Best Buy throws in the towel. Is this the beginning of the end for big box electronics?
By now we've all heard the bell toll for Best Buy UK. After the flurry of launch hype (Bitterwallet included) and high hopes for a US chain breaking in and destroying the doldrums of UK big box retail (Bitterwallet included) we're left with nothing but 11 mega stores for Currys or Comet or a mini Ikea to move into.
The harsh part of the story seems to be that Best Buy did not fail because the UK incumbents were too smart, too strong, too price conscious. During the 2010/2011 period where they went head to head we've seen troubling revenue numbers at DSGi and Comet and no great spark of competitive innovation. It may be fair to say that Best Buy did not lose in the UK market because DSGi/Comet won but rather because they all lost and Best Buy was the one with the least to lose by jumping out.
Indeed, while we can surely imagine the suits at DSGi/Comet patting themselves on the back for holding off the US invader, the truth is probably that they themselves are next to fall. Inside the story spun out by Best Buy is the point that smartphones and tablets have meant that fewer buyers are coming to the electronic retail stores for the classic sectors of computing and TVs. As consumers we all know the desktop computer sector is dead and notebooks are quickly following (the slumping fortunes of Dell and HP also indicate this) and the golden days of the LCD cycle (do you even remember when you said goodbye to your monitor CRT or TV CRT???) are now far behind.
So for what will our modern consumer wander the aisles of a big box electronics store? Half the store filled with legacy entertainment formats (CDs, DVDs, MP3 players), passé electronics (desktop computers, TVs we already have) and the other half with overpriced accessories (hello dealextreme), AV equipment (another moribund mainstream sector best served by specialist retailers and online), white goods, cameras (digital consumer rush is over also) and a collection of random handsets equally served by the ten high street shops you pass on your walk to work from the station/carpark.
The big box brands profited greatly off the past consumer gold rushes - cashing in on the switch to LCD from CRT and the growth of personal computing. However they're failing to stake any real ground in the newest gold rush - mobile and tablet computing.
So what say you? Are we seeing the end of big box electronic retailing? Without even touching the question of pricing (which is generally ludicrous) will we be sending our kids off to PC World to buy their jetpacks 10 years hence?