HMV, the last of the high-street DVD (and music) retailers went in to administration this morning. More than 4000 jobs hang in the balance, which, falling just a few days after the news It seems almost perverse to be mourning the end of a corporate monster, and it is very easy to be cynical about the whole affair*, but coming of age at the tail end of the 1990s myself and many of my ilk consider regular trips to the big two of HMV and Virgin Megastore as formative experiences (and in doing so yes, inadvertently helped to kill the independent sector, the demise of which was far greater a loss than anything else). My first job was in a Virgin Megastore, and I’ve spent more hours in those places than I care to remember. HMV was the final salvation of the high-street, a place of hope in the midst of hours spent traipsing around boring clothes stores on a Saturday afternoon. I’ll genuinely miss it.
I did a pretty good job of supporting both up until the (presumed) end. Just yesterday I called in to pick up Dredd in-store, only to be tempted in to spending £25 on a couple of other bits, while in an ironic turn of events a package from their online outfit arrived, as if to serve as an explicit reminder as to why this has happened. Yesterday’s trip summed up the in-store experience perfectly though, with the providing of the opportunity to search through shelves and shelves of movies resulting in the impulse buy of a number of items. As has been noted quite a lot over the past twelve hours, you can’t really do that online.
So what lies for the future of film in video form on the high street? Boutique concession stands and pop-ups might be the answer. Sheffield outfit Collard Manson opened one in the run up to Xmas, and I’d been struck by the simple yet brilliant idea as soon as I saw it (my wife is very fond of their Division Street boutique in general). They offer a range of specially curated albums and related matter While the ploughing-through-racks-and-racks-of-mysterious-goodness might be a lost cause (the sheer space required for such an endeavour quite simply doesn’t fit with the modern approach to buying stuff), the ideal modern equivalent would be a series of smaller spaces, contained within other shops, cafes and the like, expertly curated by people that know their stuff. Lockers have come of age over the past 3 months too, which for those unfamiliar with the concept involves the consumer ordering an item online and paying £2 for said product to be delivered within 24 hours to a locker near to their home or workplace. While an excruciatingly clinical experience, it’s unbelievably convenient, especially for the more obscure items that a high-street store would never hold in stock anyway.
In the grand scheme of things the big concern is that this does spell the end for physical media, with the average bear no longer interested in purchasing DVDs or Blu-rays in the wake of such relative inconvenience, especially now that most new televisions come with Netflix and Lovefilm access as standard, while the reach of iTunes has never been greater thanks to the stellar success of the iPhone and iPad, both of which have made their bow in the years following the digital musical revolution. Home video is as important as the cinema for discovering film. But alas, let’s end on a positive note, pondering a future of uber-curated specialist pop-up stores that will rise up in the wake of the demise of the big guns.