Reflections On Changing Times

blockbuster07:27 Thursday 17th January 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Blockbuster has become the latest high street retailer to fall into the hands of the administrator, after 20 years on the high street,and before that they took over other DVD shops. The DVD rental firm’s 528 stores across the Uk are now threatened with closure, and I make it, Tony Bonsignore, I’m just doing a few calculations, with Jessops and HMV and Comet, that’s about 16,000 or 17.000 jobs under threat in two weeks. Is that right?
TONY BONSIGNORE: Yes, that’s exactly right. Yes. Either gone, or under threat. There has never been quite a period like this on the high street. I’ve been reading some of the analysts’ reports this morning, and there’s some of them saying, well, you can compare it in a way to .. you remember Woolworths, back in 2009. That was a pretty grim few weeks on the high street.
PAUL STAINTON: This is bigger though, isn’t it?
TONY BONSIGNORE: This is bigger. There’s been nothing quite like this. In just one week, as you say, Jessops last week, HMV on Tuesday. Now this. There’s a couple of other smaller ones as well. We also discovered yesterday that EE which is the mobile operator is going to close 80 stores on the high street. The fashion retailer JoJo, that’s gone into administration as well. The list goes on and on. It seems that every day another retail failure.
PAUL STAINTON: Looking at Blockbuster on its own, for me, the last time I got a DVD from there, I don’t know when it was. Five years ago, four years ago? I walked out and said to the wife, they’re not going to be here for long are they? Everything’s streaming on-line. They’re not up with the times. A similar discussion at HMV. They’ve been left behind almost. Yet they were the market leader.
TONY BONSIGNORE: Yes. I think that’s exactly right. We had that discussion about HMV didn’t we, and I think it’s even more clear cut with Blockbuster. It would be very difficult in the case of Blockbuster to blame this on the state of the economy. Ten years ago you had the rise of the postal DVD retailers. You remember those? We had LoveFilm and the like. And more recently you’ve got streaming services like NetFlix and BlinkBox.
PAUL STAINTON: They’re very popular, aren’t they?
TONY BONSIGNORE: Yes, very popular. And you can decide and watch a film on your mobile phone in seconds. So Blockbuster looks pretty old-fashioned in that context.
PAUL STAINTON: Can it be blamed on poor management, lack of foresight?
TONY BONSIGNORE: That’s what analysts are doing this morning. Retail experts say it was a real failure on Blockbuster. They didn’t see this coming. But if they did, like HMV, they didn’t do enough. They should have had their own serious on-line offer, their own NetFlix. But unfortunately they didn’t.
PAUL STAINTON: But the shops remain open?
TONY BONSIGNORE: The shops remain open for now. And what administrators are saying, they’re pretty hopeful actually that some of the company will survive. So they’re saying that maybe 50% or even 70% of those stores could remain open. A buyer could be found. But one would imagine that Blockbuster, in the future, if it is to survive long term, is going to look very different to the one you and I visited back in the ’90s.
Have you got your Blockbustercard? I’ve got mine here.
TONY BONSIGNORE: (LAUGHS) I remember arguing for a good hour with my father always about what film we were going to get out.
PAUL STAINTON: My number is 7639, last four digits. But don’t go renting anything will you. What was the last film you rented from Blockbuster?
TONY BONSIGNORE: That’s a good question. It must have been late ’90s I think.
PAUL STAINTON: Really? Tony Bonsignore, you’re to blame my friend. It’s your fault.