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Flagging HMV closes more stores

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UK music retailer HMV is closing another of its London stores. The shop in Islington will shut for business on 25 January 2014. This follows the news that the 150 Oxford Street store will soon become a Sports Direct.

Apart from closing shops, launching a rather poor (non-transactional) website and talking about ‘digital strategy’ it’s hard to understand what new owners Hilco are actually DOING.

I was in Belfast over Christmas and there is a record shop there called “Head” which effortlessly does all the things that HMV doesn’t. They were stocking loads of box sets (not hidden away), masses of vinyl, had a section for local music, an excellent A to Z, decent prices and seemed to employ lots of staff. They even had some of the new High Fidelity Pure Audio releases in the racks, which was impressive to see. It’s true, Head also sell DVDs and blu-rays, but somehow you still feel like you’re in a RECORD shop, as if they do so grudgingly. Front of house, with other deluxe sets (Nick Drake’s Tuck Box) they had three of Primal Scream’s round Screamadelica 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Editions on the floor for £75 each – cheaper than Amazon.

The HMV in Belfast is awful by comparison. As usual, you always have to go upstairs or out of the way to find the actual music. Premium product in the eyes of Hilco and HMV are DVD and Blu-ray box sets because they are always given the most prominent placement. Music is always secondary in HMV to movies. It’s the same in the now-doomed Islington Store; apart from a sliver of new releases, or 2-for-£10 type offers, the first two-thirds of the shop is taken up with DVDs, Blu-ray, ‘Technology’, Games, Books, Doctor Who key-rings, T-shirts etc. At the very back is an A to Z section from which anything over £20 seems ‘banned’. For example the Tears For Fears The Hurting box set (a reasonable £33) is kept behind the counter at the front of store, where you have to go up like a schoolboy and ask to ‘view’ the item. Can’t imagine they’ve sold many of those, but it’s easier to blame Amazon or ‘the internet’ than this ridiculous practice that deters sales. People are losing their jobs as high margin product is kept out of sight.

I can’t really see HMV still being here in 12 months time unless Hilco pull their finger out and do something to radically transform the ‘customer experience’. The problem as I see it, is that HMV no longer view their customers as music fans or enthusiasts, and therefore the stores do not treat them as such. HMV customers now seem to be viewed as general consumers who might pop in to pick up a Dark Knight box set, buy a Mars Bar, and perhaps be tempted by the latest Robbie Williams album or a compilation. Anything more than that, and they haven’t got the stock or the staff to cope.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this HMV job vacancy advertisement for Christmas staff (‘Seasonal Colleague’). Can you spot the missing word? HMV apparently no longer consider themselves a music retailer, because there is no mention of the word MUSIC amongst the bland talk of ‘products’, ‘market knowledge’ and ‘exceptional service’. You’d think they would demand a ‘passion for music’ or a maybe a ‘broad knowledge of classic rock/pop’, but they don’t.

I guess you could ask ‘why should they?’. HMV are no longer a ‘music shop’. They are the self-styled ‘home of entertainment’ of which music now forms a small part. They are a jack of all trades, but masters of none. Staff need to know about iPads, headphones, Wiis, Downtown Abbey, Mad Men, Call Of Duty and the-new-Miley-Cyrus album.

The one thing Amazon and online stores can never do is offer specialist knowledge about music before you purchase. You cannot, for example, have a friendly chat with a member of staff about whether you should opt for the vinyl version of Eric Clapton’s Give Me Strength set over the CD box. Rather than using that to their advantage HMV have tried to do what Amazon does and sell lots of things with no real specialist knowledge in any area. But with a finite amount of space in each store, when you sell lots of things you end up concentrating on the bestsellers. This strategy allowed HMV to blame music for not earning its keep, amongst console games and blu-rays, rather than its own strategy. And so the music gets literally pushed to the back of the shop or hidden behind the counter and – surprise, surprise – HMV report declining music sales.

The question is no longer will HMV survive, but rather, is it really going to matter to your average SuperDeluxeEdition reader if it doesn’t? The retailer is surely a sad and disfigured entity. You know it was once a music shop because you remember it as such, but the car crash of mismanagement has left it contorted and unrecognisable; a shadow of its former self.

Can HMV be saved? Leave a comment with your views.


Paul Sinclair is Editor of SDE / Follow on Twitter @sdedition

SuperDeluxeEdition.com helps fans around the world discover physical music and discuss releases. To keep the site free, SDE participates in various affiliate programs, including Amazon and earns from qualifying purchases.

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Will_M

further to the bad practise of hmv listed above, if you forget your pure hmv card and try to validate a receipt, be prepared to be infuriated. I submitted two receipts at the start of january, my account has not been updated, emails were submitted, they promised to investigate…..then nothing, i’ve made further contact…..nothing, 3 receipts worth over £35 in points and no validation added, it’s a shocking service

Straker
Straker

The local rag doing a piss-poor job on reporting the lack of a genuine sale:

http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/news/hmv_in_islington_to_close_doors_at_end_of_month_1_3199624

If they were open any longer I`d report them to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Straker

The Islington “sale” is a joke. The interior and windows are liberally festooned with 80, 60, 50 & 40% off signage and yet virtually nothing in the store is! 99% of the stock is a miserable 10% off (of the usual unrealistic HMV prices) and all of this is racked directly underneath the aforementioned %off signs which even (to add insult to injury) have a hand-written “Exra 10% off marked price” starburst tacked onto the main percentage off signage. The store is a tragically amateurish example of bait-and-switch. Strategy is to front-load it with all the tempting signs to draw passers-by in and then hope they`ll buy something at a measly 10% off instead. The clear intention is to get people to take stuff from the racks assuming it`s generously discounted, get them to queue up and by the time the till-monkey gives them the “10%off” bad news some may already be comitted to buy. Apparently the Hilco heavy-mob have been round and insisted on all the mis-leading signage going up with the store-managers seemingly impotent to object. I pointed out to the staff that not one of the DVDs across two whole stands had any of the discounts advertised on the signs above, all were a paltry 10% only off which was not stated anywhere.

Compare and contrast this with the recently closed (and much-missed) Oxford Circus branch where they had a “4 for £10” deal running in the basement for nigh on 50 days which itself transformed into “3 for £5” and an even more generous “6 for £9” as the weeks progressed. Not just unsellable tat either – Box sets, blu-rays, steelbooks, limited editions and even bags of refreshers for 36p!! New stock was put out daily and on the last couple of days the other floors became even more generous with their 80% off yellow stickers resulting in DVD season sets for less than £3 and some blu-rays for as little as a quid!

I don`t understand how the approach to a closing-down sale by the same company can be so different across two of it`s branches running virtually concurrently. Totally baffling.

Straker

They have a couple of those TFF sets out on the floor now (as well as behind the till). Only the poxy ten percent discount though. They have a laughable 80% off section now (I like to think it was in response to my complaints the last time I went in) but it has a handful of sorry looking CDs and a couple of DVDs – Nothing more than a justification for having the discount signage in the windows. As happened in Oxford Circus staff are now wandering around with baskets pulling stuff off the shelves to send to other stores so there`ll soon be next to nothing on display with a couple of “sale” days left to go. One of the drones tried to tell me that the reason more stuff wasn`t discounted was that “it`s not a closing down sale”!! Madness, absolute madness….

Mike F

…which is what got me into the shop for a second look. I bought something the second time round, and phoned a friend about something else. It was very small music section, but at least there was some good stuff!

Mike F

I like store specific sales. The corporate price reduction doesn’t strike me as a sale often – more of a promotion, and it is more of a treasure hunt if different stores have different offers. HMV Southampton even had a few bits of vinyl in the sale, which was nice to see.

Joe

Paul, the markdowns are store specific. If one store has a large amount of a certain item, then it will be marked down to help sell through. I picked up the Big Country at the BBC for under £20! Beat that £47. Beat that, £47 Amazon!

Karen

Joe,

I picked my Big Country bbc box set for 11.99! It was marked up at £39.99

Mike F

Well the small music sale at Southampton appears to be better shown now. There was even one copy of the super deluxe edition of The Hurting for around £17! (Although Universal don’t appear keen to address the glitch on the 1st disc.)

Daran

” browsing for the latest 12 ” single from gene loves jezebel with bonus tracks”

Ah, Gene Loves Jezebel! A great band. I liked them too. Reminds me of the number of times I used to search all the record store racks in Leicester in the mid 80’s for rare Sisters Of Mercy 12″ records. Never did find them! But the fun and thrill of the chase and all that. As you say Stuart it’s totally lost on today’s generation of faux music fans.

stuart

During the middle 1980s to late 1989 nothing i dearly loved more than shopping for vinyl singles (so many and so cheap)at my local retailed music chain,this well before the culling back of vinyl 12 ” singles and 45s,i do miss those days, taking a trip to the music store on a friday afternoon to purchase the latest top 40,45 singles or browsing for the latest 12 ” single from gene loves jezebel with bonus tracks,buying music was an experience and in well crafted fun that is sadly missed and will never be truly replaced,the 1980s when quality products were of a higher standard,audio cassettes,cds,vinyl when compared to the low bit rate world of today

Ken

Could you please use one of my silver ones when splitting hairs?!?

bob

Long shot I know, but is there a teacher in the room?

SDE Lover!!

Paul, a minor point – if you’re going to pick holes in the spelling in HMV’s job advertisement, be prepared to have holes picked in your own articles – the first sentence is written “UK music retailer HMV is closing another of it’s {sic} London stores.”

An apostrophe is only valid in the word “it’s” if you’re shortening “it is” or “it has”, otherwise you should use “its”, without the apostrophe.

Thanks.

Rob

My local(ish) store is also a bit of a shambles. Chart cd’s aside, all the rest are in the back corner of the store. True it’s a small store, but the layout isn’t great.
Whilst in this corner I noticed behind a rack of calendars something interesting on the floor. A small stack of vinyl albums. I’ve been in that store for many years and now wonder how long they’ve been hidden away there.
I did find an lp I wanted but as there was a mark on the sleeve I asked an assistant if that was the only copy (I suspected it would be). I know the assistant was quite young and probably a seasonal worker, but she responded by asking what it was. I don’t blame the young girl, but surely she had no real knowledge or training about what the store sold. Maybe she’d never ventured round that dark corner either.

Mike F

I received an email from HMV about the sale. Somewhat excitedly I went to the Southampton store to find you could barely tell there was one on. Nothing of major interest that seemed to be in the sale, and it was very subtle. I stumbled across some kind of sign at waist height that declared yellow stickered items were half price, and there was a sorry display of some CDs and about 3 albums on vinyl. Some CDs in the racks had yellow stickers, but I didn’t notice this until after I’d seen the sign. Really poor. It’s like HMV aren’t even trying, like they don’t want to succeed.

Mike

Long may they be run by idiots, i picked up the Big Country BBC Sd boxset and TFF Hurting for 37 quid together today.

Karen

Which hmv store was that in?

SimonP

Even my HMV Pure (or whatever it’s called) card hasn’t been reactivated yet, despite them emailing me several months ago encouraging me to sign up again. Customer service have given up replying to my emails asking why it’s not happening. The stupid website won’t let me sign in as an existing customer OR register as a new one!

Rob Puricelli

In a bizarre moment today, I ventured into the Bury St. Edmunds HMV today, simply because, as I said previously, I cannot walk past without looking in. I thought I’d see if they had any vinyl and in a moment of sheer spookiness, I walked past another customer who was, at that very second, asking a young assistant where they kept their vinyl.

With an incredibly embarrassed tone to his voice, the young lad gestured to the PS3 demo console and said, “I’m afraid we don’t have much and it’s all there on that shelf”.

I looked over and, on top of the unit that juts out from the wall and bears the locked down PS3 controllers, was a pitiful collection of vinyl. Six titles to be precise, two of which were Beatles reissues. However, the sixth title in this pile was the fabulous ‘After Dark 2’ compilation from the Italians Do It Better label, a triple album on clear vinyl for £16.99, which I snapped up straight away!

But, even post Xmas, the box sets were in huge abundance, with walls of t-shirts and headphones and the same, tired music section which accounts for probably 25% of the sales floor.

However, I have to admit that for the first time in a very, very long time, I walked out of an HMV store with something new and exciting and probably for the first time since 1980-something, it was a piece of 12 vinyl!

Claudio Dirani

That’s the bare truth. They no longer see us as music fans. Looking back, it was really heartbreaking to witness all NYC big stores being discontinued. Towers, Virgin, HMV…you name it.

Plus, it’s a shame that one of London’s and music landmarks is sentenced to death. I’ve got wonderful recollections buying several CD singles and fabulous stuff in those stores. Rest in peace.

Paul Hillier

I thought Hilco had promised that they’d turn HMV back into a music store… Or did I misread something?

Paul Hillier

I thought Hilco had promised that they’d turn HMV back into a music store… Or did misread something?

SimonSays

Are they flagging? Isn’t the crossed out HMV logo a little OTT? Personally I find HMV much better than it was before it went bump. Of course it’s not what it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, but it never will be. People just don’t want that, sadly.

The sale of the London Oxford Street and Manchester store leases was agreed months ago, not long after they came out of administration. Both those stores seemed way too big for them these days. There are about 3 stores that are actually being shut for good, mainly because they had bargain rent agreements from when they came out of admisnistration (including lengthy rent-free periods) that have now run out and landlords are now increasing the rents on these stores beyond what Hilco is prepared to pay.

It’s depressing to still read comments about overpricing and lack of music. The prices are often on a par with Amazon and regularly cheaper on many things too. Catalogue prices range roughly from £3-£10 for a single CD depending on the age of the album – the same discs would’ve cost £10-£16 a year ago. I see older albums in HMV for £2.99 or £3.99 that even iTunes is still asking £7.99 for. Of course some things will always cost more in a real store than online, but they’re getting a pretty good balance.

My local store has gone from having a tiny music section hidden away at the back of the first floor, to an entire floor dedicated to back catalogue CDs and a pretty decent vinyl section too, plus there is still the chart and promotion stuff on the ground floor. You’re not going to find everything in there, but chances are you will get what you want. Was it ever any different? The staff are knowledgable and friendly and I really can’t complain about it. Yes there are loads of DVDs and Blu-rays piled high but there always has been. 2o years ago we had a 2-floor HMV video-only store, even though the regular music store next door to it sold videos too.

And to the guy who said he works in HMV – refunds haven’t been given on CDs for quite some time. You’d be hard pushed to find a supermarket that would give you anything other than an exchange for a faulty CD or DVD.

As for the stores that are keeping pricier items behind the counter, surely they are ones that have suffered with high levels of theft? I doubt they are doing it out of some sort of lack of respect for customers. I know certain stores will remove discs from Blu-ray steelbooks before putting them on shelves because they will just get stolen. This often annoys genuine customers who want sealed, untouched products, etc., but you can’t really berate the stores that feel the need to take these measures.

I think turning HMV around is a massive task and I’m not sure we have seen everything yet and it has only been eight months or so. Too soon to suggest it’s all over, at least.

Eric

Oh and…

4. The re-launched PureHMV scheme is a total farce; staff have not been told what it says on their own website about adding points, and even store managers are in the dark. The scheme itself is also offering around 50% of the value it did before…something like 30,000 points to get a couple of quid discount. Why bother?

Eric

Not much I can really add to what’s already been said so well, except to particularly agree that:

1. Paul’s article/attitude is in no way “anti-HMV”, and never has been. Like the rest of us here, he’s a music nut and despairs at the way things are going in general with music retail and the lack of progress since Hilco rescued the HMV brand.

2. There is most likely a feeling within the industry that old-fashioned physical retail is no longer desirable. Maybe only high-end products direct from the label appeals to them (see: the Roger Taylor mess, and how customers buying direct from Universal were better served than those on amazon).

3. For all the promises in 2013, a few minutes in any HMV store this Xmas would show absolutely no change from the year before, immediately prior to the crash. CDs of Reality TV, Urban, Teen Pop and Seasonal material were piled up to the ceiling, along with endless reduced boxsets of old films and TV.

jamesgiraffe

I had a brilliant idea a few years ago that I thought would save HMV. Unfortunately, I didn’t tell this idea to anyone, yet somehow Amazon read my mind and called it Auto Rip. My idea was that you buy music in an HMV shop, give them your membership card and they scan it and the digital files of the CD / vinyl / whichever format get uploaded to “the cloud” so you can listen to your purchase on the bus back home!

Such a terrible shame that it’s the big Oxford Street HMV that is closing. That was once the world’s biggest record store, wasn’t it? I’m sure it used to say that above the entrance.

I have so many happy memories about that HMV, and I’m only 36. Music lovers older than me will doubtless have thousands more memories.

It would be nice if we could collect all those memories somewhere.

Lee Colbran

There are some really interesting comments in this thread. One of the elements that is clear is there still a great deal of love for HMV. The fact of the matter is times have changed and HMV have not adapted the business to deal with consumer buying habits and technology changes.

One of the comments stated that HMV were nothing more than box shifters now “The simple fact is that HMV are no longer a music retailer, they are a box shifter. Stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap.” I have to say I find HMV to be very expensive when compared with Amazon. I was stunned to find the business had removed transaction capability, in fact I am still trying to get my head around this huge backward step.

HMV is a casualty of changing times albeit not seemingly helped by the business owners.

Daran

+1 The music industry would like to see the end of physical product, except for special editions where they can charge a premium and make more money. They still don’t want to sell them in the high street though. I read an article recently that said the future for retail of many items is going to be more special order / limited runs. Which is surprising as the world economy grows (excepting recent history of course), and you would think everything would be mass produced – but I can quite see small runs of music physical product for fans. Alan Wilder of Recoil (ex Depeche Mode) wrote a web open letter about this very phenomena and the demise of the music industry. He had loyal fans in Europe put together a ltd edition CD single with high quality artwork and packaging and Alan suplied new mixes of some of his songs. They did a run of a few thousand at a premium price and they all sold out. Could well be the future as the music biz fragments even more of the next few years. The real concern to me is will there be universal players like the Oppo range in production to play CD’s / SACD’s / DVD-A etc.

Jason

I do agree with pretty much all the comments here, but I am not sure that HMV itself can be blamed fully with why it is struggling.

Firstly – although I too always thought of HMV as a record shop, it has been dealing with non-music stuff for the best part of 21 years (or more) – when I think back to where I bought my VHS copy of “Batman Returns”, it wasn’t an ex-rental copy from Blockbuster but was in a Virgin, or a Tower, or an HMV. After all, I can’t think of a specialist shop detailing in movie sales only (any takers here? My wife can’t think of one either), so all HMV are doing is trying to get into that market. Yes, it is heartbreaking when you have to walk past stacks of DVDs to find the music section, but I guess that at some point, somebody must have looked at the profit margins on DVD sales, the profit margin on music sales, and acted accordingly.

Secondly, the rise of downloading has quite obviously had an impact. HMV at the end of the day are a business, and no business is going to stock a limited edition single when most of the sales of that single are likely to be via iTunes. Much has been made here of why HMV aren’t stocking more vinyl given that vinyl sales are up, but those sales are minimal in terms of actual units when compared to the numbers shifted 25 years ago. I remember when Birmingham had a HMV on the corner of New Street a few years back, and recall seeing the same vinyl albums sitting in there week after week – in reality, these were niche releases and so the chances of them selling these records was really hit or miss. So you can see why they are going to be reluctant to stock the latest Bowie 12″ at £8 a pop, because there is no assurance they will shift them. I even recall the owner of an indie shop once telling me that they refused to get involved in Record Store Day because they were in danger of making a loss if they couldn’t shift the stock, as the labels were “suggesting” the prices they had to sell the records for.

I would assume that the reason Fopp are “better” is because HMV is being touted as their ‘general entertainment’ arm, and Fopp the “proper” music outlet. But in towns and cities where there is no Fopp, then your local HMV will look very much like a supermarket only with not so much food on sale! Short of opening a Fopp in every town where there is a HMV, I can’t see this changing.

Will they survive? It depends what happens with the movies, as there seems to be a move away from even Blu-Ray to downloading films and TV boxsets from iTunes now. That probably would kill them if that continues to rise. I would love to see them move the music back to the front, stock ALL physical singles and just see what happens, but the trouble is, such a large percentage of music buyers are either downloading or buying from Amazon at lower prices. Long before the troubles of the recent years, HMV shops had already had to streamline what they stocked, the Romford HMV stopped selling 7″ singles in about 1999 because of a (and I quote) “lack of demand”. iTunes simply hasn’t helped matters, and the more people are encouraged to download, then the harder it is going to be for HMV to get back on track.

bob

The Tottenham Court Road store will close. Sports Direct seem to be taking over London.

jamesgiraffe

Which HMV on Oxford Street is going to become a Sports Direct, please? I’ve looked online, and I can only see that HMV’s “flagship” store will become Sports Direct. I can’t see which one though? The one at the Tottenham Court Road end, or the one near Bond Street? Either way, it’s a crying shame. Didn’t Virgin on Oxford Street also become a sports shop?

bob

I am sure that HMV stopped giving refunds several years ago, in fact I know they did.

Phil

To respond to the guy who has been working at HMV – why on earth should people expect to be able get refunds on CDs or DVDs because they simply don’t like them or say they “made a mistake”? Once an item and has been opened then it’s tough luck. HMV is a shop, not a free lending library.

Metal Mickey

1) Just to second the above positive comments about Fopp, all the ones I regularly visit are terrific shops with limited-but-well-chosen stock, keenly priced – I rarely leave a store without spending £20 or more, why can’t HMV learn something from their “little brother”?

2) However, and at the risk of going into conspiracy theory territory, consider who’s staying suspiciously quiet about the demise of High Street music retailing… the music industry itself. Now they’ve given up trying to force back the tide of digital music, they’d actually *prefer* to get to a 100% digital landscape, where they can start to realise some of the benefits of doing away with manufacturing, warehousing and distribution (and 2nd-hand sales!), and this part-physical/part-digital limbo isn’t doing them any good whatsoever… trust me, within 18 months or so, we’ll see the first major album to not have a physical release at all, then the floodgates will really open…

Rob Puricelli

Tom,

I don’t think anyone here is greeting this news with glee. More like an uneasy air of inevitability, wrapped up in legitimate frustration with what has been done to this once standard bearing company, and tempered with sympathy for the poor sods who have lost or will lose their jobs.

I also cannot agree with your sentiment that Paul’s article is bad, as it is based on 100% fact. His experiences in HMV stores mirror mine (and many others) completely. The simple fact is that HMV are no longer a music retailer, they are a box shifter. Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap.

What is really being attacked here is not HMV, but a culture that has nurtured the music buying environment’s change over the past couple of decades. HMV, and all the other bricks and mortar music retailing chains, failed to adapt and evolve quickly enough. Rather than accentuate the importance of a record store in terms of a music buying experience, they watered it down and tried to compete with something they couldn’t compete with. You only have to look at the music retail figures from the BPI, released the other day for 2013, to see that whilst CD sales are down, vinyl sales are up. There is still a demand for physical product, and those that are demanding it are music lovers, as opposed to pre-pubescent girls lusting after Cowell’s latest marketing spree. How many gusset-moistened girls buy vinyl or hi res Blu Ray? If HMV had rationalised sooner, maintained their reputation as a fine purveyor of music for music lovers, they might still be going strong today. As it is, they are clinging to their last remaining Matrix trilogy box sets, closing stores again and have zero relevant online presence.

As for PA’s, I think you’ll find that the few PA’s that HMV put on are simply promotional stunts run in conjunction with the likes of Syco’s marketing team. The kinds of PA’s worth going to are the ones at places like Rough Trade. What we need is more Rough Trade’s around the country. More Sister Ray’s.

Yes, I agree there should be a high street music retail presence, but HMV have ballsed it up on more than one occasion and it saddens me greatly. I spent countless days in my local HMV in the late 70s and most of the 80s and miss that experience terribly. I want it back, and so do many others, I feel. But right now, the only good thing HMV does is shift surplus DVD boxsets.

Tom

The glee with which some people reacted to hmv’s brush with administration was both alarming and very, very unpleasant. This badly written article is another sad example of that.

It’s important that it’s there on the high street and all the good things it does (like providing plenty of fans with the opportunity to meet musicians/actors for free at in-store P.As, when promoters are charging £££ for the same privilege) are worth celebrating.

Mike Bushell

I don’t think there is any glee on correspondents parts to the plight of HMV. It’s a crying shame they way they haven’t developed one jot ince the administration. Birmingham has one HMV (There used to be four not so long ago) and that is poorly stocked with row after row of exactly the same item.

The people who want to buy physical product are looking for exclusives (e.g. like Amazon are doing with the Frankie 12″ Relax single), vinyl and good back catalogue. Maybe some classical and other specialist stuff. We don’t need loads of the same chart stuff.

I want to use HMV (Birmingham doesn’t have a decent record shop) but there is nothing making me want to go.

Sorry.

Stan Butler

Can anyone have a guess at why someone in HMV thought the new website would attract customers? It is truly pathetic. Just how does this inspire you to buy music from them? At least the old site was an alternative to Amazon. Up until the final year of its demise its prices were also competitive.

The shop itself is a totally joyless experience and I’ve walked past it many times with no urge to repeat that hollow feeling you get as you leave empty handed, trying to remember that this was once a proper record shop in which you enjoyed browsing and buying from.

As Paul said, it should look at Head, learn something about presentation and pricing and first and foremost not be ashamed of its musical product, hiding it away as if it were a 1980’s sex shop that had been supplanted within the store. The past year confirms however that it has no idea.

someguy

This is my second year working at HMV (seasonal Colleague) and find it’s a great place to work with entertainment and helping customers, sadly they don’t treat the staff very well either it’s disgraceful.

I would say I like working within music as I’m a huge fan of different bands and also like passing this onto customers, for HMV it’s about trying make as much money as possible, that’s why movies & games are taking over the floor space, the music section seems to be getting smaller, we have the chart area at the front and a small area at the back for music.

The A-Z is very confusing and they mix pop, rock cd’s in with metal. They don’t understand how messed up it is, I know my way around and still find it’s like a maze finding a CD or DVD.

New for this year they will no longer do refunds on any purchases (unless faulty) when selling items they haven’t been telling customers anything, so when they return a item for a refund (say they brought it by mistake) they are told it will have to be put on a gift-card. I’ve had loads of angry customers and some sales can be £100+ – If you told someone you can’t have a refund I think they would think twice about buying it, HMV want to keep the money within the business, the gift-card will be put back into the company but refunds take it out. CLEVER!

I must also agree with the website they have managed to destroy it, I have so many customers saying they don’t know how to use it, (pass this feedback onto a manager) not interested! in my store the managers don’t really care about customers and the main boss seems to have lost focus and seems stressed out.

When HMV got rescued last year I was happy and had so many ideas how things should be done, I thought the new owners would take HMV back into the high street and make it about music / customers and offering the best service. I hear people saying Amazon have destroyed HMV but they just do things better and HMV have not changed, I have seen what they have changed and it’s just in-store signs and they no longer stock all the tablets or laptops, but stock more t-shirts and too many films.

I also think last Christmas was more busier than this year but the directors at HMV have said this January will be better than last so I think a 2nd Administration will take time, they need a clear direction and not stock everything they do (or offer it online, not taking up floor space)

Paul H

I find it sad but I’m also guilty. I have been a prolific collector for 35 years. The beautiful times that I used to spend in HMV and other stores in the 70s, 80s and 90s gave way to the ease and accessibility of online purchasing. I started with physical product and now find myself clicking and downloading more and more. I love music with every beat of my heart but if I feel like that what is the likelihood that casual music buyers will make any effort to but their top twenty choices beyond Tescos. Its a sad fact that where in live in the south of England, HMV is the only outlet in town for physical product and even there, for reasons mentioned again and again above they are not really showing an edge.

My huge loyalty to the HMV brand is also tested by the lack of real drive with their online distribution platform which I thought was excellent until the company first went into receivership, with good service and competitive pricing (postage free). I am now stuck with Amazon. Its nothing like as good, but HMV’s resurrected website serves absolutely no purpose at all….and offers no real promise of an online progress anytime soon beyond digital downloads which frankly iTunes and amazon already have stitched up.

It s a fast moving business and the 18 months that HMV have spent treading water could be critical. Very very sad for me, but ultimately the new management are not doing what they should be and rewriting the business model.

SimonP

Is that because hardware suppliers can see HMV are going down the toilet, may not get paid for their products and are therefore refusing to sell them the gear?

Malcy93

Daran your comments are very similar to my own, but I do think that HMV’s time has passed as the customer profile of those who want “real” music on vinyl or CD ages. That works for an independent who has a loyal customer base and probably a mail order and online presence but not for a 100+ national chain paying high street and shopping centre costs. I am mid 40s and you look at children and even 20 something’s today and they only want downloads, my niece wants Amazon or iTunes vouchers these days.

I can also see why HMV switched to DVD and games as you need better internet access to make these viable whereas with downloading a single everyone’s in the UK web access is good enough. Just look at the bargain prices on DVD as they will disappear to a niche in a few years as Netflix and Lovefilm take over. With the roll out of fibre and the new generation of consoles with more web features more of those products move online as well so less for HMV to sell.

In terms of web selling, HMV have restarted but only a limited range to Irish customers. I did read that they said with the minuscule margins that CD and DVD mail order selling in the UK was unviable with the high postage costs. Sainsburys Entertainment online who have the biggest CD range behind Amazon for the mainstream consumer are closing online sale of physical product and going download only in a few months, whilst theHut group which includes Zavvi stopped music sales online over a year ago but continued with DVD and games. As said physical product in a few years will only be vinyl and deluxe boxsets or niche pressings for CDs the rest will be downloads unfortunately.

Daran

News today that 2013 CD sales are down quite considerably. I think the future will be to offer physical product only through niche outlets to a niche audience – perhaps all physical product will be deluxe edition types / audiophile formats at a premium price to the 30+ something generations who can and are willing to pay more for it. That’s us I guess!

The kids – well they just want mp3’s. They don’t care as passionately about music like we did. Without generalising too much the celebrity/lifestyle aspect of music stars is almost worth more to them than the artistry. Not their fault, as they have been brought up (educated?) to ‘consume’ music as a commodity product like breakfast cereal.

Happy new year to all SDE readers. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Simon

I can’t say anything meaningful because there are no music stores of any sort anywhere near where i live. If i have anything meaningful to say it is that fact saddens me although i have learnt online browsing can be fun – spend thirty minutes on cdbaby and see how you get on.

But I do just want to say the passions displayed by Paul’s opening statement and by several of the comments that followed are impressive and make me pleased to be part of this community. We are not a community that will just allow retail experience and service to disappear unchallenged just so someone else’s pockets can be lined. Thank you.

Andrew Bean

I’m baffled by how the branches can vary so much…the Trocadero branch was significantly better for music than either of the Oxford Street branches. The Islington branch may be known for hardware now, but I don’t remember this always being the case…there was a sudden change of policy some years ago in which most of the music and DVDs shrank into a corner to make room for Apple products.
I think I got disillusioned with HMV sometime in the mid-90s, when I noticed that the Bond Street branch didn’t actually stock any music books at all, just bestselling fiction. Despite the ‘history of HMV’ panels all over the shop, the assistant I spoke to didn’t seem to find this unusual!
I assume that HMV’s inevitable demise will also take FOPP with it, which is a shame….I will miss it though, even at its worst, visiting an HMV was preferable to the soulless monstrosity of a Virgin store!

SimonP

I completely fail to see what the new owners of HMV are doing to improve sales. My local branch is in Bath and it is exactly the same now as it was before the company went into administration. It sells all the same crap and it’s all in the same place in the store.

Rob Puricelli

I find the demise of HMV incredibly sad. Back in the 70s, living in Norwich, we had a plethora of stores to buy our music. Boots, Woolworths, Ace, Backs, Andy’s, Gooses, Jarrolds, Top Deck, Willson’s, to name but a few. However, most of us gravitated to HMV. I think because it was a national brand, recognised for being a quality music store. Yes Joe, a MUSIC store. HMV was a record label and a music retailer. That was it. And back then, it had everything, and in depth. Wall to wall displays, loads of crates to dig through, common sense categorisation, knowledgeable and friendly staff and a buzz and vibe that made it cool to hang there for entire afternoons, listening to music, checking out girls, buying music, checking out more girls and talking bollocks with your mates. But ultimately, you always came out of there with some new music (and maybe a girlfriend!) ;-)

Sometimes, it was new music you wanted, other times it was new music you’d been recommended. On occasion, you did that thing where you saw something and bought it on a whim because you liked other stuff on that label, or you recognised the producer, or you liked the sleeve, or the girl you fancied was into them and you wanted to impress them. But it was a way of life. It was what Saturday’s were all about.

Nowadays, you’re lucky if you walk out of HMV with so much as your own sanity. And that saddens me greatly. I’m my own worst enemy because, to this day, I cannot walk past a record store without going in and having a look. And every time I go into HMV, be it either one of the two we have in Norwich, or the ones in Ipswich or Bury St. Edmunds, I come out feeling frustrated, sad, confused and just a little bit “dirty”. Worst of all, I come out empty handed. You see, I go in with the expectation that there might be some gem, some unturned stone, something that’ll make my day. But no. That hasn’t happened in HMV, for me anyway, since circa 1989.

I went into HMV on Sunday, hoping to find some bargains in the sale. Ha! Unless I wanted a DVD boxset of some shoddily cobbled together ‘series’ of movies or TV shows, I was dead out of luck. A browse through the ever diminishing CD racks showed that unless I was after an artist or band’s greatest hits or their best selling album, I might as well not bother. So I thought I’d take a look at the vinyl. I searched high and low and eventually found six small boxes in a dim and dark recess, tucked between the posters and the t-shirts, that contained approx 60 titles in no particular order.

HMV is a pitiful, decrepit shadow of its former self. It died years ago and has been on life support ever since. Soon, someone will have the balls to pull the plug. This will be a sad day for all those still employed there and my advice to them would be to get out whilst they can because the prognosis is terminal.

That said, yesterday, I ventured into Ipswich and visited Out of Time Records. At least here the spirit is somewhat alive, although a bit coughy and spluttery. In this back-breaking tiny store, where one has to learn the skill of bodily contortion to navigate their stock, there lies a huge amount of music, both on CD and vinyl, as well as some compact cassettes to boot. However, it’s not perfect either. I asked if they stocked new release vinyl and was told that they didn’t because it’s just to expensive for them to buy from the wholesalers. However, I spent £20 and came out with 10 pieces of vinyl, including a Gary Numan live box set, a Lacuna Coil album on 180g vinyl and a good number of ZTT 12″ singles. The buzz that gives me is palpable!

People can blame the download culture, or the rise of Amazon for the downfall of the bricks and mortar music retailer, but one must also blame the retailers for being guilty of not evolving properly. Stocking video games, headphones, tablets, t-shirts, posters and vending machines isn’t going to keep them alive. They need to wake up and realise that it isn’t the product that solely brings the punter through their door. It has to be about the experience. Ask any successful retailer and they will tell you that it isn’t about what they sell, it’s about the experience the customer has when making their purchase. Visiting HMV (and I only single them out because they’re the only nationwide music retailer left on the high street) is an awful experience. Some indies get it bang on, others not so, but they are ultimately more satisfying experiences than HMV.

There is, I am certain, a way of getting the blend right, of holding the right stock and complementing it with a great music buying experience. I only buy from Amazon because they are often the only place to buy a lot of music nowadays. But I hate the experience. There’s no fun in it. I can’t talk to people doing the same thing, I can’t make friends based on the stuff the pull out of a box, I can’t study liner notes, I can’t talk to someone with in depth knowledge and without a patronising tone. Most of all, I can’t check out girls and try and impress them with my music buying prowess! ;-)

I love what technology has done for my music consumption. I love the fact that I can have my entire music collection on a network drive, accessible by all my devices around the house, or by my mobile devices when I’m not at home. I love Spotify and how I can pay to be able to access a wealth of music anywhere I am, instantly. But I also love buying music, collecting music, sharing music, talking about music, listening to music and all of these things could be done at once in a decent record store. A tad nostalgic, yes, but spend an hour in a place like Sister Ray or Rough Trade and you will see what it was like for me as a kid in the 70s.

I don’t profess to know how music buying will be in the future, but I’d like to think that there is still a place for an actual record store that sells lots of music, stocking as many artists as possible and stocking them in depth. Leave the chart fodder to others. Let the sheep download that detritus and continue to be told what to listen to by the accountants and marketing teams. Let the rest of us indulge in the beauty and wonder of the discovery and consumption of the musical art form.

Dave

The HMV I use is the Leeds branch. After the doldrums at the beginning of last year, with the desperate blue cross sale and a massive reduction in range it has turned round and the music has been placed centrally upstairs. The range of back catalogue and new stuff is now superb and very competitive, for example I bought Pink Floyd’s The Wall experience edition there this week for £11.99 which is cheaper then Amazon. The staff are friendly and helpful and I hope it survives. I agree that having to ask for box sets seems ridiculous though. But in summary this shop reminds me of the good old days.

backwards7

I was a loyal customer at the HMV in Southend-on-Sea. After the dust from last year’s administration issues settled, I was very pleased to see them expand their music section.

However they suck at stocking reissues which form a large part of what I buy. Their failure to order the recent Bananrama remasters was an unforgivable oversight in my eyes and I knew that the time had come for us to part ways.

In its final months the music department upstairs at HMV Trocadero was superb. Passionate, knowledgeable staff (which contrary to received wisdom HMV has always had in spades). I bought Diamond Head by Phil Manzanera on a recommendation. It’s great and something that I would have never thought to buy independently.

Phil

I’ve been in my local HMV (Derby) a few times recently and have been pleasantly surprised by the pricing in there. They do seem to be a lot more competitive than in the past (chart CDs £9.99, recent releases around £7 for example). They do seem to have at least learnt that lesson.

But the store was still a bit of a mess and very unfocused.

But the real issue for them is that they sell products that most people increasingly don’t want to buy.

Disillusioned old guy

I have visited HMV stores for nearly 50 years. A few days before Christmas I went up to Oxford St in London for the first time since the January [2013] administration. What a horror show! 150 Oxford St had [?has] a huge really cheap [4 for £10 that day] basement sale. Could I be bothered to find stuff? No, because it was all chucked in together, like a litter bin. At least if they had had the sense to divide the stock up by category when it was put out customers might have searched through their specialisms. Lazy and horrible. I then went back to #363, their old and soon again to be the London flagship store. I don’t remember the escalators from incarnation #1 but this again was depressing: a minimal range of CDs on the first floor, claustrophobic lighting and worst of all tilted racks so that seeing what was on sale at knee and ankle level was virtually impossible. I was told that some suppliers will not deal with HMV so that might explain the absence of some range and the negligible number of imports.

My local store is now Reading and it is not too bad, certainly more attractive than #363, but like other commentators here I cannot see them surviving medium term with the strategy being pursued. They need a decent London flagship store even if it only breaks even to act as a focus for visitors and tourists. They need range. They need a pricing strategy that says it will only be a minimal amount above the internet, worth paying for having the product in hand. For ‘delicate’ material that can be damaged in transit they need a pricing policy that will match up Amazon. I have said this before that even Amazon, let alone the record companies, need HMV as a shop front and if Hilco 1) cannot see this and 2) get deals with suppliers that enable such a strategy to be fulfilled, then HMV has had it. A final question: why have they given up on online sales: do they not a central warehouse [I thought they had 3] that could do omline as well as feed the stores. I am sure Hilco can mince the numbers but I really cannot see HMV succeeding with the present offering. Very sad.

Mr Tim

is it chicken and egg ? The phrase from the above post rings true about newer customers not existing, or the market shrinking as the youth want downloads. So as the market dissapears what do you do as HMV ? GO for passing trade, dvd, games, top ten,tv advertised new albums, impulse shoppers and xmas shoppers.
Maybe its too easy to blame HMV for going down this route, they may argue that even if they were operating as they used to with larger back catologue stocks etc… it still might not be enough. paying rent and tax ! could they compete long term with such low overhead operations as Amazon ? im not so sure.
All of us SDE readers are are now a niche market, we are actually willing to pay for the product ! if HMV was still all good and we were all in there every week could HMV still make a network of large (exspensive) shops run at a profit. Are there enough of us out there ? would we all foresake amazon and the others ? Im not sure…
Management of decline.