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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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