Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Former HMV store in Derry goes from HVM to WAH?

Photo of a "WAH" store in Derry, Northern Ireland
Photo of a "WAH" store in Derry, Northern Ireland
Tony Cregan
Tony Cregan
The HVM shop as it was on Carlisle Road
The HVM shop as it was on Carlisle Road

A former HMV worker has upended the music giant's attempts to pull the plug on his new record shop.

Lawyers for the troubled retailer, which shut down its outlet in Londonderry, warned an ex-manager who decided to go solo that he was harming its reputation.

Tony Cregan, who helped run the HMV store in the city's Richmond Centre for 10 years until it closed last March, opened a new shop nearby last week– called HVM – with the backing of a local businessman.

He had enlisted the backing of the city's mayor and 15,000 people on a petition to save the HMV store, which he said was profitable and popular, but went out on his own when his campaign failed.

"We thought, what is the point calling the new shop Local CDs or whatever, we'll just call it HVM. HMV is gone," he said.

But His Master's Voice – which is still trading in the UK and Ireland after being bought over by restructuring specialists Hilco – saw things differently.

In a letter from its legal team it warned Mr Cregan that he was causing confusion in the minds of the public that the business "is associated with or connected with that of our client".

The warning added: "The continued presence in the market of your business operating under the name HVM has caused and will continue to cause substantial damage to our client's reputation and goodwill."

Mr Cregan was forced into rethinking his plans when a customer, in a distinctive local accent, unwittingly provided the answer.

"We were talking in the shop about what was going on," he said.

"And some boy who overheard us turned around and said 'HM what?' So we just turned the sign upside down, and now it's called WAH."

A small speech bubble was added to the sign, saying: "His Master's Voice has told us to change."

Mr Cregan, who wants the new venture on Carlisle Road to return to the roots of the traditional record shop, said locals believed HMV had come out of the row looking bad. "People here are buzzing about it. It's like David and Goliath. People are saying to fight them.

"In their legal letter, they quoted our use of their colour scheme – pink and black. People are saying do they own the alphabet and the rainbow as well. Did they copyright them?"

Once established, WAH plans to take on more of the 17 experienced staff who were left redundant in Derry by the closure of the HMV store.

"We're trying to get that discussion back into record shops, where you come in and talk about a good song, a good album or a good band you saw in a bar last night. We're trying to put that connection back into it."

The record shop manager said he had been overwhelmed by the support sparked by the row with HMV. "I'd love to say that was our intention all along and we're really smart, but that wasn't the plan at all," he added.

HMV were asked to comment but did not make any response.

BACKGROUND

The HMV brand was made famous by the iconic image of a dog called Nipper who was listening to a gramophone trumpet. Its first store opened in London's Oxford Street in 1921 and it grew to be one of the biggest music retailers in the UK. Business struggled in recent times and earlier this year, the retailer was forced to close 66 stores – including nine in Northern Ireland.

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