OPINION: HMV’s game ambitions

Writing about HMV is a welcome change to all the doom and gloom surrounding retail at the moment.

Their profits? Up. Their store count? Increasing. Whereas the rest of retail talks of consolidation and decline, HMV is enjoying expansion and growth.

And the reason for this success? Well, the loss of competition has certainly helped. HMV has been one of the chief beneficiaries from the collapse of Woolworths, Zavvi and Silverscreen.

But still, the entertainment retailer has had to ride the same wave of recession as everyone else. And it – as much as anyone – has had to withstand the aggressive market share grabbing of the supermarkets.

Indeed, HMV’s success in the face of a tough market has been driven by the vision of its CEO, Simon Fox.

In 2007 Fox drew up a three-year plan to turn a struggling HMV around. And as we enter the final year of that plan, the transformation is nearly complete. It’s no wonder Fox has been headhunted by the likes of ITV.

And the execs on stage at HMV’s entertainment conference in Camden last week couldn’t look happier.

Once a jack-of-all-trades entertainment retailer, HMV is now a specialist in all that it does. But more than that, it’s now an entertainment brand in its own right.

In music, it’s not all about CDs anymore, it’s about digital, tickets, t-shirts, gig venues and even festivals.
For film, HMV doesn’t just sell DVDs and Blu-rays – it has its own in-store cinemas. And for games it’s all about playing the latest releases at Gamerbase.

It is this exact sort of forward-thinking retailing that won HMV best High Street Retailer at the MCV Awards in April. And rival retailers should take note.

HMV still has some way to go. There’s still no sign of a digital strategy for games or movies, and its online store is struggling in the face of stiff competition.

But after attending its conference last week, you can’t help but feel Simon Fox has something of the Midas touch, and that HMV will continue to be at the forefront of entertainment retail in the years to come.

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