Death of a giant retailer

by Shane Dillon
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SO THAT’s it – the curtain has finally come down on HMV in Ireland, with the loss of 300 jobs at the chain’s 16 stores, as yet another retail domino topples over in the merciless chill winds of the recession.

It goes without saying that each one of those jobs is a terrible blow for the individual involved, while the knock-on impact such job losses, and store closures, have on local economies and communities is also to be noted, and regretted.

Stores across Britain have also been affected, with many jobs to be lost there, and shops shuttered, as HMV’s British wing attempts to restructure itself and survive.

Here, the Irish wing’s administrator, Deloitte, had been seeking a buyer for the stores but was unsuccessful, with a statement for the receiver to HMV Ireland, David Carson, announcing: “The marketplace is very difficult, given competition from web-based retailers and digital downloads, compounded by a number of other factors, … It was not possible to attract a purchaser.”

What does HMV’s closure mean for Irish gamers? The chain’s closure here further reduces gamer choice, with the loss of such physical bricks-and-mortar outlets almost certainly likely to shunt consumers more towards online distributors instead.

Yes, it’s true that a quick glance around Dublin, and elsewhere, reveals a number of games retailers, albeit few that are fully dedicated games retailers, as GameStop are.

Instead, there are several chains that also sell games, such as Smyths Toys, Xtravision, Tesco and Argos, to name but a few, as well as a number of smaller, independent retailers and games exchanges dotted here and there.

However, almost without exception, the range of games available at such well-known outlets is usually small – to say the least – with consumers often lucky to find the top 10 or 15 titles on the main platforms, and often with nothing at all from smaller games platforms – and that’s yer lot.

At the same time, many of the remaining retailers have succumbed to “secondhanditis” – using valuable shelf space to flog traded-in games, rather than set aside space for a wider (and more creative) selection of new or recently released titles.

As such, for gamers looking for real choice for their gaming interests, or to support their platforms, this is a negative development, as gamers often tend to look out for older games that have dropped in price, or “smaller” games that aren’t piled high on shelves as blockbuster titles.

Despite HMV’s flaws, and despite facing the same limitations outlined above, at least it also had an okay range of stock, accounting for an acceptable range of platforms.

But where now for the lowly PC gamer to graze, for example?

It’s also worth pointing out that HMV were also notably, and often significantly, cheaper than rival retailers – I couldn’t tell you how many times I saw titles on sale in HMV, only to see the same game with eye-raising price differences in rival chains and shops very close by.

As such, with the loss of such a well-known chain and its physical outlets, gamers across the country could be feeling the financial pinch even more acutely than before – that’s if they can find the title they wanted in the first place.

Inevitably, other games distributors and chains should see a bounce in their footfall and sales, with the loss of one of the last remaining giants.

These survivors face their own challenges, with the inexorable rise of online retailers – usually with cheaper prices, and certainly with a wider choice of titles – presenting a very real threat to their sustainability, too.

Where HMV have gone, others may yet follow. Watch this space …

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