Editorial

HMV will refocus on selling gadgets; what's the future of the high street music store?

For most of us, Music is one of the non-essential but necessary items in life that lighten our mood and creates something in which we can share a passion for. Things have changed dramatically though over the past 10 years as to how people listen to their music and the industry on all sides, has had a difficult time in catching up. If anything, people are discovering and listening to more music than ever, thanks to numerous services over the internet, however it's also affecting the health of the music store on your high street.

HMV, a British retailer which has primarily sold music and films for a number of years, has recently announced that it will shift its focus to selling gadgets such as MP3 players and tablet computers. It comes as the company has been struggling to make ends meet, as sales in CDs and DVDs have dwindled. It claims that the decision is down to the growing challenge of internet downloading and competition from supermarkets. The 90 year old group claims however, that from eight stores which were experimenting with a gadget focus on entertainment, had an 8% improvement in like for like sales, according to Reuters.

Recently on Neowin, we covered the issue as to how the trends of how people bought their games were affecting the retailers on the high street. The internet has changed the way people look at their buying habits and numerous industries have found that the change is affecting them too. People have found that shopping online is more convenient and useful and specifically to the music industry, it has allowed possibilities that would be impossible in a physical store. Abilities such as finding new artists, listening to previews or sharing recommendations with friends are unheard of in a music shop, whatever part of the world you're in.

Social networking has played its part in how listening habits have changed, over the past several years we've observed numerous experiments such as Last.fm which bring a totally new approach at how to sell products. The idea of streaming almost any type of music before you buy was something that critics at the time thought could spell chaos for pirating issues, but now on numerous websites, we see the ability for customers to sample the music. The Zune pass was another experimental method for music fans who paid a monthly fee to essentially have unlimited access to listening to music. Now more and more companies such as Spotify are offering a similar service, it's no surprise that the physical stores are struggling.

Even in the past month, we've seen news of music being officially available to listen to on Facebook and Google making progress on its new music service. Everyone is essentially wanting to get in on a market which is constantly growing and is popular with consumers, even for the online music store, it's difficult to keep up. The latest trend that companies are playing with, is the idea of storing music in the cloud. Having your music library available, whatever your location, has its appeal and once again it's going to force high street music retailers into a corner.

Some music shops have changed the way they sell their products, but many have changed their focus on what products they sell altogether. HMV is a little late in the game for changing its strategy but this is just one example at how the traditional store has suffered from a fundamental change and hasn't successfully managed to keep up with the new competition. Despite the fact that HMV is largely a British chain, this type of story is a familiar one for every music store in the western hemisphere and the world. Some stores have attempted to offer innovative features such as listening to music in special areas or selling some form of music download token. Others have started to delve into the world of having an online website as well as a physical presence, but none have yet to be truly successful in fighting off those on the internet that look at selling music as though it's a big social event. The simple fact is, if music shops want to continue selling the products that they've been selling for years, they need to offer something special in their store which brings a totally new approach to consumers; so far there's been no sign of such entrepreneurial spirit.

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22 Comments

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I remember visiting one of their flagship stores when I took a trip to Vancouver, and their store was pretty awesome. It was June of 2010, and the store was kinda fun to go around. It was very large, the interior looked nice, the displays were eye-catching and stuff. There seemed to be a lot of customers too. They did have a gadget area, but it was most iPods and other portable media players (but no Zunes!).

It's true, all the online media-based companies are able to make buying digital media very convenient and even cheaper than at a physical store in a physical format. Does this spell the end for the need of such stores like HMV? I don't think so.

As far as the physical stores go, I think their real competition is any big box store like Walmart or Best Buy. These companies have a wider diversity of products, and many consumers like the 'one-stop shopping' concept. 'Specializing' is not enough to get people in your store if the big boxes already have that stuff. Now you have to 'hyper-specialize' and offer an experience one to none if you want the concept to survive.

It's more convenient for me to walk into town on my lunch break if I want to buy something, and I don't mind paying more for that convenience rather than getting it onlnbut their prices on a lot of stuff doesn't make that worthwhile.

I hate to nit-pick, but the first sentence in this article is atrocious. Firstly "music" is not a proper noun, and does not receive a capital letter. Secondly, something cannot be both non-essential and necessary, the two are mutually exclusive.

I liked browsing HMV, and they had a wide variety of stuff you wouldn't find anywhere else in a store, but they charged an absolute fortune for it all, and that's just not justifiable when you a) don't have much money to begin with b) can get it cheaper elsewhere.

Maybe it's down to the fact they want £10 for a CD that's several years old. The value of music has changed yet shops like this still try to rip consumers off with age-old pricing strategies.

The latest trend that companies are playing with, is the idea of storing music in the cloud. Having your music library available, whatever your location, has its appeal and once again it's going to force high street music retailers into a corner.

This to me is even sillier then buying a CD/Tape/Record, etc.. With the ability to store your music onto a DVD, HDD, SDD, or some form of MP3 player by would you need to use a Cloud Service that is going to cost you more money. I have over 256 gbs of music, darn think of the expense of keeping that on the "Cloud." And, guess what, you can take it with you regardless of the media you are using.

I use the HMV website if I want to buy a CD or DVD as it's cheaper than the prices they charge in the store, and a lot cheaper than Play.com, which seems to be getting more expensive. I doubt HMV will disappear anytime soon, and they are planning on refitting over 100 stores before Christmas to focus more on technology.

Shopping online is easier than shopping in store.
Downloading things is more convenient than buying a hard copy that you're inevitably going to rip anyway.

HMVs prices never helped their mission once internet retailing caught on properly.

Arron said,
Shame such a great company is going downhill, hope it does not take waterstones with it.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but they've already sold off Waterstones.....

Webworldx said,

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but they've already sold off Waterstones.....

When was this? Googling now

Arron said,
Shame such a great company is going downhill

"Great"? Have you seen their prices? It's no wonder they're going downhill. It's bad enough that the banks have given them over £200 million to bail them out of their debts.

Hopefully, HMV will be gone within a couple of years.

MightyJordan said,

"Great"? Have you seen their prices? It's no wonder they're going downhill. It's bad enough that the banks have given them over £200 million to bail them out of their debts.

Hopefully, HMV will be gone within a couple of years.

"Hopefully"? You HOPE that hundreds/thousands of people lose their job? think before you talk nonsense, please.

LordBattleBeard said,
"Hopefully"? You HOPE that hundreds/thousands of people lose their job? think before you talk nonsense, please.

Companies go out of business almost every day. Another is just part of the process. It is sad people loose their jobs, albeit that is live, and always will be, so chill.

LordBattleBeard said,
"Hopefully"? You HOPE that hundreds/thousands of people lose their job? think before you talk nonsense, please.

You obviously read my post wrong. I meant hopefully the HMV name will be gone. The ideal situation would be that someone buys out HMV, renames it, and then starts over to make it better than HMV could ever be. And the first step to that would be actually having competitive prices.

MightyJordan said,

"Great"? Have you seen their prices? It's no wonder they're going downhill. It's bad enough that the banks have given them over £200 million to bail them out of their debts.

Hopefully, HMV will be gone within a couple of years.

You cannot say the company is not great, look how far it has come. It was the most popular place to but all media related products until the Internet came into full swing. They are expensive but sometimes you can grab some pretty good deals in there.

Music stores should have a service where people choose songs they like, pay for each song and then they're copied to a CD or any other device they support in store. Like a photo store but with music.

daniel_rh said,
Music stores should have a service where people choose songs they like, pay for each song and then they're copied to a CD or any other device they support in store. Like a photo store but with music.

Then artists don't make nearly as much money, they'd rather sell a whole CD than one song- which is usually the case per album.

daniel_rh said,
Music stores should have a service where people choose songs they like, pay for each song and then they're copied to a CD or any other device they support in store. Like a photo store but with music.
You're not thinking about one essential tidbit here - the demand for people to have their music on physical media such as CD-Rom has greatly diminished over the years. HMV can launch the same 'store' just thru the end users PC in the comfort of their own home, charging the same amount, and being able to copy to whatever device they want.

daniel_rh said,
Music stores should have a service where people choose songs they like, pay for each song and then they're copied to a CD or any other device they support in store. Like a photo store but with music.

f.y.e.'s have tried this and it still isn't working. They can't compete with Walmart for movie prices, and they can't compete with iTunes and Amazon for music prices. Take those away and all you have are novelty items like Spencer Gifts...that said, I'm waiting for Trans World to sell off the f.y.e. brand.