Where Next For HMV?

Thursday, May 2 2013
Where Next For HMV?

One of the key elements of the HMV saga was the amount of column inches, in print and online, devoted to self-professed retail experts offering the retailer advice on what it should do next.

And yet among the cacophony of voices shouting at the retailer and administrator Deloitte, few had any working knowledge of the retailer.

After it went into administration, everyone was some kind of pundit, but, as many noted, they hadn’t even been in the store. “The last time I went in HMV was some years ago,” was a phrase one seemed to come across in numerous articles telling the retailer what it should do.

How could anyone profess to offer advice when they hadn’t even gone in there for an age? To counteract the chutzpah of these assorted hacks and commentators, when the retailer emerged from this woeful period with a new owner, Hilco, in toe, we decided to talk to people who actually knew the retailer what they thought it should do next.

For if there’s one thing that HMV provided throughout its glory years, was a cldear career trajectory for its staffers. Many started on the shop floor, moved through the ranks and on to head office and, in recent years, left the retailer and went elsewhere in the industry. We canvassed the opinion of former directors, buyers and marketing staffers as to potential next moves for a new-look HMV. These include people who are now running labels, have worked at distributors and other retailers, gone into acquisitions and elsewhere.

And we think it’s made for some interesting material. What’s more, it comes from people who are passionate about the retailer, who want to see it succeed and are fully behind Nipper.

Here are there thoughts…

“I think HMV needs smaller stores and to create an effective online presence (physical and digital).

“I think it needs to restore some cred by restoring some catalogue high margin product on video and to some extent music, (including some vinyl)… It should aim to be clear market leader on Blu-ray and high-ticket boxes. But that’s not necessary on games where there really isn’t a catalogue that sells and stock has a short shelf life and high risk.

“Thank goodness HMV is dropping hardware where margins are very poor and to display it took so much space up.

“I know a lot of stores have closed, but going forward it should continue to review its portfolio and move to smaller units where they are overspaced so they can deliver a good catalogue offer more cost effectively.

“So the standard store should be something bigger than a Fopp store, but with that excitement of interesting product. This probably sounds terribly retro, but then “record stores” used to be small and carry lots of catalogue before they had to stock, VHS, games, T-shirts, mugs, hardware, books and so on. At the time that allowed HMV and Virgin to expand opening large stores, leaving the 300 small Our Prices and many others to struggle.

“But with the physical music biz, now much smaller, and DVD much more compact than VHS, smaller stores are probably the right size to be sustainable.”
Steve Gallant, consultant, Metal Guru

“It needs to make use of the iconic name and image – the dog and the trumpet, aka Nipper. It’s globally recognisable and should form a key part of messaging and marketing and PR.

“HMV.com – HMV.com needs to become a major online retailer. John Lewis has combined online and physical successfully, HMV needs to do the same. The brand name is much bigger then The Hut or Play, so why can’t it be bigger online?

“Staff – HMV needs to go back to recruiting experts who are knowledgeable, passionate and love TV, film, games and music and they need to be trained in
customer care. If you improve morale, customer care will improve.

“In-store – It needs to focus on strengths and core products – music, Vinyl, DVD, games, T-shirts, popular culture… Not alarm clocks, tablets and unrelated gadgets.

“Recognise who the customer is and stock the right product – NR, range, range, range and create a browsing environment which will bring customers back again and again and hopefully bring in a new generation of customers.

“Invest in layout, invest in loyalty.

“It needs to take a much more focussed approach and not act as a general retailer – specialise! Bring excitement back into the stores; create a point of difference through range and in0store events. Make going to a record/DVD shop fun again.”
Pete Kalhan, Fremantle Media

“Personally I believe HMV should concentrate on its core values, those values which made FOPP such a successful proposition and that is catalogue, value and range.
Realistically HMV cannot and shouldn’t try to be price competitive with the supermarkets on top end new release titles, they have such a different business model, HMV should focus on what made them successful originally which was great in-stock position, great merchandising and great customer service from staff who care about the music and films that they sell. Supermarkets will never stock in-depth range and back catalogue, they have a finite amount of space and look for the most attractive obvious offer and this is where HMV can find its space in the market.

“The edge it has over Amazon and other online etailers is the instant purchase proposition, many purchases are impulse, sometimes purchases are required the same day and online cannot deliver here.
Hopefully with the continuing consignment model and the support of studios and record labels HMV can be THE destination for serious film and music fans

“Also HMV could create a great reputation for supporting independent film and direct to DVD content as well as emerging and breakthrough music releases which often struggles to find distribution elsewhere, they could truly be the specialist retailer, this is the foundation that the company was built on and it could be the foundation for its future also.”
Rod Smith, Anchor Bay

“It is great that HMV have come through what has been a difficult time for the business and of course the staff. A lot of good people lost their jobs which is a real shame.

“I think if this is going to work HMV have to be more competitive and work to lose the perception that they are just too expensive. There was a lot of support from the public for HMV when they had difficult times and I hope that support is the backbone of rebuilding the brand.”
Neil Williams, eOne Momentum

“I really hope they give back the buying responsibility to store managers, they were always the best people to react to sales patterns and demands, whether national or local.

“They need to invest in the people and I hope that they employ staff who love the product, people who care about music and films rather than turning them into till monkeys who have tablet and headphone sales targets.

“HMV needs to advertise the website and stores together – the previous regime steadfastly refused to mention hmv.com in ANY press, which was a humungous, ongoing error.

“HMV should buy lots and lots of DVDs from 101 Films…”
Steve Davey, 101 Films

“Put someone in charge who genuinely likes the product – look at Waterstones since James Daunt took over the reins. The shops are wonderful places again. I’ve even spotted some staff smiling.

“Decide on a strategy and stick to it. It was depressing watching HMV shift policy every six months (games, gadgets, headphones, jeans, online/offline, etc)

“In-store: please give priority back to exciting, new releases. Oxford Circus looked like a messy, discount store last Christmas with mountains of boring, old box sets all over the place.”
Phil Roberts, BFI

“HMV has a great brand and, as demonstrated over recent months, a lot of love out there with the general public.

“The opportunity for the company is to refocus upon what it does best – Music, Film and DVD, carried with depth range and expertise, to clearly communicate what it is now about to its customers and then to be exceptional at that in every regard.

“Is there any reason why the flagship Oxford Circus store couldn’t, on a consignment model, stock every DVD and CD available in the UK? Wouldn’t that be a great message to get out there and make it THE place to visit in London whilst helping the company to identify previously unknown opportunities to deliver sales across the estate?

“Re-establishing those range and expertise credentials should be the key differentiator versus the competition. The success of the Fopp imprint should show how much traction a route such as this could quickly gain.

“For too long it has appeared to be a jack-of-all-trades. By dropping electronics and games hardware, realising that five copies per store of a Greatest Hits album don’t make a range retailer and delivering upon its brand’s promised range credentials the company could once again be a destination for the millions out there with a love for music, film and TV media.

“It should decide what it wants to be and then go out there and focus upon doing it well with a disregard for everything else. The opportunity is there for this to be an exceptional, successful specialist entertainment store.”
Ian Dawson, Icon

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