Music retailers are disappearing from the high street, but is anybody bothered?
The opening of Land Securities’ Princesshay scheme in Exeter last week drew crowds of excited shoppers. Shoppers seemed to enjoy the new offer, dipping in and out of stores, with schoolchildren eager to break down the doors of Topshop and the more mature ladies peering tentatively through the doors of Hobbs.
Yet while Land Securities has worked hard on filling the scheme and it opened about 95 per cent let – a very good effort considering the present market – many of the retailers had not opened on time. Some were still fitting out and had suffered setbacks that were out of their hands, but it still left some shoppers unsatisfied.
One notable retailer that bore no signs of being ready for opening was Virgin Megastores – and perhaps that's not surprising, given that it was only days before Princesshay opened that Richard Branson offloaded the business to its management team.
It remains to be seen whether the new business, renamed Zavvi, will prosper without the Virgin name. Some believe it was the legacy of the brand name that kept it going but, with a renewed focus, it could create a niche for itself.
Many believe that Zavvi will have to shed some of its loss-making stores in order to thrive and, while it will probably remain committed to new stores such as Exeter, its expansion from now on is likely to be put on hold while the new management sorts out the business.
The loss of Virgin, albeit replaced by Zavvi, is another thorn in the side of the music retailing business. The bottom has fallen out of the sector and, bar HMV, our high streets are looking bereft of their offer.
We could well be heading towards major shopping centre openings that do not house any music retailers. Things at HMV are looking up, especially the enthusiasm around its new-format stores, but it is still not expanding massively. Westfield’s line up for Derby, which opens next month, is not fully confirmed, but Fopp was on the list. After falling into administration, the brand and some of its stores were bought by HMV, but this will remain a niche independent business. It probably wouldn't fit in well at a huge shopping scheme.
Will shopping centres suffer from a lack of music retailers and will anyone notice? And do landlords actually care if instead they can get a hefty rent from a fashion retailer? The lack of music retailers will definitely impair choice and given the fact that every landlord talks constantly about getting the retail mix right, this seems a shame for the industry.