To find the source of Comet’s current difficulties, look no further than the stores.
Comet’s anticipated demise is being blamed by many for its apparent refusal to embrace e-commerce in a manner as effective as its rivals. Yet the quickest of glances at the retailer’s website tells you that there isn’t that much difference. Orders can be placed and tracked online and you can even send “egift cards”. Well, at least the latter are more gratifying to get than being the recipient of an e-card as the season of goodwill hoves into view.
In truth, many of the problems this organisation faces are store-based. Most Comets are located on retail parks and a recent visit to the store just off the Purley Way, in Croydon, highlighted the difficulty. For those who don’t know it, the Purley Way is a long strip on the edge of the south London conurbation and most of the major names that you’d expect in this kind of location are present. There’s a Sainsbury’s, a Toys R Us, and yes, there’s a very big Currys.
For Comet this equates to a lot of passing trade, but the problem is just that - for the most part, it passes. The car park is rarely full, while shoppers frequently queue to get in and out of Currys’ car park. And the reason that Currys is selected ahead of Comet on the Purley Way is a simple matter of scale.
There’s more choice, a bigger store and the chances are better that you’ll find something close to what you want in Currys, no matter how good Comet’s online offer might be. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Currys has had more in-store investment because it’s bigger and it’s bigger because of the investment that has been made across the chain. Couple this with the little matter that Comet’s stores lack something on the inspiration front and the difficulties are magnified.
If Comet does descend into administration, it will, to quite a substantial degree, be the outcome of underplaying the store portfolio. You can be as good as you like online, but if you’re predominantly a bricks and mortar legacy player and the stores in your chain don’t cut it, neither will you. Harsh to kick an outfit when it’s down, but not unmerited.
All Comet stores to close today as losses hit £230m and Vince Cable steps in
- Currently reading
Comment: Comet - it's the stores, stupid