HMV - a future childhood memory or a opportunity for brand revitalisation

HMV Ipswich

HMV Ipswich - Credit: Archant

LOOKING out from Archant Towers to a sea of white brings back childhood memories of days off from forced school closures playing in the snow in Cromer.

Memories of your youth often have key points that not only stick in your mind but also often come up in conversations with friends such as “what was the first record you ever bought?”

I can clearly remember going into Woolworths in Cromer with my mum to buy Ultravox’s Love’s great adventures which started a love affair with music I still have. Sadly, I now doubt that my boys will have that same experience and memories. I cannot believe that a click on a box on a website will illicit such strong emotions some 30 years later. This brings me to the current retail stalwart to struggle; HMV.

HMV opened its first store in Oxford Street, London in 1921 and currently has 231 stores all of which are now under threat as it moves into administration. The future of HMV is now clearly in the balance and there is a strong potential that it could go the way of Our Price and Andy’s Records as fond childhood memories. This despite the fact that last year, according to Verdict Research, HMV accounted for 22% of all music and video sales in the U.K.

Most commentators are putting the blame squarely on the rise of music e-commerce combined with the growth in online services such as Spotify and iTunes.


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Those certainly are major factors but they have their own pressures. A major online only competitor was Play.com which has recently ceased to be a straight etailer, caused by the closing of the Low Value Consignment relief tax loophole which meant that prices were cheaper as they were imported from the Channel Islands. But the fact remains that most of the people I know purchase single tracks or whole albums in digital form only if only to reduce storage space in their houses.

Other contributing factors have been glossed over such as the fact that as a nation we are buying less music than we did 10 years ago. The fact that music retailers faced competition not just from the internet but also from the supermarkets and their purchasing power, a major reason for many independent music stores closing. Despite all of this could HMV have done more to survive?

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That is a difficult question. Certainly you could argue that it could have reacted earlier and more strongly on the threat from online. You could also argue that the stores could have had more focus and become more experience-focussed.

However when revenue pressure starts and you move down the “pile high discount” model it’s a difficult one to escape and to move to creating a store that people want to visit rather than are afraid about knocking over piles of cheap DVD’s.

What HMV still does have though is brand value in its name and people’s emotions regarding the brand. On the day of the announcement #HMVmemories started trending on twitter, you didn’t see that with Comet. I truly hope that someone recognises a potential here and starts again with the brand. However they will need to be strong in retail, marketing, branding and also digital and companies who have managed to master all of these are extremely rare.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on twitter @timyoungman

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