If you’ve ever spent any time on a UK high street, you’ll probably be familiar with music retailer HMV and their eye-scorchingly bright black and pink store fronts. You may also be familiar with their frequently hilarious overpricing, perversely good value offers – “5 Blu-Rays for £30? Don’t mind if I do!” – and their cheery Terrier mascot, Nipper the Dog.
Like many UK retailers HMV has suffered the slings and arrows of the recession and finally succumbed to the inevitable today, going into administration with the prospect of 239 stores closing and 4000 staff losing their jobs – a statistic which fair chills the blood as I type it. Of larger effect is the impact that HMV’s closure will have on the retail sector as a whole.
In the last few years, we’ve lost UK retailers like Virgin, their successor Zavvi, Woolworths, Game and we’ve seen the resilient likes of WH Smith drastically cut back on their stock of cds, dvds and games – if you want to buy digital media in those formats, you’ve got a choice between online or taking your chances with the dwindling number of independent stores in the UK offering such products. And as Play.com just announced plans to segue into an eBay-esque ‘marketplace’ offering, the online stockists selling Blu-Rays isn’t getting any bigger.
I’m ambivalent towards HMV, if truth be told. Theirs was a store that I headed to if I had a gift card to redeem, but a combination of stiff prices, unwelcoming stores, online competition and stock homogenisation sent me elsewhere for my media kicks. Younger kids prefer downloads and streaming, older consumers are cannier with their cash and will hunt high and low for a better price for physical discs- the question of whom HMV is for anymore may be the key to their unmaking.