Of the recent high street collapses, none has had quite the impact on the national consciousness as that of HMV. People remember where they were when they bought a record in a way that they don't when the purchase is a fridge, or even a camera, regrettable though the demise of both Comet and Jessops has been.
If the emotional jolt caused by the news that HMV has gone into administration helps focus attention on the trauma the country's high streets are living through, then it could be salutary. Whatever HMV's latter shortcomings – and its failure to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions has played a big part in its fall – what has happened lends a new urgency to a number of questions. What are our high streets for? Do we want the proliferation of coffee outlets and charity shops to continue unchecked? What does it mean for communities if life leeches out of town centres?
The work done so far by Mary Portas, appointed in 2011 to look at ways to rejuvenate the high street, is barely adequate in the face of the calamities now occurring. More government thinking and engagement are needed.
All that said, though, HMV was a classic case of a business left so comprehensively stranded by the online revolution that it never recovered. Add some poor and unimaginative management, and its fate hardly surprises. But now up to 4,500 people stand to lose their jobs and the fact that Amazon – whose rise has had such a dramatic effect on high street record shops – is so often cited among leading tax avoiders only adds insult to the injury.
From what HMV's boss, Trevor Moore, said today, the company may not be without a future. Of its 240 stores, around half could be profitable once it has got rid of its debt. HMV still accounts for 35 per cent of CD sales, and a scaled-down operation that boosts its online presence and adopts more of the "niche" principles of modern business thinking could yet thrive. We hope we haven't heard the last of His Master's Voice.Reuse content