/ Money, Shopping, Technology

HMV collapse – is digital killing the high street?

HMV logo with Nipper the dog

The sad news that music and video store HMV has gone into administration is a further blow to the struggling high street. With online shopping and digital music on the rise, was HMV’s demise inevitable?

I used to love popping into HMV. Its packed stores were chock full of albums, DVD box sets, video games and gadgets, and I’d wander down to the Oxford Street flagship store during lunch to pick up a CD and sometimes catch a live performance from a band with an album to promote.

HMV was music – part of our mainstream entertainment culture that introduced millions of people to a vast catalogue of music that provided the soundtrack to our lives.

Its ‘Nipper’ dog and gramophone brand has been a fixture of Britain’s high streets for over 90 years. Like countless others, it was where I bought my first ever album, fell in love with music, and as a kid would spend birthday money building a music collection that is still with me today.

Digital music moves in

Only, today, that music collection is digital – and it’s digital that is slowly killing the high street star.

Online sales of music, DVDs and video games, cameras, tablets and gadgets are soaring. In the first two weeks of December 2012, we spent over £4.5bn on online purchases – money diverted from the high street. This change in consumer spending makes stores such as HMV, and last week Jessops, ever more vulnerable to collapse.

Shoppers are increasingly turning to online stores and digital downloads – and I’m one of them. I buy my music through iTunes where I can get a 90 second preview of a song before buying. I buy gadgets from Amazon or Play.com, where I can shave pounds off prices charged by the likes of HMV. Online shopping is cheaper, faster and easier – and that’s hard to compete with when you’re chasing consumer spend.

I like shopping online, in the middle of the night from the comfort of my home, rather than battling through crowds to line-up at HMV’s tills like a line of shuffling shoppers checking into an airline. Prices are cheaper, digital products are always in stock and I get them immediately, and for less money.

The high street’s swan song

HMV could have – ten years ago – embraced online and the changing patterns of shopping. Instead, it dug its heels (and foundations) on the high street, and so missed the boat.

The irony is, as HMV faces an uncertain future, that many blamed the rapid growth of  HMV and Jessops for decimating independent camera and music stores. Now, the rise of online shopping, with its convenience, cheap prices and accessibility is seeing us turn our backs on them.

It’s a depressing trend that is going to claim more scalps on the high street over the years. Our high street is increasingly sickly, and electrical goods and entertainment stores are particularly at risk.

It’s also personal. My children are now likely to discover their own love of music, not by flicking through album covers in a shop, but through iTunes and YouTube. And that’s a real tragedy.


Do you have any HMV gift vouchers? So far, vouchers are not being accepted, although this could change.

If you need advice on your rights, read our guide on what to do if a company goes into administration:


If you’ve paid by debit card you may be able to claim through the MasterCard and Visa Chargeback scheme, as long as it hasn’t been more than 120 days since paying on your debit card and making your claim. You can read more about Chargeback here:



Very sad to hear about HMV. My daughter works for them. They tried to keep going on the High Streets but we have let them down by buying at supermarkets, on-line etc. They didn’t stand a chance. They won’t be the last and then High Streets will die and be no more. It doesn’t help that the councils charge so much for their car parks!


HMV is another casualty in a hard commercial world. They were not philanthropic organisations, they failed because their business plans failed. CDs and DVDs are generally cheaper from online suppliers and more convenient to buy, so why support others out of sentiment – their management failed, as with other companies that don’t keep up with the times.


We’re talking about this on the podcast. One question – will the “browsing” experience you used to get in a record store ever truly be replicated online?


Nickbaker – quite right, you cannot replace the browsing experience for a lot of things you buy – CDs, DVDs, books, clothes, shoes, furnishings – and many other things. This is the downside of online shopping. The cost of sending items back when they don’t fit or aren’t suitable is set against the cost of travelling to shops. We will rely a lot more on recommendations. Some outlets will never be eclipsed by online, because of the need to go and try before you buy.

Laura says:
21 January 2013

“will the ‘browsing’ experience you used to get in a record store ever truly be replicated online?”

It’s called youtube.


[This comment has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Ludiger Harris says:
16 January 2013

Such a moving piece Matt, thank you. I remember HMV vividly. It was a truly grand place and I used to frequently shop there with my arms and hands, buying all sorts of products which they used to sell on their shelves and cabinets with my cash, and later debit and credit cards. Such a great shame and I wish all concerned nothing but great happiness and luck to all concerned.

Rudiger Harris says:
22 January 2013

Well said that man.


HMV, to me, was a bit of a lost soul. Back in the day it served a much needed purpose and caused music lovers to unite. The change in music styles, rise of digital and streaming services, and a lack of direction from management has meant that HMV has become less and less relevant in recent years.

I won’t deny it, HMV is a great shop for TV lovers, music lovers and film buffs alike as you really can find everything under one roof. I suspect however that this is part of the problem.
HMV stores are generally twice as big as they should be and have loads of redundant, aging, stock lying around. The layout’s generally weren’t great and you’d be overwhelmed through the categorisation and vast choice. To me they should have had a consultation into their shop units a long time ago in a bid to cut down on their rising rental costs as well as a look at the stock they were selling.

Additionally, I could be wrong, but I never saw a ‘click and collect’ service advertised which would have helped shoppers like me who honestly can’t be bothered weaving through endless browsers (who ultimately wouldn’t buy much) to get to what I was trying to find. We know from Argos that this service is successful, so much so that they are reshaping their business to rely upon it more.

Bruce Abbott says:
18 January 2013

The high street does not have to suffer, we have a solution that bridged the gap between the High Street and the internet and maximises the ROI of those who sell / promote on line as well as on the high street. What we need to do as consumers is to adopt an ethical and responsible fair trading approach to decide where ‘we want our money to go to’ both online and offline to help support UK businesses, local communities and save British jobs. Please help us to support the British High Street by visiting.


The world changes and we – consumers and businesses – need to deal with that change. I will use high street shops where it is in my interests, balancing service and attraction against convenience, and travel and parking costs when appropriate. However I am not prepared to subsidise them – they exist to make a profit, not as charities, and their business models needs to be robust. I did a lot of online shopping very successfully (choice, price, convenience and delivery) at Christmas as usual – from smaller UK outlets as well as Amazon.


>> iTunes and YouTube… And that’s a real tragedy.

Why is that a tragedy? Youtube offers a great browsing experience, far better than looking at album covers in HMV. Just search for a band you like, watch one of their videos then follow Youtube’s suggested related videos for an audio visual exploration.

Disclosure: I’m 30 so have grown up with the internet. But I also spent hours and many pounds in HMV as I discovered music in my teens.