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The death of the high street shop due to our increasing use of online services has affected every area of industry. Publishing and the music business are two areas, specifically, that seem to be playing out their transformations (or demise) in what seems like agonizingly slow fashion. Moguls like Richard Branson saw the writing on the wall some time ago and sold off his Virgin Music shops accordingly, but there are a few troopers left standing, fighting a war they can’t possibly win.
Unsurprisingly France, with all of its cultural baggage and national quirks, is among the last nations to produce a public outcry at the impending loss of Virgin’s Paris stores. The BBC recently ran an article quoting the French national press’s reaction to this dilemma, and it isn’t just about nostalgia or something akin to the slow food movement, but rather the fear of losing internal revenue to multinational online services. In short, the government doesn’t want the French to shop elsewhere, and even the country’s minister of culture, Aurelie Filippetti, is getting involved trying to save Virgin and the country’s other big retailer Fnac from closure.
It’s the tide of global technology, I’m afraid. But, that hasn’t stopped the hysterical headlines and sense of national betrayal: ‘Without naming Apple or Amazon, Miss Filippetti complained in a radio interview about the emergence of big websites that “completely escape any kind of fair competition, because they don’t pay the same taxes as the others, being based elsewhere than in France,” the BBC reported. It suddenly becomes much clearer to the observer why the country’s movie stars are decamping to nearby Belgium – France’s government is mercilessly pursuing as much money is it can get. But, once again, it is an exercise in futility; technology is setting the guidelines, not government policy.