Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two columns over from the death notices...

In yesterday's Irish Times there was legal notice of the imminent fate of Chartbusters, the country's 2nd largest home entertainment retail outlet.

The purpose of the notice was to alert creditors that a petition for the winding up of the company was presented to the High Court on July 12. The petition will be heard on August 11.

This is the latest twist in the downward slide of the company's fortunes over the last few years. Its viability may have been dealt a final blow by the recent regulation of the tanning booth business into which the company had diversified.

Chartbusters went into examinership in early 2009 and the Judge overseeing the case, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, was highly critical of company founder Richard Murphy at the time, reportedly accusing him of "sharp practise" and "sleveenism" in his treatment of a major creditor who was seeking to have the company wound up.

The company had 37 stores and employed 267 people at the time of the examinership while creditors were then owed a total of €19.8m. The restructured Chartbusters was intending to retrench with the 20 outlets said to be operating profitably at the time. A year and a half later it looks as if that has not worked.

The whole area of home entertainment has been undergoing a major shift over the last few years. The mass market retail rental model that first bloomed on the streets of our cities and towns with VHS tape and then gaming is possibly coming to the natural end of its existence.

Here as elsewhere people's attention, particularly that of the under-thirties, has shifted to the online sphere, whether it be video on demand, DVD purchase, online gaming or illegal streaming. And the older demographic has shifted either to satelite viewing or the many DVD-by-post options.

While some of the niche outlets may survive, 'Going down the video-shop' is fast becoming a thing of the past. Like the cassette tape, only quicker.

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