His Master's Voice - The next high street casualty?
With HMV going into administration for the second time in 6 years, what can the business do in order to make it more appealing to the discerning customers?
The news over the Christmas period that HMV was being placed into administration was perhaps unsurprising to many.
The resurgence of vinyl has evidently not been sufficient for a company where the business model still involves large numbers of physical product (such as DVDs) being sold.
As someone that spent endless hours in his youth trawling the racks of HMV in Leicester and then later in London, the nostalgia factor amongst a certain age-group is still strong, particularly if like me, your preference is still for a physical product to own, rather than just a digital file that sits on your PC or phone.
That’s not to say it’s impossible for the physical and digital to co-exist (for example, including download codes with vinyl is one way) – and perhaps this is where HMV have not kept up with the times or worked closely enough with the music industry, especially considering the administration they went through only 6 years before.
I was surprised to see some very flippant and dismissive comments about HMV made in a number of publications (one example here) which missed the fact that for so many of us, the entry-point of first walking into a record shop was never a specialist or independent shop, but somewhere like HMV.
I commented on the way in which boutique High St shops were personalising the customer experience in my last blog – they were undertaking this in a way I was not seeing with the larger outlets, who didn’t seem to see customers as individuals.
The way HMV portrays itself can seem confusing:
Selling DVDs? People are streaming films in greater numbers now, and with the number of sites now available, the need to ‘own’ a film has never been as strong as owning music anyway.
Selling tech? Well, it’s not particularly good quality tech, is it?
Selling fairly generic film and music-related t-shirts? Other High Street & online retailers do it better, and often cheaper, with a wider range of product to suit those niche tastes.
So why not just concentrate on the music? Fill the stores with experts and knowledgeable staff that are passionate about music, so more people feel compelled to visit, browse and buy an item that they are proud to own.
Hosting more in-store gigs, signing sessions, live interviews with bands and well-known personalities in the music industry can demonstrate how unique HMV are to the High Street – the shop becomes an ‘event’, and becomes a more attractive proposition to attract the right kind of footfall, and in turn improving the customer experience.
So many brands seem to be reliant on their heritage and this is perhaps where HMV has also made mistakes – the idea that people will visit simply (and subsequently purchase) because they exist and have a presence is not enough, especially with an increasing proportion of the population becoming ever-more comfortable with making online purchases.
I really hope HMV pulls through – but there may be more pain to go through before this happens.