HMV and Blockbuster have gone into administration and left me wondering if this is the death of town centres.
Of course, there are those who claim town centres have been dying for years, ever since they began building shopping malls like Meadowhall and out of town outlets like Junction 32 at Castleford.
I have to confess I like the concept of Junction 32 and its ilk – high street fashion at bargain prices.
Except that soon there will be no high street and the prices are often not the sort of bargain that grabs me by the wallet.
Have you been to the one at York, for instance? That’s the one with expensive names like Austin Reed, Aquascutum, Lacoste, Paul Smith and Ted Baker who offer cut price bargains I still can’t afford. I once tried on an Armani overcoat there that fitted – and with my size (38 short) they don’t come round too often – only to find it was still £600. Whoops. Back on the rail that went.
Both the HMV and Blockbuster chains remain operating while administrators attempt to find buyers but their demise is a reflection more on the success of the internet than on the growth of malls.
Just 3% of record singles were bought from a shop last year. An incredible 97% was downloaded from the net.
It is just another step in the evolution of the way we access music and film. Years ago the highlight of a teenager’s week was going into town on Saturday and buying the latest 45 by Cliff Richard, Beach Boys or Elvis then taking it home and playing it non-stop on a Dansette.
Remember the record listening booths in record shops? Sometimes they had earphones and at smaller shops they just played your choice out loud and everybody heard it.
That was when we tuned into Radio Luxembourg and the pirate stations like Caroline before the BBC caught on that teenagers were here to stay and launched Radio 1 with Tony Blackburn in 1967. The first record he played? Flowers In The Rain by The Move.
Ah, yes. The innocence of flower power.
The first rock and roll records came out on 12-inch vinyl that were replaced by seven inch plastic in 1958. Long playing records were edged out by cassettes in the 1960s which were, in turn, consigned to the waste bin with the introduction of CDs in the early 1990s.
These days, music fans are more likely to download their favourite tracks from the internet and keep them on an iPod or computer.
Film has gone the same way.
Going to the pictures used to be a night out that included Fry’s Five Boys chocolate bars and a lady selling ice cream from a tray. When the age of epic films was launched with The 10 Commandments – a production that lasted three hours and came with an interval – it was like to going to the theatre.
How times have changed.
Video players and VHS cassettes meant you could rent a blockbuster to watch in your own front room with the family.
The demise of VHS and the introduction of DVDs meant you got better quality. But the demand for shop rentals died because cable and satellite companies offered film channels and now internet outlets like Netflix and Lovefilm allows people to watch movies not just on TVs but iPads and phones.
Home movies are no longer such a big deal.
I’m sorry for the probable job losses at both HMV and Blockbuster but it’s surely no surprise. Times they are a changing. They always do.