Comet, Peacocks, Woolworths, JJB, Jessops and now HMV – they all have one thing in common. The recession has hit them so hard that they entered administration. HMV is the latest high street retailer to bring in the administrators, despite insisting that it does have a future on the UK’s high streets. With debts of £176m and huge competition from online retailers, the future of HMV is very uncertain.
Over the past decades, companies such as Amazon, ebay, LoveFilm, Netflix and apple have emerged providing very stiff competition to the last remaining high street seller of music and DVDs. People have been turning more and more to the internet to do their shopping, with cheaper prices and greater choice. The speed of delivery, which in the past may have been a disadvantage of buying from somewhere like Amazon, is now barely an obstacle and these substitute companies have created a difficult environment for high street retailers to compete in. Despite going into administration, it’s not necessarily the end of the much-loved HMV. Its Chief Executive said:
We remain convinced we can find a successful business outcomes. We want to make sure it remains on the high street … We know our customers fell the same way.
While the recession has undoubtedly affected sales at HMV, is this the main reason for its demise or are other factors more relevant? As discussed, online retailers have taken over the DVD and music industry and with downloading increasing in popularity and CD/DVDs on sale in numerous locations, including supermarket chains, HMV has felt the competitive pressure and its place on the high street has come into question. As Neil Saunders, the Managing Director of Conlumino said:
By our own figures, we forecast that by the end of 2015 some 90.4 per cent of music and film sales will be online. The bottom line is that there is no real future for physical retail in the music sector.
Further to this, prices have been forced downwards and HMV, having to pay high fixed costs to retain their place on the high streets, have been unable to compete and remain profitable. Another contributing factor could be an outdated management structure, which has not responded to the changing times. Whatever the cause, thousands of jobs have been put at risk. Even if buyers are found, some store closures by the administrators, Deloitte, seem inevitable. Customer gift vouchers have already become worthless and further losses to both workers and customers seem likely. It is thought that there will be many interested buyers and huge support from suppliers, but the former is likely to remain a relatively secretive area for some time.
This latest high street disaster will undoubtedly raise many questions. One theory about recovery from a recession looks at the need for many businesses to go under until the fittest are left and there is sufficient scope for new businesses to emerge.
Could it be that the collapse of companies such as Woolworths, HMV, Comet, Jessops and Blockbuster is an essential requirement for economic recovery? Or was the recession irrelevant for HMV? Was its collapse an inevitable consequence of the changing face of Britain’s high streets and if so, what does the future hold for the high street retailers? The following articles consider the demise of HMV.
HMV: a visual history BBC News (15/1/13)
Chief executive says ‘HMV still has a place on the high street’, as customers are told their gift vouchers are worthless Independent, James Thompson (15/1/13)
Potential buyers circle stricken HMV Financial Times, Andrea Felsted (15/1/13)
HMV and independents to urged to work together to save in-store music market BBC News, Clive Lindsay (15/1/13)
HMV record chain was besest by digital downloads and cheap DVDs The Guardian (15/1/13)
The death of traditional retailers like HMV started when we caught on to one-click and the joy of owning DVDs wore thin Independent, Grace Dent (15/1/13)
HMV shoppers: ‘I’m disappointed, but it’s understandable why they went bust The Guardian, James Brilliant (15/1/13)
HMV: Record labels could take HMV back to its 1920 roots The Telegraph, Graham Ruddick (15/1/13)
HMV’s future seen as handful of stores and website Reuters, Neil Maidment and James Davey (15/1/13)
HMV leaves social gap in high street BBC News, Robert Plummer (15/1/13)
Is there good news in HMV’s collapse? BBC News, Robert Peston (15/1/13)
Is it game over for UK retail? The Guardian, Larry Elliott (18/1/13)
High Street retailers: Who has been hit hardest? BBC News (16/1/13)
- What are the main reasons behind the collapse of HMV?
- Use a diagram to illustrate the impact the companies such as Amazon and Tesco have had on costs and prices in the entertainment industry.
- Has the value we place on owning DVDs truly changed or have other factors led to larger purchases of online entertainment?
- Why is online retail providing such steep competition to high street retailers?
- Explain why it can be argued that economic recovery will only take place after a certain number of businesses have gone into administration.
- To what extent do you think HMV’s collapse is due to its failure to adapt to changing social circumstances?
- Briefly outline the wider economic implications of the collapse of a company such as HMV. Think about managers, employees, suppliers, customers and other competitors, as well as other high street retailers.
- In which market structure would you place the entertainment industry? Explain your answer. Has this contributed to the demise of HMV?
With the winter fast approaching, consumers have already begun to stock up on warmer clothes. This has contributed towards consumer spending increasing faster in September than it has in the past 3 years. According to Visa Europe’s UK expenditure index, sales in August increased by 1.2pc, but in September they rose month-on-month by 3pc.
But whilst sales on the high-street increased, sales on-line and over the telephone declined. It seems that the recent decrease in temperature is just what the retail sector ordered, as people took to the high streets.
Furthermore, recent improvements in consumer income, together with lower inflation and rising employment have all contributed towards a growth in spending. However, as consumer confidence remains at a relatively low level, it is unlikely that the winter will bring much of a change to growth in the economy. The Chief Economist at Markit said:
However, consumer confidence remains historically low as uncertainty about the economy and job security persists, suggesting that the bounce in spending seen in the third quarter could be as good as it gets for the foreseeable future.
Although the lower temperature has caused a boost in consumption, once people have made their ‘investment’ in warmer clothes, retail spending may once again decline. Hence the above comment by Markit, which suggests that further sustained increases in consumer spending may still be some way off.
The following few articles look at the latest data on retail spending.
UK consumer spending ‘rose in September’ BBC News (5/10/12)
Consumer spending increases by 3pc The Telegraph (5/10/12)
Consumer spending increases by 3% The Press Association (5/10/12)
UK retail sales: what the analysts say Guardian (20/9/12)
Online sales and wet weather boost John Lewis Scotsman, Peter Ranscombe (5/10/12)
- Which factors typically affect consumer spending?
- Using a diagram, illustrate the impact of this increase in consumption on national output and the price level.
- Is it possible that a multiplier effect may occur with the August and September rise in retail sales?
- Why is consumer confidence remaining low? Which components of aggregate demand does it affect?
- Explain why (a) lower inflation, (b) the colder weather and (c) rising employment have caused consumer spending to rise.
After weak Christmas trading, Tesco issued a profit warning – its first in 20 years. Following this, their shares fell in value by some £5bn, but this was met with an announcement of the creation of 20,000 jobs in the coming years, as part of a project to train staff, improve existing stores and open new ones. Yet, Tesco has reported another quarter of falling sales.
Trading times have been challenging and the fact that the UK’s biggest supermarket is struggling is only further evidence to support this. In the 13 weeks to the 26th May 2012, Tesco reported a decline in like-for-like sales of 1.5%. Although much of the £1bn investment in Tesco is yet to be spent, the fact that sales have fallen for a full year must be of concern, not only to its Chief Executive, but also to analysts considering the economic future for the UK.
Consumer confidence remains low and together with tight budgets, shoppers are continuing to be very cautious of any unnecessary spending. Part of Tesco’s recent drive to drum up sales has been better customer service and a continuing promotion war with the other supermarkets. This particular sector is highly competitive and money-off coupons and other such promotions plays a huge part in the competitive process. Whilst low prices are obviously crucial, this is one sector where non-price competition can be just as important.
Although Tesco sales in the UK have been nothing to shout about – the Chief Executive said their sales performance was ‘steady’ – its total global sales did increase by 2.2%. The Chief Executive, Mr Clarke said:
‘Internationally, like-for-like sales growth proved resilient, despite slowing economic growth in China…Against the backdrop of continued uncertainty in the eurozone, it is pleasing to see that our businesses have largely sustained their performance.’
A boost for UK sales did come with the Jubilee weekend and with the Olympics just round the corner, Tesco will be hoping for a stronger end to the year than their beginning. The following articles consider Tesco’s sales and the relative performance of the rest of the sector.
Tesco’s quarterly sales hit by ‘challenging’ trading BBC News (11/6/12)
Tesco UK arm notches up one year of falling sales Guardian, Zoe Wood (11/6/12)
Tesco upbeat despite new sales dip Independent, Peter Cripps (11/6/12)
Tesco sales seen lower in first quarter Reuters, James Davey(11/6/12)
The Week Ahead: Tesco set to admit it is losing ground to rivals Independent, Toby Green (11/6/12)
Tesco’s performance in the UK forecast to slip again Telegraph, Harry Wallop (10/6/12)
Tesco: What the analysts say Retail Week, Alex Lawson (11/6/12)
Supermarkets issue trading updates The Press Association (9/6/12)
The Week Ahead: Supermarkets prepare to give City food for thought Scotsman, Martin Flanagan (11/6/12)
Asda’s sales growth accelerates Reuters, James Davey (17/5/12)
Asda sales increase helped by Tesco Telegraph, Harry Wallop (18/5/12)
Tesco v. Sainsbury’s in trading update battle Manchester Evening News (11/6/12)
Sainsbury’s out-trades Tesco on UK food sales Independent, James Thompson (10/6/12)
- Using some examples, explain what is meant by non-price competition.
- Why has Tesco been losing ground to its competitors?
- Given the products that Tesco sells (largely necessities), why have sales been falling, despite household’s tight budgets?
- Into which market structure would you place the supermarket sector? Explain your answer by considering each of the assumptions behind the market structure you choose.
- Why have Tesco’s rivals been gaining ground on Tesco?
- How might this latest sales data affect Tesco’s share prices?
- Based on what the analysts are saying about the food sector, can we deduce anything about the future of the UK economy in the coming months?
With tight incomes, the first things that families tend to cut back on are the more luxury items. Extensions to houses are delayed, interior refurbishments are put off and the old car that was going to be traded in becomes something you can live with for another few years.
Car sales have been adversely affected during the recession, but data for May 2012 show a positive turn. Manufacturers have said that car sales are up by 7.9% compared with May last year. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMTT), much of the increased demand has come from private sales, where the increase has been over 14%.
This data may not be the answer to the economic troubles, but it is perhaps an indication that confidence is beginning to return. However, should things go from bad to worse in the eurozone, it isn’t hard to see data for the coming months showing the opposite trend. One other key piece of information to take from this data is the growth in the sales of lower-emissions vehicles. Sales of these were up 31.8% in May 2012 compared to the same time last year. Jonathan Visscher from SMMT said:
‘The green sector is growing fast…Every car manufacturer is going to have a hybrid model on its lists by the end of this year, even Ferrari.’
The continuing upward trend in car sales is by no means guaranteed to continue, especially with things like the expected rise in fuel duty later this year and the ongoing crisis in the eurozone, with Spanish banks potentially looking for help via a bail-out in the not too distant future. The following articles consider the acceleration in car sales.
UK sees biggest annual rise in car sales for nearly 2 years Reuters (8/6/12)
New car sales accelerate ahead Press Association (8/6/12)
UK new car sales accelerated in May, say manufacturers BBC News (8/6/12)
New car sales accelerate ahead Independent, Peter Woodman (8/6/12)
Car registrations accelerate in May Financial Times, John Reed (8/6/12)
- How would you define a luxury good? What is the relationship with income?
- How could an increase in car sales benefit the economy? How could the multiplier effect have an impact?
- Which factors have contributed towards the growth in low-emissions cars?
- Sales of low-emissions cars have significantly increased. However, why is this increase
- What are some of the key things that can help to bring a recession to an end? Into which general category would you place this increase in car sales?
- Fuel duty is expected to rise later this year. How might this affect the number of new car registrations? What does your answer tell you about the cross elasticity of demand?
Weather has already been partly blamed for poor economic growth, in particular in December 2010 and January 2011. April 2012 is no different – the wettest April on record is said to have caused the worst performance in sales since March 2011.
Like-for-like sales fell by 3.3%, mainly through lower demand for clothes and shoes. Supermarkets saw an increased demand for warmer food items with the colder weather and demand for home products also increased, with analysts suggesting that people decided to re-decorate their houses rather than venture outside! This was further supported by sales of gardening equipment, which also fell. However, the weather is not always bad – in March, sales were higher than expected, with the unusually warm weather, but unfortunately for growth statistics, the boost in sales in March has been more than offset by the decline in sales in April. Furthermore, there are concerns that the March ‘heat-wave’ may have encouraged consumers to do their summer shopping already and hence summer sales may suffer.
The retail data for April 2012 must be considered carefully, as comparing this month’s sales with the same period last year will be very misleading. Last April, the UK was hit with the Royal Wedding, which did boost sales of many products – underlying sales growth was recorded at 5.2% for the month. However, whilst April sales for 2012 could hardly hope to compete with April sales for 2011, the downward trend is undoubtedly going to cause concern for the government. Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail at KPMG said:
“While May will certainly be brighter than April, the health of the retail sector continues on a downward trajectory.”
Whether or not sales do continue their downward trend depends on many factors, including government policy measures to boost growth and cut unemployment. However, one other variable that may influence the trend is the weather. Here’s hoping that the sun shines and people begin to spend!
Weaker retail sales, job surveys raise risk of longer slump Reuters, Olesya Dmitracova (9/5/12)
Wettest April ‘hits retail sales’ BBC News (9/5/12)
Retail sales slide in wettest April on record Telegraph (9/5/12)
April showers wash out retail sales Financial Times, Sarah O’Connor (9/5/12)
Retail sales slip back 1 per cent as fashion stores weather April showers Independent, James Thompson (9/5/12)
- Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate the effects of the weather on equilibrium price and output.
- What other factors besides the weather affect retail sales?
- What government policy measures could be implemented to try to boost the retail sector?
- From the information you are told are there any sectors that surprise you in terms of whether sales have risen or fallen? Explain your answer in each case.
- With sales in April falling, what is the implication for a firm’s profits? What steps might a firm take in a bid to boost sales?