Tough times on the high street as Blockbuster goes in to administration

Craft Market Family Day 2012

Craft market in St James Ave with Blockbuster on the right corner

Hot on the heels of Jessops and HMV the next high street chain to go in to administration is Blockbuster UK, though it appears it will keep trading whilst a buyer is sought. Blockbuster has a shop in West Ealing on the corner of the Uxbridge Road and St James Ave. This spot is a key one for WEN and others who are working on ideas to reclaim the dead space at the top end of St James Avenue. WEN has run a monthly craft market here since April and OPEN Ealing may move its arts centre to the building above Blockbuster. In addition, there may be TfL money to improve this pedestrianised area at the top of St James Avenue and the Council is putting in a bid for ‘pocket park’ funds to add to the Tfl ones. What happens to Blockbuster on this corner could have an impact on these plans.  So we’ll be watching events carefully to see what happens.

22 Replies to “Tough times on the high street as Blockbuster goes in to administration”

  1. I wonder who owns the Blockbuster building and what plans they might have for it post-Blockbuster/Administration. With another 1,200 new residents arriving across the road at the new Green Man Lane Estate and approved plans for a five storey mosque even closer maybe the block should be replaced by a multi-storey car park.

    What do others think?

  2. Hi Eric

    Not something I would like to see facing the Uxbridge Road and right by the craft market. We need innovative ideas to revive our High Street, a car park is not the answer.

    On a more personal note I am really disappointed about Blockbuster, I hope they don’t close the West Ealing branch as I use it quite a lot for both hire and purchase of cheap/pre-owned DVD’s. Some of the staff in there are also really great.

  3. Catalyst Housing own the Blockbuster site. I take your point about parking but this site’s nowhere near large enough for a multi-storey car park..It would be far better used for OPEN Ealing or as a pop-up shop to try out various ideas. I’d much rather keep the focus of that area for arts and/or other community related activities. If we need a multi-storey car park why not talk to Sainsbury’s about how well their car park is used and whether it could be dual purpose for customers and the public? I doubt if it’s full that often.

    1. The point you make about Sainsbury’s car park is an interesting one. However the last time I parked there it was quite full. The Blockbuster building foot print is quite small for a car park but if the High Street is going to attract more shoppers and if many more out of town worshippers at the nearby Islamic Centre are to be accommodated, something must give.

      Ask the traders. They want more car parking space. It’s their businesses which are at risk.

      Nobody knows what might revive any of the High Streets in England.

      My point about additional car parking is quite timely as the new planning application for a new five storey mosque in Singapore Road/Brownlow Road will be judged by Ealing Councillors on 30 January. This will be a regional mosque with space for worship and other activities of 5,852 sq metres. That is 20 times the floor space of the largest hall in Ealing Town Hall. Thousands will worship here coming from miles around. Hundreds of them will drive to the mosque. Just where are they going to park? Friday midday is always chaotic on the roads around the Islamic Centre now. Make the facility four times bigger and illegal parking will stretch for up to half a mile all around no doubt.

  4. I don’t think it’s simply the case that a new and larger mosque has to mean more worshippers. It might well mean an increase of some sort but there are mosques all around the area. According to the UK Mosque Searcher website – – there are 4 mosques in Southall, 3 in West Ealing (including the West London Islamic Centre in Singapore Road), one in Hanwell, 3 in Greenford, 2 in Acton and a total of 16 in the borough. So, there is no intrinsic reason for more worshippers to travel to West Ealing. No doubt there will be more worshippers as new homes are built in West Ealing but most of these homes will be within walking distance of the new mosque.

    This doesn’t negate the need for adequate parking for the shoppers and worshippers. We need to have the best possible data on which to assess parking needs and I hope this will emerge from WECNF’s work.

  5. A pity Blockbuster and HMV couldn’t merge, slim down and turn the shop into a browsing/ordering point for physical products, purchase point for digital products. Could they still do “video” hire without DVDs, maybe providing digital copies on USB drives for people without the internet but with modern TVs? They could do a cafe in there as well which could spill out onto the pavement of St James Avenue on warmer days.

    I didn’t agree with the demolition of the Singapore Road multi-storey carpark. I thought it should have been refurbished and managed properly. What were the traders doing to oppose its demolition? I don’t see who is going to pay for a new one now! Hasn’t council policy always been “If you don’t provide parking, you will get people out of cars”? So many residential developments over the past 12 years have been built without parking in order to get approval. Stupid.

  6. The Blockbusters store in West Ealing is one of the few Blockbuster stores that actually turn a profit. If a buyer can be found, the unprofitable stores sold, there’s no reason why it can’t stay open for a while longer at least. I was told this afternoon that it isnt on the list of 129 stores that are to close anyway. I had to queue for a while to ask that (and to buy something). If it does go, I’d prefer to see it used as something that would help the local community; a cafe or something like that. A car park would be a depressing end.

  7. Thanks for a really interesting and helpful discussion especially for information about mosques/numbers and blockbuster viability and ways we could support it if we value it. I especially like the idea that Blockbusters becomes more of a cafe venue and helps support the craft market space outside it.

  8. I’m always finding bargains in there for my son and often it is actually more economical to buy a DVD for him rather than hire! I was a member of Lovefilm but cancelled my subscription as I am an occasional DVD watcher and Blockbusters suits my needs. Most times when I have been in there it has been busy so I am glad it isn’t on the closure list.

  9. It occured to me tonight that one way which they could make some money would be to start a large Polish section of films and advertise in the free Polish press. Poland has a quite wonderful cinematic output and you don’t get many on Netflix.

  10. I was also thinking that if they could re-designate the space by becoming more digitally oriented, whilst still supplying DVDs, they could free up space for discussions on films by local film watchers (ie a business-facilitated film club) – with coffee and cake – perhaps determined by film genre. Everybody seems to have an opinion on films they’ve watched and as high streets move further away from supplying physical goods, this could be the human experiential angle to keep them in business. Strength through diversity and all that. It would get me back through the doors.

  11. Great point Karl. It occurs to me that given the widespread availability of Polish products in West Ealing (which is great, as I adore Polish sausage, bigos, etc) there’s a dearth of more ‘cultural’ opportunities. Blockbusters and other shops would do well to cash in on this I think.

  12. The trouble with chains like Blockbusters is that they are a bit too corporate which is their biggest problem. If they did bollywood and poland, they’d be coining it in!

    A local film club is also a good idea. I’d be very interested in that.

  13. Last time i was in there was late 2012,i was just browsing the dvds and found a dvd i wanted (6 dvds for family presents,same dvds).
    At the counter their bar code reader could not read the product code so i was refused the purchase although i offered to pay 6 x £9.99 and leave with a hand written receipt but i was told the purchase was not possible.
    Ten minutes later sitting in the comfort of my house,i had purchased these dvds from a different retailer for £8.50 each with free p&p delivered within 24 hours.

    Ealing needs affordable housing so demolish this already crumbling site.

    1. If the site is crumbling maybe one should blame the landlords. The Blockbuster buidling and the one the other side of St James Avenue are a pair (Art Deco, perhaps) which should be retained. The old Woolworths building is crumbling more. If its facade could be retained, it would be a better site for “affordable” homes but I think it’s disgusting how so many of these new places get built on busy roads.

      I remember years ago when HMV were in Ealing they wouldn’t let you into the store 15 minutes before their advertised closing time, even if you knew exactly what you wanted and could have been out 5 minutes later. This was so the staff could leave on the dot of closing. I thought that was a stupid way to run a business and I wasn’t surprised when they closed the shop. No-one should be turning customers away. I can’t remember the last time I left my own job at the official end to my working day.

  14. We all love to shop but for a shop owner (renter) WHAT do the people of west ealing think is the biggest problem facing shop owners/renters.
    Below is a short list of the problems we have operating shops.please reply in what order you think we have.
    -High rent.
    -High business rates.
    -High cost of refuse collection.
    -Landlord inflexibility.
    -Shop lifting (theft).
    -Far to many buses on the uxbridge road in a convoy mode,shoppers can only see buses not shops.
    -The tram would have really helped traders.
    -So many buses passing outside our shops so the above can be very mobile.
    -No medium term shoppers parking.shoppers need 45 mins.
    -Many shops are very old design and just made for the owner to live above.
    -Intimidation of staff.verbal/racist.
    -Excessive turn around of staff (as above).
    -Rats,gulls and pigeons.costs so much to clean up and to have a correct measures in place.H&E reference.
    -Cost of security staff even to guard several tomatoes.
    -Spitting outside our shops.
    -Historic business costs, in the west ealing corridor due to the past golden years when west ealing was doing very well.
    -Theft of or damage to customers/staff vehicles including cycles.
    -Many more to list but,its now your shout.


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