Are you already being helped? My guest column in the NHD
Guest column NHD on January 9th
First, the camping section disappeared. Then the Christmas section. And now at the last minute for the new year, the V&D has been declared bankrupt. A pity and a pity, especially for the staff. "V&D will certainly continue," a spokesperson said firmly. Of course in a different form. And that has been necessary for years. The V&D went bankrupt because it lost sight of the customers. A week earlier it was announced that you could no longer redeem your V&D gift cards. Extra security was already hired for any angry customers.
Nevertheless, I saw the necessary reproaches towards the Den Helder consumers on Facebook. V&D Den Helder is one of the worst performing branches and that is our fault: we shop too little. I can personally confirm the latter: I once came here for my camping gear and Christmas decorations. CDs and DVDs. Quality at a fair price with a wide range. Now I prefer to buy online: order every hour of the day, everything is available and will be delivered the next day. Despite shipping costs often at a better price.
V&D was far too late with its internet ambitions: competitors such as Bol.com and Coolblue were already light years ahead. In order to catch up, significant investments were needed. Private-equity giant KKR, the former owner of V&D, however, took all the fat off the bones by selling the property. As a result, the problems with the landlords later. Without those extra rental costs, V&D would still have made a profit. And that's called "market forces".
Why do we still shop physically? That is the question every retailer should ask themselves. A shop is no longer self-evident. A website does. The new standard consists of competitive prices, a full range and convenient delivery and payment options. But as a store you can also offer something that no online shop has: personal attention and experience. That is why Coolblue invests in stores: nowadays it is both/and.
In Den Helder, the V&D determines the image of Beatrixstraat. Primark! Media Markt! Shop in shop! Were the new suggestions on Facebook. Our municipality should take the lead and look at how the building can be filled in in a future-proof way. A Primark would indeed fit perfectly in terms of target group and budget. With its emphasis on physical presence and less on online, Primark still manages to grow by about 15 percent each year.
I myself would like to see all kinds of small specialty shops with unique assortment, tastings, workshops and experiences. This means that the department store building can be filled relatively quickly and offers great variety. The high rents with long-term contracts are unfortunately often the big problem. Creating the right business climate is the first step. Smart entrepreneurs will follow naturally. Because that too is market forces.