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If we lose HMV, it isn’t a shop or brand that is going – it’s a whole sector of the high street

PUBLISHED: 11:59 29 December 2018

HMV moved to Sailmakers Shopping Centre in February. Picture: KATY SANDALLS

HMV moved to Sailmakers Shopping Centre in February. Picture: KATY SANDALLS

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Music and film fan Paul Geater reflects on what the threat to the future of HMV could mean to high streets everywhere

Virgin Megastore was re-branded as Zavvi, but closed soon afterwards in 2009.   Picture Owen Hines 29.1.09Virgin Megastore was re-branded as Zavvi, but closed soon afterwards in 2009. Picture Owen Hines 29.1.09

It’s not that long ago, well 15-20 years, that the music or entertainment stores were a centrepiece of any self-respecting high street – and there was a great choice of places to find that record or film.

In Ipswich we had HMV and the Virgin Megastore in Westgate Street. Andy’s Records had a large unit in the Buttermarket Centre and Rex Records – the “new” name for Parrot Records in Queen Street was still a great place to visit.

There was also, of course, Woolworths with its large entertainment section – although it was very much aimed at the commercial end of the market and you wouldn’t find a favourite album from a couple of years ago on the shelf there! WH Smiths also had a large music and movie section.

If (and I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen) we lose HMV, we will be left with no specialist music and entertainment store. And for me, and I suspect many others of my generation, this will feel like a real nail in the coffin of the high street.

It has been 10 years since Woolworths left the British high street. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIt has been 10 years since Woolworths left the British high street. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

I know you can order CDs and Blurays from Amazon. I know you can stream music yourself (I have a Spotify account) but that’s just not the same.

Looking through the shelves to find out what’s on sale. Talking to a sales assistant who knows what they’re selling, and just the chance to browse what’s on offer is a real part of the retail experience.

When I heard about the problems faced by HMV I rushed out to buy a couple of CD’s I’d put on my Christmas wishlist but had been overlooked (it was a long list).

It seemed quite busy – but looking at my fellow shoppers I realised that they were almost all the same generation as me (within a decade or so anyway).

I know young people today are still interested in music and entertainment. But they consume it in a different way and the physical possession of a vinyl or CD isn’t important to them.

How do you change that? I really don’t know. What I do know is that without somewhere like HMV selling new music and albums that have been out some time there will be a real gap in the high street.

I love visiting second hand music stores and finding out what hidden gems I can find Out of Time records in Fore Street is great for that. But if they only place you can find new albums is on half of one aisle of the local superstore that will be a real shame.

Visiting HMV is one of the real pleasures of shopping for me and I suspect others of my generation – during a short visit to the town centre on Friday morning three people came up to me and asked if I’d heard the news about the store.

The sad fact is that if we do lose HMV, it isn’t just the loss of a store chain or a brand. It is the loss of an entire retail genre – a genre that has been a real cornerstone of the high street for decades and one whose loss would be disastrous for those of my generation.

I suppose I should have seen the signs when the company swapped its two-storey building on Tavern Street for a smaller unit in Sailmakers last year. Let’s hope something happens to save them. Otherwise I really will start to believe that the high street is doomed.

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