With GAME going into administration on Monday, closing half its stores and making over 2,000 employees redundant, the UK retail industry once again suffers a major blow – the largest since the demise of Woolworths in 2008.

The top line of GAME’s situation appears to be a combination of a poor performance over the Christmas period followed by major suppliers pulling the plug on key titles due to worries over payment, not even mentioning the availability of direct download rather than the purchase of physical media.

The broader issue facing retailers is that in this age of price-checking, free delivery and low brand loyalty, why would a consumer visit a specific high street store for commodity items such as a video games, books or music?  What’s stopping as online purchase from a discount retailer or picking it up with the weekly shop from a supermarket? From my perspective, much of it comes down to experience, expertise and guarantee of value.

The ability to see, touch and interact with a product will always have appeal, especially if you can offer more than what’s available elsewhere. Previewing products pre-launch, meeting the people behind the product and providing exclusive variations of a product will all help to enhance the experience. Good customer service and an excellent store environment should both be hygiene factors.

Expertise is hard for the supermarkets and online retailers to provide, and high street stores can also get it very wrong too with staff whose product knowledge is limited to reading off product stickers (yeah, thanks for that), or worse still, the opposite with expert staff unable to deal with the inexperienced consumer’s trivial or ‘stupid’ questions without showing disbelief and complete scorn. A well trained member of staff should be able to add value to every conversation regardless of the customer’s level of understanding.

My final point is providing the reassurance to the consumer that, despite all the in-store benefits of experience and expertise, a purchase made from the high street is going to provide just as much value for money as trawling the internet for a bargain. Retailers can no longer charge more for service when selling a commodity item. A simple price promise goes a long way to cover this issue, and over time the customer will stop feeling the need to worry or check.

With Borders just a memory and GAME in administration, I hope HMV are able to continue to provide a good enough reason for customers to continue shopping with them…

Adam Tregaskis
The Market Creative