For many retail leaders it is an article of faith to demonstrate that they hold their store staff in high esteem, and results presentations typically pay tribute to the efforts made on the shopfloor.

For many retail leaders it is an article of faith to demonstrate that they hold their store staff in high esteem, and results presentations typically pay tribute to the efforts made on the shopfloor.

Certainly retail chiefs can occasionally be ogres, but they know that the ability to carry sentiment on the aisles is vital even when decisions may not be universally popular.

This week it emerged that Apple retail boss John Browett, who previously won acclaim for his revival of electricals retailer Dixons, has made a shock exit after only six months in the role. The suspicion is that his departure is partly at least as a result of controversial changes to Apple stores that alienated and alarmed staff.

Closer to home, HMV’s new boss Trevor Moore has made headlines after telling staff to spruce themselves up and conceal tattoos. On Tuesday some employees published an open letter laying into the new policy.

Love ’em or loathe ’em, tattoos are on show these days in all sorts of places where once they would have been frowned upon if tolerated at all. And HMV must be one of the retailers whose customers are unlikely to look askance.

Back in the 1970s, when industrial strife was rife, it was a mantra that ‘management must be allowed to manage’. That remains true and it’s up to Moore to judge what’s acceptable and what’s not.

However, it doesn’t look good that this contretemps has been the most high-profile development of his tenure. Few retailers have suffered more than HMV from the seismic shift in retail prompted by the rise of digital commerce.

The change to the entertainment landscape is still going on, evidenced by this week’s news of a landmark tie-up between publishers Penguin and Random House as the industry responds to changed conditions.

Moore has barely warmed his seat at HMV and it must be hoped the tussle of the past few weeks eventually proves a storm in a teacup. Investors in HMV are unlikely to care about whether staff sport tattoos, they want to see the business find a more profitable place in the digital world.