Has an experience-focused HMV found its mojo again?

For those with an interest in the retail landscape, the opening of HMV’s flagship store the Vault presents yet another interesting example of a well-established retailer taking an ‘experience-first’ approach.  Considering how things were looking for the brand at the beginning of the year, the fanfare which the opening of the Vault is a receiving, is remarkable in more ways than one…

The story of HMV is a familiar one.  Once one of the most recognisable brands in the UK – shopping for records in HMV was a cultural rite of passage for many a British teenager – the seemingly unshakeable giant, found itself in hard times with the rise of the streaming generation, and a global decline in CD and DVD sales.

While it’s certainly true HMV suffered in some part due to an inability to keep up with the rapid changes in the industries that were once its stock and trade – there was sense if you entered a store in the years between it’s two periods of administration, of a business that simply wasn’t quite sure what to do with itself.

 

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Putnam showing of his record collection in the newly opened HMV Vault

Some recent innovations – a partnership with the independent cinema branch Curzon in South London and an attempt to capitalise on the vinyl boom – showed attempts to innovate in the face of increased customer demands, but the things that made shopping at HMV special in the first place – knowledgable staff, interesting stock – were slowly being eroded by the all-encompassing convenience of online.

For self-admitted vinyl junkie Doug Putman (the man behind the acquisition of 100 HMV stores in February of this year) the answer to the question ‘How does a well loved brand get its mojo back?’, appears to be double down on those aspects of the record store experience that simply can’t be replicated online.

With a huge selection of over 25,000 vinyl records (plus 80,000 CDs), and a projected lineup of in-store signings, performance and DJ sets, the Vault feels like a store designed by a team who truly understands what its audience are looking for from a retail experience.

Speaking to Retail Gazette, before the Vault’s grand opening, Grahm Soult observed that many recent examples of successful retail take-overs have been driven primarily by the passion of their leadership, “If you’re trying to rejuvenate a brand and appeal to people’s emotions and senses, it needs someone who really gets it”.

It will be exciting to see whether Putnam’s vision for HMV can translate into a new era of destination stores, one that not only creates happy memories for the next generation of music fans, but sets an example for experience-driven retailers everywhere.

 

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