HMV’s revival under new owner Doug Putman has taken a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.
But with the entertainment chain now trading on the High Street again after the easing of lockdown measures, Putman is ready to look at new opportunities.
Last year he launched the HMV Vault store in Birmingham, the biggest music and entertainment store in Europe.
However, the famous retail brand is still lacking a London flagship as it approaches its 100th anniversary in 2021. The historic HMV Oxford Street branch was shuttered last year, because of the high rents and rates.
“Birmingham has been great,” said Putman. “It was definitely the best store we opened up, it’s doing phenomenally well for us. We’re always talking about more London stores because we know we're really under-indexed in London.
“The problem is the [business] rates are just crazy. I know there's a [rates] holiday until April 2021, but what happens after that? So we're very cautious. We'd love to have a flagship in London and we'd loved to have a few more smaller shops throughout London. I think we're going to look at those, and if we can get the right kind of deal you will see us open more of those stores.”
However, Putman suggested that any new stores in the capital may have a different product mix.
“Those stores may be a little bit different than a normal HMV,” he said. “The great thing about HMV is, if you talk to a music customer they believe we’re a music store; if you talk to a visual DVD Blu-ray customer they believe that we are a movie store; and if you talk to our pop culture customers, they believe that's what we are. So it's really interesting that the store, depending on who you are and how you view it, is really three things. I've never really seen anything like that, usually most people look at a store and they believe it is one thing. And that gives me a lot of hope with HMV that we can pivot into many directions, which feels really good to me.”
It's a unique time where suppliers are very aggressive on that pop culture side to do business with HMV
In his recent Music Week interview, Putman spoke about the need for the industry and suppliers to support the chain. While physical music sales are now back up above 20% of the overall market, CD sales have seen a sharp downturn during the pandemic because of store closures and a lighter release schedule.
Putman has expressed his belief that the format has a future.
But he also acknowledged that HMV could expand its pop culture, apparel and merchandise business. Putman’s Canadian chain Sunrise Records is active in this area, while his family business is in the toy, games and gift sector.
Putman is even considering open a separate retail brand – previous working title of Cherrybomb – to capitalise on pop culture sales.
“It's a unique time where suppliers are very aggressive on that pop culture side to do business with HMV, and also to grow their business,” he told Music Week. “So I think we should harness that and look at that. We probably do need more apparel and more of those things.
“We're still looking at that separate store concept as well. I think right now is a great time that you can really partner with pop culture suppliers, they need more outlets. It's a time when landlords definitely need some help in getting stores leased. It may be the right time this Christmas to have that secondary shop open up that's not HMV, but is the pop culture side of that business. If the landlords are on board and suppliers are going to really support you, then it's up to us to deliver on that. So there are definitely opportunities out there for us.”
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