A Small town tale of Blockbuster

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To many, the insolvency of Blockbuster isn’t a landmark in their lives. Those who live in large, urban areas with an abundance of entertainment retailers probably won’t even notice a possible store closure. Well, once the initial wave of reporting dies down anyway. As one tweet on my twitter feed said: “Blockbusters has gone bust… I didn’t even know they were still about, haven’t seen one in almost 3 years. I’ve used one once ever.” Outside of shop staff and their families, the fall of Blockbuster may be most keenly felt in smaller towns. Like my own, a small town on the West Coast of Scotland – Dunoon.

Dunoon is a special case. Virtually an island (it’s a peninsula, but driving to any city is VERY impractical), it’s inhabitants rely on passenger and vehicle ferry services to get to the nearest city, Glasgow. I’ve lived here for most of my life, and travelled to university and then to my day job as a newspaper reporter

Over the last 15 years, the town has seen the number and variety of shops take a nose dive. I remember as a child having the choice of Woolworths, Blockbuster and a great little independent record shop (who also did games) to drag my dad round as I browsed Mega Drive games. These days the number of stores selling entertainment products has hit rock bottom. There is solely Blockbuster: with its worn carpets; friendly staff you know on a first name basis; and the weird, yet welcomingly familiar, smell that comes from the ancient carpet. Yeah, the sign is missing letters and the right door hasn’t worked in years; but it’s our wee shop. There’s an emotional investment made.

For a town as isolated as Dunoon is, the potential closure of Blockbuster would be a monumental blow to the collective psyche of its inhabitants. This shop is, for those who do not often travel, their link to Hollywood and the games industry all in one. To take it away merely hammers home the message: “Your town is slowly dying off, shop by shop.”

We don’t have an HMV here, or a GAME. My only experience of the excitement of a midnight release was standing out in line at 11.30pm one April night, willing the hands on my watch to move faster. Midnight hit, I picked up my copy of GTA IV; it felt special. The same way many CoD fans must have felt as they picked up Black Ops 2 from the same store just a few months ago. That same feeling of anticipation washed over. As expensive as game rentals may seem, the potential removal of the store means that ‘try before you buy’ isn’t an option anymore. Everyone loses out.

When you’re a young person in a small town like this, it’s vital to feel like the same as people elsewhere – not hindered by the island-like status of your surroundings. I know I felt it many times, and just a browse around that store, planning purchases, reading the back of boxes, all helped alleviate my frustrations somewhat. Should a buyer for the retailer not be found, then the closure of this shop will hit hard. A vacuum will form and need to be filled very quickly.

Dunoon’s Blockbuster is, I’m reliably informed, profitable. It’s one of a sadly small number of stores that consistently turns a profit for the company. Its six staff will face an uncertain period before finally learning their fate, punished for something they had no control over. Those in cities and larger towns will tweet and sigh and tell us it’s a shame, but they have other outlets. For those in Dunoon who depend on their local Blockbuster, it will be an especially saddening lament.

Perhaps an independent store will take its place, thrive and become an entertainment hub. Or perhaps we’ll all sit on our computers and order everything from Amazon, only venturing out for a loaf and a pint of milk. One thing is certain, should this shop close, then there isn’t a single store left in this town centre I’ll spend money in.

Pic taken last night. Yeah I know it sucks; feel free to buy me a decent camera.

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3 thoughts on “A Small town tale of Blockbuster

  1. I see the ‘U’ and ‘I’ are missing from the sign, the writing’s on the wall; I guess all user interaction will be through a monitor now rather than face-to-face if this Blockbusters closes.

    Pretty deep man, pretty deep.

  2. The failure of Blockbuster to adapt to the digital age, as was the case with HMV, has been key to their ultimate downfall. With services like Netflix and Lovefilm providing downloadable or posted movies and games at really competitive prices, it has come as no surprise that this day has come. As for the impact on the local community, aside from the few who may sadly lose their jobs, I believe they will benefit by being forced into using services like Netflix and realising that they are actually better off, both in pocket and service.

    • While I agree that Netflix and other online retailers offer a better service, I think you may have failed to grasp the importance of having a physical presence in an isolated town like this.
      I don’t see how funnelling money away from a local store to an online retailer benefits the local community at all. No online retailer is paying business rates or rent to local authorities that way; and the public here have lost an excuse to actually get away from their computer screens and go to a store. A journey that may include interacting with other people along the way, and maybe even popping into a neighbouring store a spending some money there.
      Smaller town centres in Scotland (and perhaps England, I’m not sure) are coming to a crisis point, something will have to change or else the empty shops will increase in number. My hope is that indie retailers will be given the opportunity to open up more shops in towns across the country, but only the confidence of bank’s business lending departments will allow that transformation to occur.

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