A rapid walk through HMV’s revived store at 363 Oxford Street provided an entertaining morning yesterday.
A rapid walk through HMV’s revived 12,000 sq ft store at 363 Oxford Street provided an entertaining morning yesterday. Amid shopfitters rapidly installing lights and drilling in fixtures, staff quietly unpacked stacks of copies of The Bourne Identity and Spongebob Squarepants on DVD.
The background to the reopening is a fascinating one. The ribbon was originally cut on the store, which neighbours Bond Street station, by composer Sir Edward Elgar in 1921 and it reopens on Saturday September 28, 2013.
In the intervening years the store has seen some notable change from playing host to the signing of The Beatles’ recording contract, being passed by the Queen’s coronation procession in 1953 and hosting a range of artists from Madonna to Run DMC. The shop was closed in 2000 when HMV moved over the road but less than a decade later it handed over this shop to Forever 21, leaving its 60,000 sq ft three floor megastore at 150 Oxford St as its flagship.
However, with that larger store no longer fit for purpose – as the rigours of online competition leave large entertainment shops redundant – Sports Direct has taken the site and HMV now hopes 363 will once again be the heart of the retail world.
The retailer’s new chairman, Hilco chief executive Paul McGowan, is certainly up for the considerable challenge of helming HMV in a digital age. He enthuses over Johnny Cash and Fleetwood Mac as we walk the store and has a gleam in his eye when he alludes to interesting elements of HMV’s forthcoming digital launch next month.
Inside the store, it’s very much HMV as usual. Racks of new releases greet shoppers as they walk in and a, albeit smaller, technology area awaits the latest in Dr Dre’s line of headphones and speakers. There will be a few nice heritage touches from screens showing artists’ in-store public appearances through the ages to lightboxes with iconic imagery.
Elsewhere HMV’s strategy is to bring in more t-shirts, merchandise and vinyl to become the heart of the music industry. But it has a battle on its hands to become cool enough to kindle fondness from musos against slick online rivals like Last.fm and Spotify or local independent rivals like the scruffier Sister Ray.
Questions have been asked over Hilco’s long-term desire to keep HMV going but a reinvigorated store and digital offer indicate there’s serious intent to return HMV to glory in Hilco’s strategy.
HMV has come home, but it won’t be warming its slippers by the fire too long as management look to propel it into a new age.
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