You’ll no doubt have heard the (not entirely surprising) news that troubled HMV is to close 60 of it’s stores following a big dip in Christmas trade. Can it really all be due to the snow, competition from online sales and teenagers file-sharing?
I like buying records, you like buying records (otherwise why are you reading this?), and lots of other people do too. Rough Trade for example have reported a 5% increase in sales over the festive season.
The fact is that HMV, in it’s urge to transform itself into a ‘Broad based entertainment brand’ seems to have completely forgotten how to do what it was invented for.
It was never a particularly pleasant place to shop, functional at best, but handy for back catalogue or something too mainstream to find in an indie shop. Walk into either of the Manchester HMV shops today and your synapses are assaulted with a riot of day-glo tat designed to woo Justin Bieber fans in off the street. DVDs, Wii Games, Posters, T-Shirts, badges, beads, bangles, toys, iPods, iPhones, maybe an Orange Mobile Phone concession too (like there isn’t already one on every corner anyway). If you search really hard, in a dusty corner or basement you may just find some CDs but don’t expect the extensive back catalogue of old. Of course you can get them cheaper from the HMV Website anyway. They’ve practically driven music fans out of the store and on-line.
The less said about their ludicrous Loyalty Card campaign ‘pureHMV’ the better. For a £5 joining fee you are invited to ‘Get even closer….’. Closer to what , isn’t made clear but instead of something useful like money off things, you get the chance to win whatever tat they have lying around in the promo cupboard. For 50,000 points you can get a signed picture of a bloke from JLS, or if you can navigate the baffling website for 30,000 points you can get tickets for James Blunt. Ridiculous, and a real sign of just how out of touch the chain is with it’s customers.
It’s not been treating it’s casual, seasonal customers any better either. I read reports of huge queues at HMV stores close to Xmas but due to the lack of seasonal staff rather than an increase in sales. People talk of waiting with CDs and DVDs and putting them back rather than wait. Next year those people will doubtless use Amazon or a supermarket instead.
No mention as yet of what this means for HMV-owned Fopp, which still does seem to make sense to music lovers (albeit by recreating the illusion of being an independent record shop).
It’s a shame for the staff at whichever of the HMV shops close (although it might be a relief too from what I’ve heard about their treatment from management). Word is that big cities with duplicate shops will lose one, so it looks likely one of the big Manchester shops will go, my money would be on jinxed Arndale branch which has already been a Zavvi and a Virgin shop before that. At least in Manchester there is plenty of other choice for music buyers.
I can only hope that as HMVs do start to vanish from high streets that in smaller towns and cities where there is no alternative for music shoppers, maybe the independent and specialist shops will fight back and fill the gap in the market. Buying music in shops is increasingly a niche activity, but nevertheless the demand is still there, and maybe the job is best left to the real experts rather than the confused, corporate behemoth that HMV has become.
Remember it this way!