Last year was an incredibly turbulent year for retail. From the downfall of many historic retailers to the ailing fashion industry, to the paradigm shift of Brexit. But one sector that seems to have weathered this storm is entertainment retail.
For the second year running, music, video and gaming retail sectors all saw growth and 2016 saw the highest sales ever across the sector topping £6.3 billion.
As an industry that has been predicted to wither and become redundant countless times, entertainment retailers can be credited with reinvigorating and reinventing this industry through storms no less daunting than the one it currently faces.
Someone at the forefront of this reinvention is Kim Bayley, head of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA).
“About three years ago, we were probably at the low point in terms of where the industry was going, in terms of losing physical stores and plateauing in certain sectors, but definitely in the last couple of years we’ve been in growth,” she said.
“There’s been huge growth on the back of digital services, from our membership we’ve invested hundreds of millions in creating new ways to get content to consumers.
“So those services have delivered much of the growth that we’ve seen in entertainment. Be that subscription services like Netflix or download to own through Sky or music services like Spotify, they’re all attracting greater numbers of consumers and that’s driving revenue.”
The adage “change is the only constant” is perhaps felt nowhere more significantly than in entertainment retail. As an industry which both sells and relies upon technology, the rate of change is something retailers must embrace.
“I said to him then and I hold by that now, people will always want to own entertainment in some format. Clearly vinyl is a great example of the industry writing off a format way too early.”
“The retail landscape for entertainment has changed dramatically over the last probably 10 years, what we’ve seen at ERA is a change in terms of the mix of members, there are far more digital members, companies like Sky and Netflix and Amazon joining,” Bayley said.
“Then on the independent side we’ve also seen a resurgence of independent retailers in music on the back of the vinyl revolution.
“It’s not about transitioning from physical to digital to streaming. It’s about creating multiple ways for consumers to access products and what we’ve seen with customers is they’re doing everything.
“Most music fans will have a Spotify subscription, they’ll also maybe buy into CD and vinyl when they want to collect that piece of music and future proof what they might want to do.”
What few fail to realise is that, far from being passive to the technological advancements scrambling to rearrange whenever a new format is rolled out, much of this change is actually driven by retailers.
“Historically, if you went from vinyl to cassette to CD, all of those changes were driven by places like Universal Music deciding we want to put a new format in the market,” Bayley said.
“In terms of what has happened recently it’s come from technology companies saying we can think of better ways to get your product to people.
“All the change has come from the retail side of the table, they had to drag the content owners into that which is why it took a while to get off the ground.”
What’s key to this, and indeed to the ethos of the ERA, is bringing the producers and retailers together in order to work collectively.
“It’s about getting products to consumers in a w