UK high street failures and social media activity: a correlation?

What can social media tell us about the sad demise of high street retailers such as Woolworth’s, Comet, Blockbusters and Jessops? Some quick and dirty research shows these high-street failures were also social media fails.

There could be many reasons for their failure, not least the products they sell, their online strategy, brand, pricing etc…

But out of curiosity I wanted to know how these failed stores fared on social. For simplicity’s sake, I just looked at their Facebook pages for the number of likes.*

As you can see from the table below, (unsurprisingly, perhaps), the numbers seem low.

Brand  ‘Likes’ on Facebook Status
HMV 185,268 Went into administration on 15th January 2013 but has been bought out by Hilco as of 22nd January 2013
Blockbuster 181,647 UK stores in administration as of 16 January 2013
Comet UK 35,165 Company is now closed
Past Times  24,551 Went into administration in January 2012, now exists solely online
Clintons 14,360 Bought out of administration by American Greetings in June 2012
Hawkins Bazaar 10,177 Bought out of administration by exisiting management
Peacocks 4,458 Bought out of administration by Edinburgh Woollen Mill in February 2012
JJB Sports 2,881 Partly bought out by Sports Direct in September 2011
Blacks 2,508 Bought out by JD Sports in January 2012
Jessops 708 Company closure announced on January 2011
Borders Books UK 524 Stores have been closed since December 2009, however the website and database has been bought out by The Capital Organisation
T J Hughes 172 6 stores remain, bought out by  Lewis’s Home Retail
Average Size 38,535  

I then compared them to some of the (what appear to be) more buoyant high street stores. As you can see the average community size of this group of survivors is 384,363, compared to 38,535. That is a 10 fold difference!

Brand ‘Likes’ on Facebook
American Apparel UK 1,365,405
H & M (Regent Street) 1,059,728
Accessorize UK 716,665
John Lewis 598,780
Boots UK 444,467
Esprit UK 256,735
House of Fraser 230,580
Monsoon UK 102,035
Early learning Centre UK 73,024
Gap UK 67,353
Abercrombie & Fitch London 45,988
Uniqlo UK 24,615
Banana Republic UK 11,343
Average Size 384,363

I am not claiming this is in any way scientific, but it does beg two thoughts about why the failed high street stores have relatively small Facebook communities:

  • Is it because few customers literally liked them? So low levels of engagement on Facebook suggests lower levels of consumer interest and engagement with the brand.
  • Or is it because of a lack of investment in digital and social specifically to drive up numbers? If so, this demonstrates they were generally a business behind the times anyway…

There seems to be some form of correlation but I would love to know your thoughts…

*some brands no longer have (or never had) a Facebook page, but instead have a holding page
Picture courtesy of Rose and Trev Clough and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 

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