Rebuilding the HMV brand
The news on Sunday that a group of music and film companies were looking to come together to save HMV by discounting products to sell in store is a cause for concern. The music and the film industries are even more broken than retail.
Don't forget that music and film are exactly the same industries that didn't come up with disruptive innovations like Amazon and Spotify. This move has the potential to perpetuate a broken business model for HMV. But now that Hilco has acquired HMV’s debt, which effectively gives Hilco control of the retailer, what can it do to begin to change the game.
HMV has spent the last few years making its high street presence mini identikit versions of an Amazon warehouse, each one stocking the same anodyne guff I can buy cheaper online – I'm only likely to go in if I know what I want. There’s a parallel in the world of fast food or fast fashion: the Byron hamburger chain sell patties all over London but no two restaurants are the same because no two sites are the same, Topshop has different stock in every store. What if HMV in Hackney had exclusives that HMV Kings Road didn't?
HMV has some iconic retail locations, but there is no reason to meet your mate in the once brilliant Oxford Street store. Taking its cue from unique cinema chains like Ritzy, HMV could stop acting like a supermarket and became a destination again. A place you want to hang out in and experience the passionate, exciting and escapist world of music that shaped young identities and returns spirit to old ones. In-store gigs, record label take-overs, second-hand sellers, boutique concessions. Give His Masters Voice some personality again.
Starbucks match its stores to its locations. They're places where people hang out and meet others. And while some of HMV's current stores might be the wrong size, there is still a place for various sizes and shapes of HMV stores up and down the country.
And even better if they're staffed by passionate experts, like the wine lovers at Majestic. People that live and breathe the product, where a conversation with someone in store always leads you to walking away with more great discoveries. Celebrate difference and discovery. Amazon proudly claims to never have accidents but I have discovered some my favourite bands by accident, HMV can be the place where I do that again.
Finally, embrace digital. Not as a competitor to the retail store, but something that works alongside it that gives people more of what they want. Just like our music tastes are a mixed bag of obscure artists and guilty pleasures, so too are our listening habits including Spotify, vinyl, iTunes and good-old radio. We're listening to more music than ever before. HMV can be one of the brands at the very top of the tree that helps people get more into music and become fans. Real fans feel music and will follow it everywhere. And that’s a powerful place to build a brand.
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