Are bricks and mortar store relevant in the digital age?
All the supermarkets now offer online shopping and delivery, I haven't been out shopping in months, I order online and get it delivered at a time that suits me. Sure they mostly offer 24/7 shopping in store, and for those midnight releases (Call of Duty I'm looking at YOU), they're essential. So for some, instore is how it's done, for those who prefer online, that too works, and they're all trying to carve a niche for themselves.
This is all fine for groceries, and while not glamourous like hi-tech toys, it's still a thriving industry.
What isn't thriving however are the bricks and mortar electronics and video games. Take HMV and GAME for instance, both have recently undergone big hits and are fighting desperately to survive. We're just not buying in store anymore, not like we used too. And that's the nature of the business of hi-tech, the adopters of technology find easier and better ways to get what we want, which usually involves the internet. And that's what confounds me, how can the board of directors at these companies not see the writing on the walls? It's the industry they're in, and if they didn't write it someone close to them did. Maybe they did and just ignored it, or they are just trying to survive as long as they can before the inevitable death knell in this modern age of right now.
Just ask Comet.
And it won't be long before more close, but even online HMV and GAME are struggling, fighting against the giants like Sony and Microsoft who offer all their games online. One convenient button press away, albeit a slightly more expensive button press. Then there's Steam, who had cornered the PC market entirely, only EA and their Origin client had the clout to resist Steam. Now there's Epic, Origin, Battle.net and even Discord biting a big wedge out of Gabe Newell's ass, and doing a good job of it too, it's just a shame we need so many clients to play games.
Amazon has grown beyond belief and is now one of the biggest employers in the UK, even if it is temporary contracts, and they did this by doing one thing really really well... online only. Once amazon only sold books, but then they pivoted to doing more, much more. You can now buy practically anything on Amazon today, get it delivered tomorrow, and if need be, return it the next day. While all this sounds like normal practice, some time ago it was unheard of and just a thing of dreams.
But Amazon do something else too, they STORE stuff in warehouses. I don't know the ins and outs of being an Amazon trader, but I imagine they are also charged for storing stuff. And to be fair, this probably helps keep prices keen too, after all, the longer its sat on a shelf the more I'll cost you to keep it there, so sell cheap and fast.
So amazon will take a bite out of the transaction, take a fee for storage, possibly take a fee for delivery, and sell their own stuff too, like books and digital music and Prime!.
So that brings me to my final industry, Music.
Sean Parker was a visionary who created a monster, but that vision and that monster changed a whole industry and by sheer force of will. Up to that point we all went to the local record shop to buy our music, usually on CD and occasionally on vinyl. MP3's were a thing, and I once spent a 2 week holiday ripping every CD I owned to MP3. All napster did was make my MP3's available to everyone and everyone else's MP3's available to me and others. Now illegal as that may be, it was fast, easy and fairly risk free. There were some upstarts that came shortly after napster that tried to sell music online legally, but they soon died as they really struggled to get any good signings, it was usually older back catalogue music they had.
Then along came the iPod and the iTunes music store, and the industry would never be the same again. No longer do you have to trudge around town looking for that one single or album, it was just there at your finger tips and at the same price as in store too.
And that brings me to one final conclusion. Sony and Microsoft have digital games available at inflated prices, and this is done for one reason only... to keep the retailers happy. After all, it's these retailers that stock the hardware and software to make a complete system.
All Sony and Microsoft have to do is drop the prices to reflect retail stores... and the stores would be gone overnight.
I mean, how big a deal is it to buy a PS4/Xbox from Amazon and then buy the games for that system directly from Sony or Microsoft online? It's the final piece of the puzzle and hundreds of lost jobs.
So are bricks and mortar stores still relevant? Yes, but only while the equilibrium exists. Once Sony or Microsoft no longer see it that way... bye bye dodo.