In North Greenwich and elsewhere around the country, the Massive Stock Liquidation is underway. Three posters slapped up outside Comet bring the bad news, or the good news, depending on which side of the till you're on. The public aren't flooding in, but there's more of them than usual, which is part of the ongoing problem. The warehouse is bright and cavernous, with not quite as much stuff crammed into it as you might expect. Up near the front is a display of laptops packed with Windows 8 - only a fortnight old, but already up for grabs at reduced price. Not much reduced, to be honest, if you were expecting this firesale to be more of an inferno. 10% off is all you'll get on some aisles, twenty on others, and nowhere more than thirty. It's better than normal, but not hugely, as the administrators attempt to sell off the company silver for as much as they can get. This is the same plan as was used when winding down Woolworths, to start cutting small, then cut deeper for the less desirable stuff. And the policy seems to be working, as lots of goods have gone already and the remaining stock is slightly thin on the ground.
There are plenty of printers, plenty of fridge freezers, plenty of slimline televisions, if any of those need upgrading chez vous. But if you fancy new headphones, or a fresh toaster, or one of those electronic gizmos that plugs your thingy into your wotsit, don't hold your breath. There are plenty of display models, labelled "ROT - do not sell without permission", but very little is boxed up on the bottom shelf ready for sale. Equally there are still cards to take to the till to exchange for a year's technical support, not that Comet's likely to be around long enough to deliver. Potential customers wander around picking over potential bargains but alighting on little. It's an outmoded method of shopping, this, now the internet's taking trade away. When you can browse at home, then get some driver in a delivery van to bring it to you, why travel to a shed on a peninsula? The future of retail's changing, meaning it's more important to trim costs than sustain jobs, and Comet's just the next business off the cliff edge.
No salesperson rushes over when you hover slightly too long near anything - the staff are all standing around near the entrance discussing their futures. Dixons might offer some of them temporary Christmas posts, but once the store's stock's disappeared long term prospects aren't good. I stop at the till on the way out where one of the doomed staff directs me to another. She works politely through my minor purchase and ends by asking if I want a bag. I wouldn't normally but, you know, last chance to collect and all that. She reaches for an ill-printed piece of paper which warns me goods can no longer be exchanged, and staples it to my receipt. I wish her well and leave the store to its slow death. It might take a few weeks, with initial price reductions nothing worth dashing across town for. But this star's on an inexorable downward trajectory, due to crash to earth somewhere near you soon.