It will take more than sweets to make customers stay with HMV

Online sales and illegal downloads may see HMV leave the high street

Share
Related Topics

And there he was – a 20-something Sales Assistant in a santa hat, walking up and down the Noah’s Ark-like queue that stretched from the tills at the front to the vinyl section at the back. He was offering the customers sweets in a bid to make them stay. The idea was presumably to convince them that it would be worth them queuing up (listening to Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey et al) long enough for them to actually end up paying for the things they’d selected from the shop floor. 

It’s been a tough week for high street music retailer HMV. After suffering a 40 per cent drop in shares on Thursday, at the time of writing they’ve now sunk to 2.4p. But then it’s also been a tough year, so this shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. In January, reports of an 8.1 per cent fall in sales in the lead up to (last) Christmas prompted a new focus on technology sales for 2012, with 144 stores refitted to accommodate an increased array of gadgets and shiny paraphernalia. As would be expected, technology sales were soon up (by 51 per cent) but this didn’t stop the music giant from going ahead with plans to begin selling off its live music division, HMV Live.

Following the sale of bookseller Waterstones for £53m in 2011, in 2012 HMV then began to dispose of its venues. It accepted £32 million for the Hammersmith Apollo and, earlier this month, £7.3m for various bits of its MAMA Group, the business behind The Forum and festivals Lovebox and GlobalGathering. But the unfortunate truth is that HMV still looks to finish the year saddled with £180m of debt. Who knows – maybe the sweets were actually for the employees?

Joseph Robinson of retail consultancy Columnio has commented: “The unfortunate fact remains that HMV's proposition has become increasingly irrelevant in the modern retail landscape.” Certainly, one of the things which has continued to sap customers from the shop floor this year has been the undeniable temptation for the consumer of the online market. Sure, it might take a few days to get here, but the majority of us would much rather pay less for something online, and from the comfort of our own record collection, than we would traipse down the high-street and queue up to pay for it today with real money.

That said, HMV has, in the past, been criticised for allowing its virtual, online shopping environment to completely contradict its “real life” one. HMV seemed to specialise in offering cut-rate offers online, but then expected you to pay up if you’d gone to the trouble of visiting them in person. Despite the fact that the its high-street incarnation receives over three times as many visits as its online one does (170 million compared to 50 million), you couldn't always find the bargains on the shelves. Online and in-store deals are now consistent, however. 

Of course, the greatest irony is that the internet allows you to access most of what HMV’s trying to sell you for free. The idea that anyone would go onto the internet to then place an order for something 3D which would eventually turn up on your doorstep, only for you to then make it ‘2D’ again by listening to, watching, or playing it, is confusing. Whether you stream or illegally download an album, the unfortunate reality is that technology means that you needn’t pay for it if you can’t be bothered to. Ed Sheeran’s ‘+’, for example, is the most illegally downloaded album of 2012 in the UK.

However, what it appears we will pay for (and extortionately at that) is to go and see live music. It’s a paradox in an age that is obsessed with virtual reality and technology. Such is the hype that now surrounds live music, instead of having people at gigs who are there, well, just to enjoy the music, it’s become necessary for them to Tweet, Instagram or even just plain film what is happening on the stage in front of them. YouTube is now full of uploads of performances, only those, unlike the album deep cuts you’ll find on the same user’s channel, will have been paid for.

It was Alanis Morissette who liked to sing about irony and I can’t help but feel that her 1996 single – “Ironic” – would’ve made an apt soundtrack to HMV’s financial year. Whilst they may have been clawing back the millions, they may actually have been getting rid of their most profitable assets – venues.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, arrives with his son Prince George at the Lindo Wing to visit his wife and newborn daughter at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, Britain, 02 May 2015  

Prince George's £18,000 birthday gift speaks volumes about Britain's widening wealth inequality

Olivia Acland
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'