I thought they had made it. Two bailouts on from the big tip over they looked to have enough cash. But, the usual problem of a recession. Too many competitors and two few customers. And the all new online shop killer.
I think they made their biggest mistake back in 2003/4. I was mildly involved with Powerhouse in the early millennium. Remember them? no? Never mind. At a strategy meeting they were analysing their strengths, which were few, and their weaknesses, which were many. Same as above plus, in the days when white goods retailers were heavily into PC and printer sales, they had a poor PC brand. Time Computing. And they lost that later too.
At the meeting the consultants pushed for reducing product lines, focusing on plugging the big gaps in their line up. They had no playstations or consoles. Or video games. I don't even think they had mobiles. One perceptive consultant even suggested they stock the ipod which was then just taking off.
Instead the directors decided on doing what directors always decide is the answer because all the focus groups say it is.
"More customer service."
Directors love this because they imagine some PowerPoint, some awaydays and some one on one role play and sales will rise 10%. Its cheap and simple. And of course, its nonsense. Customers always put good service in the top 3. But it isn't, its top 5 at best. Price will trump all but the worst service. Quality and convenience will trump poor service. Only outright rudeness and incompetence will turn people from the door.
Everyone does customer service. No firm actively sends its customers away or tries to annoy them on purpose. Some treat their visitors better than others. John Lewis is exceptional. Primark is certainly not.
But the exceptional John Lewis service will not make the Primark punters shop there. They are in Primark for price and choice and convenience. And that's it.
I remember the press release from the first restructuring at Comet. They decided to do customer service as an answer to the internet. The reasoning was that people will look on line, but can't work out how a TV functions or how a video camera handles or feels from pictures. So they will come in and the staff's product knowledge will be so superior people will buy the goods there and then.
It seemed very optimistic even back then, before the internet shopper revolution had even really got started.
What actually happened was their rivals, Curry/Dixon PC World spent their money on an easy to use, easy navigate updating realtime website. Currys, despite some very close calls, just made it through and now their website , which I personally only rate only as OK, is a go to destination.
Comet wasted time on expensive over staffing and lengthy training and neglected what it should have been doing. Making its stores a front for its own e-commece operations. Its local units its local delivery from and pick up at stops.
And the advent of Apple intuitive design led manufacturers to make easy to use, plug and play, simple to operate products. It was no longer necessary to call an engineer to fix up a video. A DVD player is just a plug, lead and scart. Tvs set themselves up with autotune. And even items like 3D TV that rely on visuals in the store don't necessarily translate into sales. Look in store and then buy elsewhere.