High street really is up for grabs

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SOME eight days ago now, thunder rolled across the skies, the earth shook, and it was announced HMV – that music behemoth – had gone into administration.

And the people of this land beat their chests and cried what a damned shame and demanded something be done. And then they went back to Spotify.

And some seven days ago, thunder rolled across the skies, the earth shook once more, and it was announced Blockbuster – that film behemoth – had gone into administration too.

And the people of this land beat their chests and cried what a damned shame and then they asked: “was Blockbuster still going, then?”

Apparently it was. Or it is. Or at least it sort of is. But it’s probably best not to buy a loyalty card. Who knows? No-one listened to the answer because they’d already gone back to their semi-legal streaming websites where they were watching some movie so new it’s probably not even been made yet.

It doesn’t matter. The point is, it was A Bad Week for the high street. It’s getting use to them by now, one imagines. Ever since Woolworths sold its last pick ’n’ mix, major chains have been closing quicker than schools in a light snowfall.

Comet, Jessops, TJ Hughes? All gone or gotten close. All half-consigned to the dustbin of history. Or, in the case of TJ Hughes, consigned to The Moor. Which is sort of the same thing, anyway.

And now HMV? That staple of youthful exploitation? If little Nipper the dog might not survive, what will?

Well... actually, perhaps any store that evolves?

Because, here is the crux of the thing: HMV – like Jessops, like Woolies, like Comet – is a victim of nothing more cruel than clean, clinical Darwinism.

Of course, when business and jobs are under threat it is a tragedy, and every person affected deserves our sympathies.

But let us cut through the pseudo-nostalgia that has accompanied the announcement. Let us cut through rosy recollections that HMV is where you bought your first LP, or saw Jarvis before he was famous, or met some hot chick who put out behind the Eggbox back in ’86. Let us cut, ultimately, through the saccharine sentiment that it’s a public travesty this place – itself the killer of a thousand independent record shops – is petering into the past.

Because it isn’t. Because HMV – like Jessops, like Woolies, like Comet – has proved itself rubbish at 21st century retail.

Sellers of over-priced CDs. Providers of poor choice. And probably the only store in history which has tried to survive a recession by diversifying into Angry Bird T-shirts.

In a world where music lovers can go on phenomenal musical and social adventures without ever leaving their laptops it became a relic.

And if it dies – like Jessops, like Woolies, like Comet – all one could really say is, well, that’s evolution. She is a cruel mistress. Just ask a dodo.

So, now here we stand, at this commercial crossroads with the internet changing everything for always and ever, and no-one really sure when it will end, or where it will lead, or what will be in five years time.

And some – chained by the madness of too much nostalgia – say these are scary years, but they’re wrong. For the high street has never been more open; nor ever been so up for grabs; nor ever needed to please us, who use it, so much. The times, they are exciting.