'It felt like the best outcome for the industry': Biz reveals hopes for HMV

'It felt like the best outcome for the industry': Biz reveals hopes for HMV

After a difficult start to 2019 for physical music, with problems at PledgeMusic and HMV in administration, there was finally some good news last week.

HMV was saved from liquidation – and what’s more the man behind it is a music lover. Doug Putman has a track record in music retail as owner and CEO of Canada’s Sunrise Records. As revealed in the latest of Music Week, the UK industry has ended up with a new head of HMV they can do business with.

“We are delighted to welcome Doug Putman to the UK as owner of HMV and his track record over recent years in Canada speaks for itself,” David Hawkes, MD of Universal Music’s commercial division, told Music Week. “We think some fresh eyes and ideas will deliver some real value and benefit to the UK business and we look forward to continuing to work closely and in partnership with the team at HMV.”

Derek Allen, SVP, commercial at Warner Music UK, said Putman’s background in music retail is beneficial for the industry. 

“It definitely does help,” said Allen. “We’ve met Doug, he’s very charismatic, very likeable, he’s very passionate about music and the business. Anybody who’s worked in the music industry, that goes a long way, that was always in his favour.

“He’s saying all the right things in terms of the direction of where he wants the business to go and how prepared he is to support the business. We’re feeling very positive about the acquisition.” 

Putman has already indicated his plans to increase the vinyl range and expand live events.

“We’d like to see the music mix return to the days when HMV was a music store,” said Allen. “It does seem like there’s an opportunity, despite the decline in the physical market, for vinyl and to double down on that with perhaps increased profile within the store.”

Charles Wood, media and planning director, Sony Music UK, said: “The availability of music on the High Street has been, and continues to be, a fundamental part of British music culture. We’re delighted to continue working with HMV, they have a fantastic team there – both in head office and across their branches.”

We all recognise HMV’s position as a cornerstone of the physical market

Kim Bayley

As soon as HMV was placed in administration, ERA CEO Kim Bayley was vocal in her support for the chain, which had £250 million in sales last year.

“I am confident that Sunrise’s acquisition of HMV is positive news for the industry and HMV’s customers,” she said. “HMV is arguably the most famous name in store-based music retailing in the world and it was unthinkable that it should disappear. 

“It is significant that unlike Hilco, which is essentially an investment company, Sunrise is a music retailer through-and-through and is committed to the sector.”

Bayley noted that “even its fiercest competitors have expressed nothing but support” for the chain.

“We all recognise HMV’s position as a cornerstone of the physical market,” she said.

Michael Mulligan, former head of music at Tesco, said: “Most, if not all, of the 100 remaining HMV stores will already have a vinyl offer, and will have adapted their music range over the years to reflect local taste. These offers are undoubtedly one of the chain’s strengths and it makes sense for them to play to it, though in itself that won’t be enough to sustain the business, so it will be interesting to see what else they can add to the mix. Could some of the larger stores sustain a classical or jazz offer?”

HMV has confirmed the closure of 27 stores including its flagship Oxford Street branch, though Putman has said that he’s hopeful a deal can be made with landlords in some of those sites. Around 1,500 jobs were saved when Sunrise struck a deal with administrator KPMG. 

Mulligan, who started his music career at HMV Enfield Town in 1990, added: “I’m really pleased that so many entertainment retail jobs have been saved. All that experience, enthusiasm and talent is a key reason why customers will continue to shop in traditional specialist stores. 

“The fact that the iconic brand will still have a presence on a hundred high streets or city centres is good news. A large number of customers in those city centre stores in particular will be overseas visitors buying British artists - sales that would probably be lost without that physical store presence.”

However, there remain concerns in the indie sector about the impact of the takeover and the status of stock supplied by labels on consignment.

Gee Davy, AIM’s Head of Legal & Business Affairs said: “Whilst Sunrise have reported that the majority of stores will continue operating, any store closures, re-structuring and uncertainty around invoice payments will likely cause some businesses discomfort. AIM is providing support to affected members including advice, information and emergency financial assistance where required and they are encouraged to contact the AIM team if they are facing hardship or have concerns.”

To read the Music Week interview with Doug Putman, subscribers can click here. To subscribe and never miss a big industry story click here.

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