CityUnslicker over at C@W ponders the HMV closedown and the future of the High Street; Simon Heffer in the Mail fails to buy a single thing from John Lewis, and even the Guardian punts for a High Street of 'socially responsible niche service providers such as child care and coffee shops'. The political spectrum is united, it seems, in a desire to preserve the vitality and feasibility of our High Streets. We've lost Woolworths, Jessops, HMV, Comet, Clinton Cards and Borders and surely, one ponders, WH Smiths and Boots can't be far behind. Meanwhile, Tesco has become an unwitting Boucherie Chevaline and punters will mourn the withdrawal of the tastiest of its range of burgers (29% Cheval). Never mind; nearly all proper continental salamis and sausages contain horse. That's why they taste better than Mattessons' products.
As an early-adopter, the first thing I found about online-ordered groceries was never to order fresh fish, meat, fruit or veg. The packer will always pick the oldest or most unattractive stock. So I came to use the online order for beer and mineral water, tins, packets, jars and utterly homogenous packed products. For everything else, I make the choice personally. It works very well. I suspect many others do the same, and so here is an area of retail that has half a chance on the High Street.
The other massive deficiency is deliveries. Many folk who order on the web work during the day. So when are their systems geared to make deliveries? During the day, of course. So on every Saturday morning tens of thousands of customers head to parcel depots on obscure industrial estates to retrieve their goods. It's really not an efficient system. If they could find a way to deliver goods to within the last 250m they'd be onto a winner; a High Street shop as a parcel collection point, open to 10pm, would fill another void.
As others have pointed out, the retail chains now in such trouble were largely just mechanisms for passing shoppers' cash to property investors. Rents and rates for retail premises must fall, as will the value of High Street portfolios. Tough.