Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Why we reached day the music shop died

The eventual administration of HMV may have come as a disappointment but certainly won't be a surprise to any who have watched its management scramble for the road to profit over the last few years.

Once the doyen of High Street music chains, it felt every one of its 91 years with the onset of the digital age which it refused to take seriously as a challenger to its position.

While its competitors were embracing new-fangled means of downloading music, it was snail-like in its approach.

Some commentators have called it complacency, some a lack of foresight but whatever happened during those transition years there's no doubt that it hurt the well-loved company.

In the same way as a quick walk through Woolworths didn't leave you with a one word answer as to what it stocked, HMV took to films, computer games and even clothes to try and tap into revenue streams that only produced a trickle.

Its attempts to break into the online music retailing came too little, too late when consumers already had Amazon or iTunes.

Floundering, it jettisoned book arm Waterstones for £53m and then the Hammersmith Apollo music venue for £32m but weighed down by hefty interest payments and the economic downturn it found itself in muddy waters.

Having challenged the patience of a number of owners, so-called white knight CEOs and, eventually, even supportive suppliers such as Universal Music, it eventually caved to the pressure of legacy debts which wouldn't go away.

Wipe those debts out and some analysts reckon half of the company's 239 stores would currently be profitable.

That means the chances of finding a buyer are good, providing the current owners are prepared to take the sort of haircut which would leave Brian May in a cold sweat.

Let's hope a real white knight does show up because I for one will miss perusing HMV's aisles before buying three CDs and a DVD I didn't know I needed.

But then I'm in that ageing generation who still like to be handed a piece of hardware when they buy an album and unfortunately for HMV the next generation of music lovers don't see the need to have shelves groaning with CDs and vinyl.

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