HMV will continue its remarkable turnaround in the run-up to Christmas, embarking on an international expansion drive just two years after falling into administration.
The UK music retailer has opened 14 new stores this year, with another three planned before Christmas. This is in stark contrast to early 2013 when the business collapsed under £176m of debt and 80 of its 223 shops were shut. It was rescued by the retail turnaround firm Hilco, which took on 141 high street stores and 2,600 employees.
HMV has made a rapid comeback on the high street, wresting the title of the UK’s biggest music and DVD retailer back from Amazon in January. In the fortnight leading up to Christmas, HMV sold one-in-three of all CDs and DVDs in the UK. Hilco moved quickly to reopen the legendary HMV store at 363 Oxford Street in London, where the chain had its first store in 1921 – complete with retro neon sign.
In June, HMV relaunched its e-commerce site for the first time since it went into administration, offering music downloads.
Getting more bands to perform live in its stores has been key to its turnaround, with acts ranging from Ed Sheran to Megadeth coming to its shops to promote their latest albums. HMV has hosted more than 1,000 live events. Hilco also shut loss-making stores, taking the number of UK stores to 125, and stopped selling iPads and tablets, preferring to stick to traditional band merchandise such as T-shirts.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Paul McGowen, Hilco’s founder and HMV chairman, said HMV was considering taking its website into 10 other, mainly European countries. He highlighted interest from Korea, which he said was sparked by HMV’s exclusive distribution rights for Irish radio station RTE. HMV has also struck a five-year licensing agreement with Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana to take it into the Middle East. McGowen expects the first shop to open in Dubai next summer.
The expansion comes after the company shrank by half. At its peak, it had 400 stores around the world, half of which were in the UK. But Hilco’s restructuring programme has paid off, with every one of its HMV’s stores returning to profitability by last September.
HMV has benefited from a revival in vinyl, with sales rocketing. Despite the popularity of music streaming services, the number of shops selling CDs and vinyl albums in the UK hit a record high of 10,391 last year, according to an industry report. Last week HMV re-opened its Golden Square shop in Warrington, which will specialise in vinyl records.
This article was written by Julia Kollewe, for theguardian.com on Sunday 4th October 2015 19.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010