We've hardly started 2011 and already the woes of High Street media retailers are in the news. Today HMV Group announced the closure of 60 UK stores in the next 12 months. The company blamed the bad weather and "challenging trading conditions" according to the BBC report. HMV operate 285 music stores and 312 Waterstones book outlets, so they are challenged on two fronts.
The story of mass marketing of music and entertainment on disk is virtually over and the closures of stores can only accelerate. There is just no answer to the competition from downloading and subscription streaming; it's only a matter of time before almost all media is downloaded. CDs and DVDs will soon represent a niche market serviced solely by on-line retailers.
According to the BBC's Robert Plummer, the woes of HMV underline a major fact of life in 2011: "Thanks to the recession, technological change and wider social trends, the record shop as a mass-market phenomenon now belongs to a bygone age."
Book retailers will be next. Already in 2010 we have seen a sudden move towards electronic books, but we are still in early days. This year the skids will be under dead-tree books as more people get their Kindles and Nooks or read their books on almost any electronic device. Once people make the switch to electronic downloads there is no going back.