A week is a long time in retailing too

It's often been said that a week is a long time in politics, and the events of the last week have certainly given credence to that. But judging by recent reports and observations it's also a long time in the retail business.

Some weeks ago I wrote in Retail Gazette about HMV's journey from administration to survival, albeit without its original iconic Oxford Street store. I noted that whilst some improvements had been made, the fundamental issue of a transactional website had still not come to fruition. The way forward would be to focus on their existing target audience and make sure that they are creating an engaging shopper experience, in-store, online and on the move.

Although the latter is still not a reality, there is some good news for the embattled retailer. Based on an assessment of the public's view of its quality, reputation, impression and value, their YouGov BrandIndex rating has improved to a score of 10.6. A quick visit to a couple of outlets suggests that store traffic may be on the increase again, and certainly there appears to be a fresh spring in the steps of the staff.

A renewed focus on marketing is undoubtedly playing its part in the revival. There seems to be a significant latent affection for the HMV brand, and this should give the new owners confidence to invest further funds in marketing in order to increase and maintain a higher level of customer engagement. We are promised live gigs and record signings, but presumably only in a very few of the biggest stores. And our old retail friend the loyalty card has been re-introduced, albeit in a somewhat limited form. PureHMV is being advertised as an online loyalty programme, but without the ability to purchase goods online it seems to be fighting the battle with one arm tied behind its back. You earn points through purchases in-store which you then redeem for 'stuff money can't buy' as well as stuff it can, in the form of music track downloads but not the stuff that's sold in-store.

Meanwhile the mighty Tesco is being hit by the newly invigorated discounters and is continually criticised in the media for having lost its way. Should they move further up market and compete with Waitrose and M&S or simply wheel and deal like the discounters? It has even been reported that consideration is being given to ditching the iconic ClubCard loyalty scheme, which many commentators would credit with being the catalyst for their market dominance for decades. Is it a case of how are the mighty fallen, or will they discover a new momentum and see off those European upstarts?!

My money's on an HMV revival, provided they get to grips with whatever it is that is preventing them from making the website fully transactional. And whilst this week Tesco shares may be a Hold or even a Sell, next week could well herald the start of a much-anticipated comeback. Either way, it only goes to show that a week really is a long time in retailing.

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