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.