EML Wildfire Tech PR Blog

HMV becomes the latest casualty of high street slump

Posted by Joe McNamara on Jan 17, 2013

HMV has plunged into administration, joining the likes of Jessops, Comet and GAME as more high-street retailers fail to adapt to a world dominated by ecommerce and ‘digitisation’. While its 239 stores will remain open while the situation is assessed, HMV is no longer accepting or issuing gift vouchers.

In December, I asked whether anybody was actually going Christmas shopping and, ultimately, my assertion that not enough people would hit the shopping centres, was the final nail in HMV’s coffin.

However, what is interesting about HMV is just how and why the industry left it behind. It’s not as simple as the ‘death of the high street’, online retail and so forth. The mortal wound was inflicted much earlier than that. In January 2001, at Macworld, San Francisco, when iTunes was officially launched.

Okay, so there are probably people yelling ‘what about Napster in 1999’ now. Of course, that was the trigger to start the trend of music downloads one day overtaking CD purchases. But iTunes, heralded as the platform that saved the music industry, in doing so changed it forever.

It’s more than people buying CDs online

Plenty of people had built up impressive, personal and unique music collections before the 21st century that they may never wish to part with for sentimental value or because they can’t be bothered to make the transition completely.

Fundamentally though, people just lost interest in buying CDs. MP3 versions of best-selling albums became available for download, as well as individual files giving users far more control over their own music – allowing them to create customised playlists, etc.

Unlike sites such as Napster and LimeWire, iTunes also filled the niche of gift cards. The sad truth is you can spend £15 on iTunes far more flexibly than in HMV. Ecommerce giant Amazon also rained on HMV’s parade here – and until recently Amazon’s contribution to the music industry was purely a case of people buying more online than in stores.

I say until recently because this week Amazon has announced that customers purchasing CDs will now receive an MP3 file to accompany. The new AutoRip feature confirms an entry of some sort to the online music market, but also undermines the necessity of the disc. However, perhaps this is the kind of change HMV should have made to compete with its online counterparts.

Photo credit: The Drum

  • http://twitter.com/darrenwillsher Darren Willsher

    HMV’s biggest mistake was not taking online seriously – there’s an excellent blog here from an ex employee on how they just thought it was a fad. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/15/why-did-hmv-fail?intcmp=239

    The comment from the guys who founded Play.com says it all, they were waiting for HMV to seriously go after them and use their massive advantage to really dominate the online space but just made a complete hash of it. Their website was terrible and just felt like something they’d put up because they felt they had to. 

  • http://twitter.com/DirectorOnABike David Marsden

    ..yesterday’s high street failure: Blockbusters. By this weekend I expect our high streets will be converted back to farm land, and delivery companies will be busy delivering my shopping, and my LoveFilm rental DVDs

  • Joe McNamara

    Interesting that HMV didn’t take their online presence seriously at all when the entire industry moved online without them. Even though anyone who reads this blog would think I’m Jonah casting damning dispersions on honest shop keepers trying to make a living; I’m not satisfied with the theory that no one will visit shops anymore. If people are ‘showrooming’ and comparing prices on mobiles and things then stores themselves need to move with the times (a bit like Apple and Nike). With that said, neglecting your online store just isn’t an option anymore not matter how good your shop is.