If his celebrations were moderate, (and who are we to say otherwise), his reaction to winning the award was more abundant: “It means everything to us – to gain the recognition of your peers and suppliers is, along with the loyalty of your customers, the best accolade you can receive as a retailer.”
It’s an impressive accolade given the level of competition in the non-specialist sector over the past 12 months, with big name supermarkets continuing to muscle in. But HMV continued its upwards trajectory from last year, when it was named most improved retailer, to beat a strong field for this year’s Entertainment Retailer award, including Tesco, Asda, Virgin, and Woolworths.
Unsurprisingly, Ellis ascribes HMV’s success to the efforts of his whole team: “We have excellent games buyers within the stores – dedicated and very passionate about games – and, of course, we have a great games team at head office. Jonathan Hayes manages the team taking particular note of strategy and forecasting , while Jason Brooks manages new releases. They, in turn, are supported by Darren Neville, Nick Ashley and Toby Burton.”
This dedicated and passionate team is, according to Ellis, overseeing a period of fairly significant transition for HMV, which will see the retail chain making an increasing commitment to video games. “A few years back we made a firm commitment to becoming a major specialist player, and that’s what I’d like to think we have done,” he says.
In fact, Ellis reckons HMV is so committed to games, that he’d rather not win an award next year: “The one thing I’d like to change in future is not to be nominated in the general ‘entertainment’ category, but to be taken seriously as a games specialist, and to be judged accordingly, even if that means we are not always going to win.” In order to hasten this transition to a more dedicated focus on games, the company has increased trading space, moved games to more prominent locations in-store, recruited more gamers, improved its online offering, and increased marketing support.
The result is increased recognition from within the games industry – and not just in the shape of an MCV award. Ellis argues that publishers and distributors are increasingly offering their support to HMV:
“Our flagship store at 150 Oxford Street is now seen as the premier launch venue for any new major products and formats, he says. “Witness the great midnight events for Nintendo Wii and for World of Warcraft.”
Perhaps that’s because HMV enjoys one key advantage over the specialists. “In a world where product franchises, such as Star Wars, Spiderman and Bond, operate across music, film and games formats, we are perfectly placed to give our customers, particularly gift purchasers, this comprehensive, integrated choice. And, of course, we can increasingly do this through a multi-channel strategy – in-store, online and digitally. As such, I think we offer games suppliers a tremendous outlet for their products.”
And according to Ellis, HMV will step it up further in the next 12 months: “Watch out for our new ‘store of the future’ format, which we’ll be trialling later this year. Games, including an innovative ‘pay per play’ element and online gaming will be a key part of this.” So rival retailers better watch out.