Keen to support the choral efforts of my fellow London 2012 Games Makers, I visited HMV to ask for a copy of their Christmas single “I Wish for You the World.”
But after some scrabbling around, I was told it was a download only.
As one of the few ancients who prefer physical CDs - and even vinyl - to MP3 downloads, I left unimpressed and empty-handed.
No doubt it was cheaper for the choir to do it this way, although the Hillsborough disaster single that topped the charts was released in physical form.
A few days later, we heard from the BPI that downloads have risen by more than 20% as sales of physical CDs, games etc slumped by nearly 13%.
No wonder HMV is struggling on the High Street, even if queues stretched around the shop in the run-up to Christmas.
But how sad it this last man standing of big-name record shops finally succombs to the market. It suffered huge losses in 2012 and, after the demise of Comet, can it be far behind? It is important for the industry to prop it up as long as possible because where else will it have a shop window for back catalogue? Supermarkets are only good for the latest pop-boilers. I also worry about Waterstone’s after the Christmas rush has subsided.
For much of my life, it has been a delight to browse in record and book shops. Even electrical shops like Comet.
Browsing uncovers all sorts of hidden treasures and broadens understanding by touch and physical presence.
While great for a specific item, the internet is hopeless for browsing. I have never visited Amazon’s vast warehouse the size of umpteen football pitches, but can only be impressed by its rapid service facilitated by an efficient hi-tech factory-style operation, and good prices.
But it’s useless at serendipity.
Part of my reason for asking HMV for the Games Maker single was to show by support for this wounded retail animal. I wanted to buy something. I even asked for a CD reviewed as the best pop album of the year. But it was out of stock.
Amazon told me it was available and could be sent to me for next to nothing in a couple of days. How can HMV compete with that?
I sought a book in Waterstone’s - they had it but it was the last copy and torn. I was offered 10% off, but it was still £18. I turned down the offer.
On Amazon, it was £8.86.
This is all worrying. Thankfully, a few independent booksellers and record shops remain, with the social interaction and helpful service they provide. But hundreds have sadly disappeared.
I fear my browsing days are numbered. The high street faces up to huge change, with the loss of record shops where customers once entered a booth, donned headphones and listened with mounting excitement to the latest Beatles or Stones’ album.
Amazon cannot match the thrill of a bookshop. A download or online order is just not the same.
I only hope that HMV, Waterstone’s and those valiant independents make it through to New Year’s Day 2014.