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HMV fails to master the online retail game

92-year old music chain goes into administration
Tue Jan 15 2013, 11:56
HMV logo

UK MUSIC RETAILER HMV has announced it is going into administration, the latest high street victim of the internet shopping boom.

HMV, which operates 250 stores across the UK and employs 4,000 staff, had made moves to try to compete with internet giants like Amazon.

The firm launched its online store years ago, and also invested a 50 percent stake in 7digital, but has only recently begun rolling out the 'click and collect' service that has proven popular with other retail chains such as John Lewis and Argos.

It also made a big push into selling more premium items, such as headphones and games consoles, along with running a ticketing service, to decrease reliance on the fading CD and DVD business.

However, the 92-year old business struggled to turn around its fortunes, and on Monday evening it called in Deloitte as an administrator, which will let HMV continue to trade while it seeks a buyer.

This is bad news for anyone out there who has yet to spend any HMV vouchers they received for Christmas, as these will no longer be accepted - though it's not as bad as for the thousands of staff set to lose their jobs so early in the new year.

The rise in internet shopping was a key blow to the high street chains, but this was compounded for those in the entertainment industry by the shift from physical to digital services like iTunes and Netflix.

HMV was the last surviving high street music retailer after the disappearance of other chains such as Virgin, Tower Records and Zavvi.

While some might argue that HMV was a dinosaur from the physical age, with its dog and gramophone logo and its shops still full of plastic and paper, others will mourn the loss of the last remaining location on the high street where you could go in and browse through the latest films or music and find some unexpected or niche gems. Supermarkets are fine if you're happy being limited to the latest from One Directon or Susan Boyle, but they're not exactly the place to go for a broad range of entertainment choices.

The UK music industry could also be hit hard by the loss. HMV accounts for 27 percent of all DVDs sold and 38 percent of CDs, and there are no guarantee those sales will transfer to online or supermarket sales.

Hopefully HMV will find a buyer that will be able to turn around the firm's fortunes - Clintons and Waterstones are among those that have shown there's potential for regeneration. If not, the only possible glimmer of hope for the UK music industry is that the death of the final high street music chain will boost the prospects of independent music and games shops. µ


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