Staff at entertainment retailer HMV are up in arms after a new policy bans them from displaying tattoos and having long hair.

An open letter to new chief executive Trevor Moore calls the new appearance policy, which demands “high standards of personal grooming”, “upsetting” and a “slap in the face”.

The anonymous letter urges HMV to rethink the policy, The Sun said.

The letter adds: “I wouldn’t expect to be greeted by a tattooed punk in my bank, I wouldn’t expect to be welcomed into my underwear shop by a nun and I certainly would not expect to be met by a shop full of identical, corporate automatons in HMV.”

HMV is transforming itself from an entertainment-focused retailer into a technology specialist after a difficult year where it has struggled to trade in the recession-hit market and due to the rise in music downloads.

The letter continues: “Do you not think that in the current difficult retail environment your priorities should lie with your loyal customers? The customers who continue to shop in your stores despite the ever-growing online market that offers significantly cheaper products.

“Do you not think this is a slap in the face to staff who provide some of the best customer service and knowledge on the high street?

“And they do this every day despite ongoing fear of losing their jobs due to HMV’s position.”

An HMV spokesman previously stated: “We’re not trying to ban tattoos or anything else for that matter, but if someone does have extensive body art - whether in store or at head office, we would expect them to cover this up while working.

“More discreet tattoos and piercings are not an issue so long as people look smart. It goes without saying that we want our work colleagues to feel valued as individuals who can express their personalities, but it’s also important that we balance this against the needs and expectations of our customers who, ultimately, have to be at the heart of everything we do.”