Tuesday, 15 January 2013

HMV, inevitable structural failure, human damage, economy, London Intelligence

HMV, a temple of my adolescence, is going...going...gone. The 92-year-old music shop chain is in administration, writes Paul Coleman.
   The little dog listening to His Master's Voice on the gramophone seems set to disappear from London's 'high streets'. Shops, like my favourites on Oxford Street and in Enfield Town, will remain open whilst Deloitte tries to find a buyer for HMV, or at least some of the business. 
   But HMV's prospects look gloomy. The human damage of this High Street failure means over 4,000 staff across HMV's 238 shops across the country face great anxiety. 
  "We first heard about going into administration on the news," a young salesman tells me from behind the counter at HMV in Enfield Town, the chain's oldest branch. 
  Unhappy staff at Jessop's, the camera shop over the road, tell a similar tale as they dismantle shelves and self-serve photo print teminals. "We heard about our chain going bust on the TV," says a long-serving member of staff. "A lot of other shops are worried too here." Jessops closed all of its stores last Friday.
Inevitable structural failure
Earlier this morning, we were treated to the sight and sound of handsomely paid business analysts, blessed with the glorious wisdom of hindsight, labelling HMV's demise as 'inevitable structural failure'.
   Internet retailers and supermarkets offering downloads, CDs and DVDs at cheaper prices have squeezed HMV, the analysts say. Suppliers reportedly baulked at HMV's request for about £300 million to help the chain pay off its bank and revamp its business model. 
   Hang on a minute though; if HMV's plight was inevitable, why are so many staff facing a sudden and imminent fall over a cliff into joblessness?
   Of course, 'record shops', as folks of my generation still call them, have bitten the dust before. I recall many happy hours forming my LP and 'singles' record,tape, CD, VHS and DVD collections in places like Our Price in Southgate, Tower Records in Piccadilly and Camden, and now Fopp in Shaftesbury Avenue. 
   All gone, except for Fopp.  
  No, hold it, Fopp is an HMV discount offshoot. Fopp will flop too.
But I can't help thinking if HMV had been an ailing bank, that £300m would've been deemed small change. 
   "Sorry, little mutt, listen to your real master's voice," say the analysts. "It's all to do with inevitable structural market failure in the internet age.
  "And, no, you ain't a bank, geddit," says the market.
   So, scram!"

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, January 2013 

Words & Photos © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2013

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