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Brick and Mortar Retailers Crumbling Under Their Own Weight

Many believed that traditional retailers who operated from physical storefronts would go the way of the dodo bird when online alternatives like Amazon appeared.  Years have passed, and many of these retailers continue to survive—some, however, despite their own business acumen, or lack thereof.

Recently I was given a CD as a present, one purchased from HMV and one that I very much wanted.  To make a long story very short, the CD I wanted comes in four different flavors with the same CD title, and only one version contains all 13 tracks that I wanted, an Import, not the one I was given.

I called the local HMV to determine the CD’s availability.  Before I could determine their stock, I had to educate the store personnel on what I had learned about the different versions.  They asked how I knew about this, and I responded that I simply went to Amazon for the information.  The HMV system lists the various CDs, but it doesn’t identify the tracks on each CD, I was told.  I actually called two HMV stores, and both had people pull the CD from their floor to read what songs were on the CD.  Not having stock of the Import, they informed me that I would have to special order the CD.  The price was substantially more than Amazon’s, and HMV could not identify when I might receive the CD.

Suddenly it dawned on me, why am I dealing with HMV?  They don’t have inventory, which would allow immediate gratification, buying it now and listening to it almost immediately, they don’t offer the information that I can learn what I might need, and they have higher prices.  So I conveyed this to the HMV employee, and was dumbstruck by his response, “Perhaps, sir, then you should buy your CDs from Amazon.”  Subsequently I wrote HMV Customer Service about this, including their employee’s recommendation to take my business to Amazon, and now two weeks later, I have yet to hear from them.

In retailing there are primarily three business strategies:  lowest price; greatest selection, or; outstanding customer service.  I am trying to determine which strategy HMV has deployed, as I see them failing on all three fronts.  The shame is that HMV had an opportunity to forge a hybrid retail approach, leveraging the best of online world with the best of the brick and mortar world.  Others have done this successfully, but it may be too late for HMV, and while the world passes them by, they may be relegated to a slow demise.

Ryck Marciniak (Guest Blogger)


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