HMV must pump up its own volume

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There is still room for an entertainment superbrand on the high street. Last August I said there is nobody better equipped than HMV to prove it and I still believe that. I wonder if my belief is shared at HMV HQ because the retailer is unfortunately making a decent fist of screwing it up.

By that I’m not referring to the 60 store closures announced alongside last week’s profits warning. A focused review with a ruthless pruning of badly performing stores is a good thing. CEO Simon Fox must then decide what his brand is going to excel at, pursue it relentlessly and shout about it to customers.

Marketing Week has previously championed HMV’s efforts to transform its offer and positioning. Its move into the live music arena has been authentic and professional. It owns live music venues, several large summer festivals and has a terrific opportunity in ticketing. Sales of the brand’s technology products grew 21% like for like in 2010, making it the third largest retailer of Apple products. And while its move into fashion is too new to call confidently, it demonstrates recognition that a reliance on straight music retailing must end.

“If HMV wants to be an entertainment superbrand then it must start talking like one”

But while the proposition may have changed, all marketing and messaging still relates to CDs and DVDs. If HMV wants to be an entertainment superbrand then it must start talking like one. Last year’s Marketing Week Engage Awards judges chose the PureHMV loyalty scheme as a deserving winner of the CRM award. Those judges are, sadly, among the few who know about PureHMV. The same can be said about HMVDigital.com, the digital music download offer.

Owning ten top music venues and nearly as many summer festivals is fine, but why isn’t HMV telling anyone? There’s just one poster for the HMV Apollo in its flagship Oxford Street store, which is advertising seven acts that were on stage at the back end of 2010.

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In that same Oxford Street store, staff were unable to help me buy tickets for any of the retailer’s own music events. The store’s fascia features huge red posters announcing CDs and DVDs selling from £3 in a war against the internet that can’t be won. Meanwhile, stuffed into a back corner, and invisible to shoppers passing on the street, is a small fashion range many casual browsers won’t ever find. Upstairs, placed in an equally hidden corner is a technology section whose location should be downstairs at the front of the shop.

Time to stop worrying about your quarterly reports and what the analysts think of you, Mr Fox. Spend the money saved through closures on improving your strong stores and on communication. Start believing or die trying.

Mark Choueke, editor

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