HMV is set to reopen 93 stores, following the easing of retail restrictions by the government.
Music Week has learned that the retailer plans to open its entire store base in England to customers again under the latest Covid-19 safety guidelines for retailers, which take effect on June 15.
HMV will employ strict safety measures including signage to ensure social distancing among shoppers, screens at tills, and compulsory use of hand sanitiser during vinyl browsing. There will also be limits on the number of shoppers allowed in the store at any one time.
HMV owner Doug Putman has reopened his Canadian chain Sunrise Records with similar measures in place.
HMV’s stores in England and Belfast will return next week, following the confirmation by the government that ‘non-essential’ shops can open their doors again from Monday. Tighter restrictions on retail remain in place in Scotland and Wales.
HMV has also put in place a number of additional measures to assist with the reopening, including a 'personal shopper' service and a ring and reserve service. The new HMV List and Leave personal shopper service will enable customers to drop off a list of the items they wish to purchase (whether Blu-ray or DVDs, vinyl, CDs, books or merchandise) and a member of the team will select the items from the shelves and have goods collected, packed and ready for collection.
Putman said: “Our teams have been working on plans to reopen since the day we had to close our doors. We’ve redesigned our store layouts so that customers can make their way through the stores, buy what they want and pay seamlessly, while maintaining spaces for those who want to browse while maintaining social distancing.
“We’ve sought to keep as much of what people love about the hmv and Fopp experience intact and build on the experience whilst ensuring that customers can shop with us comfortably and confidently.”
Stuart Smith, manager at the HMV Vault in Birmingham, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming our customers back into stores. We’ve been through intensive training over the last few weeks to ensure that staff members are fully supported in returning to stores and that customers have the best possible experience. What’s more, with personal shopping through hmv List and Leave and hmv Ring and Reserve, we think customers will find that in many ways their experience is enhanced when they visit us next.”
The retailer already offers a click and collect service across all of its stores for those who want to select and pay for their items online and pick-up at their local store.
Any undamaged returned items (where customers have ordered in error, for example) will be quarantined for 72 hours before being they are returned to the shop floor.
The news was welcomed by the Entertainment Retailers Association.
“Customers who haven't been able to get hold of the latest DVD or album will hopefully flock to their doors in a measured way, so that they don't have queues around the block,” said ERA CEO Kim Bayley.
HMV furloughed much of its staff as soon it was no longer able to trade on the High Street. Music Week understands that the music chain has been communicating with its suppliers this week about orders and updating them on the plans for reopening.
While Doug Putman does not face the same financial challenges as previous owners of the music and entertainment chain, he has voiced concerns about the rents payable by retailers to landlords during the lockdown.
We hope HMV will be able to bounce back and we’re optimistic that should be the case
"The industry has already done a huge amount to help HMV,” said BPI CEO Geoff Taylor. “We hope that they’ll get some help from their landlords right now and that they’ll invest in the business to make sure it can re-open. It’s a really important part of the High Street and the [music] business, everyone’s super-supportive of them. We hope they’ll be able to bounce back and we’re optimistic that should be the case."
Speaking to the FT last month, Putman suggested HMV’s customers were ready to spend money – at least by contactless card payment – in the stores again.
“It’s not going to be a bounce back to where we were,” said Putman. But he insisted that people “were itching to get back out” after being locked down for so long.
Following the lockdown on March 23, HMV has relied on its online store for sales, just as indie retailers have embraced mail order and home delivery.
But the decline of physical sales since late March has highlighted the music chain’s contribution to the overall market. Physical album sales went as low as 10.6% of the market in mid-April, compared to 19.4% pre-lockdown. The physical sector has since made up some ground thanks to indie retailers' and HMV's online efforts, as well as the return of new music releases to supermarkets and Amazon.
"I’m sure that HMV customers who did shop regularly at HMV are managing to discover the HMV online store,” said Bayley. “There’s been an outpouring of ‘Oh dear, I haven’t got my HMV', so hopefully they’ll all be back once they open. I don’t think it will change the habits of a lifetime, your HMV customer is missing going to HMV."
* To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.