British chain WH Smiths is dropping singles from its entertainment department, citing falling sales for the format. The chain says it intends to continue flogging other stuff like DVDs and albums, although various revamps of the glorified newsagency has seen music taking up less and less floorspace in its stores. Back in the 80s the Brighton Smiths had a stand alone records-only store across the way from the main Churchill Square, but going in to a WH Smiths in the 90s to buy a record would be like heading into a Soviet department store – even if you could find the corner of the shop where what you wanted should have been, they almost certainly wouldn’t have what you wanted. The chain stuck with music, though, even while Boots was phasing out its record department, although the idea of having a section of the store for music had been quietly dropped, with the albums being folded into the video and DVD section and, to be honest, we’d be surprised if by next year Smiths’ commitment to selling music isn’t reduced to a couple of those cheesey Hallmark holiday style compilations (Pure Love for Valentines, All Woman for Mother’s Day, Singalongasanta for Christmas) and perhaps some Uncut cover mounts.
Whatever, if Woolworths decide to follow Smiths lead and ditch the short format, it could really spell the end of the single as a mass-market product.