THINGS have gone from bad to worse for the retail trade. Towards the end of 2012 two well-known retail giants – Comet and JJB Sport – went to the wall.
Now, just a matter of weeks into this year, the trade has taken a couple of really devastating hits.
First it was the turn of Jessops, probably Britain’s most famous High Street camera and photographic supplies retailer. Founded in Leicester in 1935, on January 11 it was forced to close nearly 200 stores in the UK – with a loss of nearly 2,000 jobs.
Then on January 15 came the news that Music and DVD chain HMV was going into administration. For the time being the administrators – Deloitte – will keep HMV’s 239 stores in the UK and Eire open while it assesses the prospects for the business and looks for potential buyers.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is that most commentators are confident that a buyer will be found for HMV. However, at the moment, it’s not clear if all of HMVs staff (around 4,500 people) will keep their jobs.
A day later the news broke about DVD rental firm Blockbuster, who went into administration after struggling against online competitors (1). Blockbuster has 528 stores and employs 4,190 staff. At the time of writing their future is unknown.
So what should be our response to the continual loss of thousands of jobs, the closure of shops and the collapse of well-known UK High Street firms?
First of all, let’s say what we don’t want to see.
The National Liberal Party is completely opposed to Cameron and Clegg’s world of casino capitalism, where market forces (in other words ‘dog-eat-dog’) will sort everything out!
We’re also opposed to state capitalism – socialism. One of its worst economic features were the massive state dinosaur industries which used to be an all too common feature of Communist Eastern Europe.
Instead, we favour a system known as Distributism. Advocates of Distributistism support the widespread ownership of property – and where the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the British people.
So what would this mean in practical terms?
For starters, any large concern that went into administration should be initially taken into public ownership. This would be purely a short-term measure designed to stabilise the situation – jobs would be saved and shops kept open. We cannot see any sense in throwing skilled tradesmen and workers onto the scrapheap just to rot on the dole. Neither do we see any sense in having empty High Streets.
As soon as trading conditions stabilised we would favour these businesses being handed over to the workforce. They can then be run as co-operatives. Here, workers will own and owners will work. Debt-free loans will be made so that these new co-operatives can both modernise and innovate.
As we’ve noted many times, when the likes of the Royal Bank of Scotland got into difficulties, the government stepped in to bail it out (using our money!) We feel that if Cameron and Clegg can support the capitalist system then they should also support ordinary working families.
They should act now to save jobs!
1. According to People Management Magazine Online www.peoplemanagement.co.uk “Increased competition from online rivals such as LoveFilm and Netflix, and a general shift towards digital streaming of movies and games, saw the chain lose around £1 million a month in 2012.”