to do it for free – investing our time in it.  This is my home patch not a Center Parc with a price tag for everything.

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