HMV owner Doug Putman has told Music Week it’s “fantastic” to have a London flagship store once again.
The entertainment retail chain is returning to its historic site at 363 Oxford Street in London, a location it first occupied in 1921 as a gramophone brand. HMV has put a seven-figure investment into the new store.
Talking ahead of the opening today, Putman told Music Week: “It looks great. It was a big investment. The team just did a bang-up job, so it’s super-exciting.”
Music Week can reveal that, as HMV approaches five years under Putman’s ownership, it has delivered a year-on-year increase in CD sales during 2023 both in terms of units and revenue. That’s an outperformance of the market with CD sales down 6.3% year-on-year up to the end of Q3 (and alongside consistent vinyl growth).
“We're thrilled with where the business has actually gotten to,” Putman told Music Week. “Seeing things like CD being up for the first time ever [in recent memory], it's a pretty interesting time for the music business.”
HMV, headed by MD Phil Halliday, currently has 120 shops across the UK, including a West London location in Westfield, the specialist Fopp store in Covent Garden, and the 25,000 sq ft Vault in Birmingham – Europe’s largest entertainment store.
The new 10,500 sq ft space at 363 Oxford Street will be the biggest entertainment retail site in London.
“I'm super-proud,” said Putman. “I feel really lucky to be able to be a part of it. I always said when I got the chance to buy [HMV], I felt lucky that I had the opportunity to buy it. It was disappointing not to be able to get Oxford Street, and now being able to get it is pretty fantastic.”
Putman came to the rescue of HMV in 2019 but high rents and business rates meant that the Oxford Street store was not viable at the time. In the intervening period since its closure in early 2019, the famous retail location has been occupied by a candy store. But now HMV is back in the West End in time for Christmas.
“The first time I was ever in the UK was back in 2014, 2015, and I remember walking into that store and just being like, ‘Wow!’,” recalled Putman. “I obviously never thought I would own HMV and never thought I would own a store like that. So it's definitely super-exciting.”
The store looks beautiful, it's going to be an exciting day
The flagship branch will be a hub for entertainment in the capital, and the largest entertainment outlet in London offering music, film, merchandise and technology products, as well as performance spaces.
“It’s Black Friday, so interesting timing coming into Christmas and really good timing for us to get this open,” said Putman. “I would love to have seen it open a couple of weeks sooner but nothing is ever on time! It's always tough, you have your expectation or your hope, but it always gets pushed back a little bit.
“We're expecting some really good things from the store. I was walking on Oxford Street and it was really busy today, which was great to see. I'll be looking at the numbers pretty closely to see how we go Friday and Saturday. I’m thinking it’s going to be pretty good.”
The purpose-built performance floor in-store opens up a major opportunity for the music industry in terms of release week shows in central London.
Madness, who are chasing a No.1 album this week, will be attending the store opening. There will also be performances and signings from the likes of Rachel Chinouriri, among others. Artists taking part in the media call include Baby Queen, Hard-Fi and The Reytons.
Looking ahead to the flagship store’s role in campaigns, Putman said: “I think a lot of artists are going to want to go there and be a part of it. We've got venue space on one of the floors, it looks great and sounds great. I think there are going to be a lot of artists that are going to enjoy coming here, and it's great for the fans. We expect to see a lot of big acts that would want to come and sign or perform.”
Confirmed upcoming artist performances at HMV Oxford Street include Miles Kane (November 30), Billy Bragg (December 8) and Shed Seven (January 7), with a Bananarama signing lined up for March 8.
HMV shops in the UK have recently welcomed artists such as Charli XCX, Stormzy, Shania Twain, Raye and Ellie Goulding for signings.
Over the years, HMV Oxford Street featured performances and signings from artists such as The Weeknd, Kylie Minogue, Spice Girls, and more. Blur performed a rooftop gig at the shop in 1995, although it’s not yet clear if that’s allowed almost three decades on.
“That's an interesting question,” said Putman. “How cool would that be in the summer? I’m going to ask! I don’t know if you can or can’t but that would be pretty awesome.”
The Oxford Street store will also support emerging talent as part of HMV’s Live&Local programme, which will have seen over 2,000 performances and events in stores across the country by the end of December.
The new Oxford Street store will stock a huge range of pop culture merchandise, vinyl, film, TV and music technology.
“Certainly there's a lot more emphasis on our pop culture merchandise,” said Putman. “There's definitely more emphasis on vinyl, record players, giving a bit more assortment. We've obviously got a lot more space in the store, so we can give a lot more focus to some categories that we normally wouldn't have. The store looks beautiful, they did such a great job on it. It's going to be an exciting day.”
The 363 Oxford Street store will feature HMV’s new logo, and be fitted out with the ‘HMV Shop’ concept. The first store featuring the new layout and offering opened in Solihull on the business’ 100th birthday in July 2021 – an anniversary celebrated with a special feature in Music Week.
The new store concept will have been taken to 24 new sites – and retrofitted to 14 of the existing estate – by the end of the year. By 2024, half of the HMV estate will have been converted to the concept.