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HMV to increase music stock

By | Published on Tuesday 17 January 2012


HMV has once again stressed that, even though it is busy throwing over ever more floor space to iPads and headphones, the retail chain remains committed to selling music. And, in fact, the number of racks dedicated to music product is likely to increase in the coming months, as is the amount of vinyl the high street store stocks.

Presumably more CDs and records, alongside ever more tech product, will mean fewer DVDs and games, more likely the latter, given HMV chief Simon Fox recently admitted the gaming market was increasingly competitive as supermarkets push into that particular zone, and that the amount of floor space given to the area in his shops was likely to be reduced.

A spokesperson for HMV told NME yesterday: “A lot of customers have been asking us to increase the amount of racking we dedicate to music in store and we’re pleased to say we’ll be doing a lot more of that soon – in fact we’re also planning to significantly increase our range of vinyl in quite a few locations as well. Unlike singles, around 75% of albums are still sold in CD format, and a sizeable chunk of these are bought by customers who like to purchase them in store. A lot of us talk about having a vibrant high street at the heart of the community, but that’s not going to happen by itself – if that’s what people want, then, along with buying online and downloading, they also need to support their local stores and specialist chains”.

The last bit of that quote does read a little bit like “please come to our shops and buy things, please, please, please, please”, even if what the retailer is trying to say is, technically, a valid point. Given the firm’s current highly known woes, which will likely force the sale of its only profitable division, the MAMA Group, NME also asked HMV’s spokesman if he thought management there had made any mistakes. Said spokesman pointed the finger of blame, albeit very politely, to the HMV top guard of ten years ago.

Says HMV: “Clearly, we wouldn’t be where we are today without having made some mistakes and the seeds of many of the challenges we now face were actually sown a good ten or more years ago. There were an amazing generation of people who worked here then – incredibly passionate about music and highly driven, that helped to make HMV a powerhouse of music and entertainment retail – but, ironically, that very same culture arguably blinkered us to some of the changes that were beginning to bubble away around us, including the first stirrings of the internet. It meant that we didn’t fully anticipate and act on the opportunities that could potentially be developed online, whereas others did. If we could go back a decade, that’s the one thing we’d change”.

It might seem unfair to blame long since departed execs for HMV’s current hardships though, again, technically speaking the retailer is right to say most of its problems today have their origins in catastrophic decisions made by delusional execs between 1995 and 2005. Though to excuse those bad decisions by saying the bosses of the day totally missed the internet because their intense passion for music was such a big distraction is rather generous.

As with the big record companies, a general arrogance in senior circles at big music retail ten years ago, coupled with an over reliance on expensive and equally arrogant lawyers and IT consultants, caused most of today’s problems, and resulted in HMV handing the then emerging entertainment mail-order business on one plate to Amazon, and the now huge download market to Apple on another.

HMV’s close alliance with the majors – important customers of the retailer’s pay-to-rack services back in the day – didn’t help, and ensured HMV’s first entry into the digital market was one of the most woeful digital products to ever sully the internet. Which is something those veteran execs still running major labels might like to think about if their product totally disappears from the high street later this year.

Still, that’s all water under the bridge really. Whether the continued strength of its brand, a lucrative sale of MAMA, and some tinkering of relative stock levels will assure HMV’s survival, short term and long term, remains the story of the moment.