Are You On the Digital Band Wagon? Some Lessons to be Learnt from HMV

We’re but a few short weeks into the year and already 2013 is proving unlucky for some as HMV is unveiled as the latest high street chain to go into administration.

The retail scrap yard has been getting mighty crowded in recent weeks with Jessops being the first casualty of the year, swiftly followed by HMV and Blockbuster.

I can’t decide whether the Deloitte accountants will be rubbing their hands in glee right now or actually having a nervous breakdown.

While some people are mourning the loss of HMV, others smugly declare they were right all along and the high street is dead. Understandably, with iTunes, Spotify and companies such as Love Film popping up left, right and centre, the general attitude that HMV was a bit of a dinosaur in a digitally dominated industry seemed to be spot on. A recent DVD I watched, not a download but an actual disk, even thanked me for purchasing the film and not illegally downloading it. ‘Nuff said here, I think.

Opened in 1921, HMV has sadly proved that loyalty will only take a company so far in the face of growing competition. This week we have seen people who still remember purchasing their first record express sadness that HMV has declined so much. But ask these people how many times they’ve been in recently and they will probably tell you they haven’t set foot in those draughty aisles since Oasis were in their heyday.

The Great British public, all nostalgic until they find out its 50p cheaper on Amazon.

HMV has had one hell of a journey over the decades and still has one of the most colourful histories in retail. The chain took its name and iconic logo from a 1898 painting titled His Master’s Voice which features a dog called Nipper listening to his late master’s recordings on a gramophone. This image has been the stamp of HMV ever since and inspired the advertising slogan ‘Top Dog for Music’.

Believe it or not the demise of HMV was forewarned by some pretty sharp cookies, unfortunately the fattest of the fat cats refused to believe their pedestal of high street dominance could ever be rocked.

Amazon revolutionised internet shopping and iTunes brought us digital downloads, but HMV displayed the innovation of a goldfish and branched out into electrical equipment. Sounded like a plan, but this sector was one which was already flailing on the high street.

HMV’s downfall was that they were blind to the digital competition, opting to take the prehistoric view that the World Wide Web was some sort of fad. This may have been forgivable in the face of the millennium bug, but after a decade, HMV couldn’t be forgiven any longer for sticking their head in the sand and getting royally buggered.

So the digital age? Are we heading for some sort of world where we all float around on hover chairs and never leave the house? Will we hold work conferences and do everything via the internet from the comfort of our beds like those grossly obese humans on Wall E?

There’s certain things I do like about the idea of buying everything online should the high street become obsolete. Namely that online buying makes us relatively anonymous. Looking to buy 25 tubs of Ben and Jerry’s because it’s half price? You don’t need to scrabble around the freezer muttering ‘my precious’ any more, the good people at Tesco will do all that, then it’ll be nicely packed with the delivery driver completely unaware to your loot. Nice. You can also Google ‘coupons’ to your heart’s content. That promotional code box is but the work of a genius.

But while a life in pyjamas would be good for a week or two, actually venturing out to the great British towns has a nice instantaneousness about it. Browsing physical items evokes purchase power like nothing else and the demise of the high street would certainly be a great loss.

Largely because of that Achilles Heel of online shopping: waiting around for the delivery man. Delivery hours are 8am-6pm. Your package arrives at 5:45. The delivery man is your boss’s brother. He tells your boss that you weren’t ill; you were actually waiting around all day for your new kettle. You get fired, more time for waiting around all day for delivery men. It’s a vicious circle and I won’t be part of it.

Ordering songs on iTunes via my phone however, now that’s something I love, sorry HMV.

You snooze you lose, so the old adage goes. In the case of HMV it seems they were in a coma. The digital age is calling and any business that fails to adapt and develop a strong digital presence is on a runaway train into the red, passing ‘government bail-out’ station and being tutted at on the way.

Farewell Nipper, like you, HMV should have listened.

Victoria Browne
  • Written by on 18th January 2013 at 16:41
  • “Victoria Browne is a copywriter & social campaigns manager at Fluid Creativity.”
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