Except that this once good-looking technology store has been watered down.

Except that this once good-looking technology store has been watered down.

A visit to Birmingham on a Friday is always welcome - the chance to look around at the great majority of the majors, without the madness of Oxford Street combined with Crossrail. And arriving at the High Street, home to a new-look Thorntons and The Pavilions shopping centre, it was hard not to be tempted once more by Black, the technology lifestyle store from Dixons. This opened a couple of Christmases ago and at the time there was much excitement about a technology store that featured minidress-clad mannequins and a bright red, but gloriously retro, Fiat 500 with the top down.

All of this has now gone and the shame about it is that nothing has taken its place other than more technology. This now looks like a technology store that still has an emphasis on products that will appeal to the style-as-well-as-performance crowd (large numbers of old-style Roberts Radios were stacked on the perimeter near the door), but many of the visual merchandising clues that indicate what it’s all about have been excised.

The result is, and perhaps this is the nub of the argument, there is more stock on the floor. The theory goes, in some quarters that more stock equates to more sales. Yet any purveyor of designer products will be quick to point out that ambience and environment, seduction and persuasion, are central if you are to get shoppers to put higher value items into their shopping baskets.

Heading upstairs, the “playtables” were still in place, but the small round tables next to the brightly-coloured Chesterfield sofas looked timeworn and the socket into which you should be able to plug your laptop was actually broken on one of them.

Change happens and you can understand perhaps why the changes that have been effected in Black in Birmingham have been carried out. But along the way, much of the original excitement has been lost and one of the primary reasons for visiting this store has disappeared. The newer Black stores never bothered with mannequins, but at least they have pace in terms of the way the stores are laid out and lit. Granted this was a prototype and was pre-rollout, but it does now look a little sorry for itself. Birmingham’s a good place to shop and Brummies deserve to have their place in technology store retailing history maintained.