Yesterday morning, I set foot into the Manchester branch of HMV for what will most likely be the last time. HMV, has been a major part of my film collecting life and even though I am a participant in their downfall, I will miss the store which has been a hub of my interest in film for my entire adult life. Earlier in January, I posted about the downfall of Play.com, which ironically, was the successor to HMV for me, though other lost shops such as Music Zone was also its best high street competitor.
The root of HMV’s downfall, though it’s not totally dead yet, was their stubborn attitude towards pricing. In the late 80’s, early 90’s, the chain was always the dearest on the high street but it was also the place to go to get anything that you wanted and probably couldn’t get anywhere else. These were the days when you would order a VHS from WHSmith’s, as these were luxuries and the idea of buying a film or TV show was not common.
HMV in the 2000’s and after DVD’s took over, began to hold constant sales, reducing DVD’s to more reasonable prices, but these were actually fair prices and was not really on SALE, when other high street and online retailers where selling them at similar if not CHEAPER prices. They would also sell a disc at the full RRP as well as the sale price, but this practice was also abused, with one such incident occurring no more than a year ago. It was Toy Story on Blu-ray and they were charging £31.00 for a straight forward copy whilst play and Amazon.com would be charging no more than £15 probably less!
What was their excuse for this? It was these practices in an ever-changing and more competitive world which further damaged their reputation, with me anyway, as this was just plain underhanded and even though the high street was thinning out, the internet wasn’t. But I have some great personal memories of this store, with its nine screen video wall back in the 1990’s, which at the time was just phenomenal, as most of us just had 20″ TVs, not a bank of nine! This was the same store which would sell me my first Laserdisc player in 1998, introducing me to world of digital media before I would see the first crop of Warner Bros. DVD’s later that same year.
But let’s not forget that His Master’s Voice (HMV), was started as a music company in 1921, producing early recording equipment and gramophones, before moving into the music retail and publishing business soon after, let alone Videos, DVD’s or Blu-rays. To many, this was the top music shop and they will have many fond memories of this chain revolving around that. In many ways they failed top adapt to the changing retail environment and when they did, they were playing catch-up.
My heart goes out to the staff who are losing their jobs due to no fault of their own, and walking through the store yesterday first thing in the morning, I felt for them as they have to come to work and see banners, which I’m sure that some of them would have to put up, proclaiming that the iconic store was closing and that all the stock was top be liquidated. The only winners here are the suppliers of these signs, which are appearing all over the country!
HMV will carry on, I presume as an online retailer, but their days are numbered. The brand was born on high street, Oxford Street, London to be precise and will die there. Good luck to all the staff and I personally will miss seeing HMV on the high streets or in the malls but the management have made their decisions and in my lifetime, they’ve been burying this brand and breeding bad blood, and now they’re paying the piper. It’s a shame to seem them go but not a surprise.