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HMV backs High Street with plans for 10 new stores

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Music and entertainment retailer HMV has said it is looking to open 10 new stores this year as it continues to put its faith in High Street stores.

The plans include a search for a new London flagship site.

Its former London landmark store on Oxford Street closed along with many others after HMV fell into administration more than two years ago.

It was bought by Canadian music retail executive Doug Putman, who says he still thinks stores have a future.

“People obviously love going out shopping, they like touching and feeling and that’s something that online is not going to replace,” he told the BBC.

“I do believe… you’re going to get more people trying to open up different stores and have different ideas.

“I’m still very optimistic on the [HMV] business and business as a whole on the High Street. I still think the High Street is just something so special.”

The new store plans were announced as HMV commemorates opening its first store on London’s Oxford Street 100 years ago.

He said he could not give any details as to where the replacement flagship store in London would be as they were still taking a “very hard look” trying to find the best site.

However, Mr Putman added that the long-term viability of the stores was dependent on what the government did about business rates, which are currently being levied at a reduced rate until April next year.

HMV would not be signing “any long-term deals” for the new stores, he said, given the level of uncertainty in the retail sector.

image copyrightHMV

An HMV spokesman said: “We’re continuing to expand with new sites, looking at a combination of factors before making a decision. The upcoming business rates review will no doubt have an impact, not only on HMV, but on the wider British high street. In some locations, even with good deals from landlords, rates make stores unviable.”

Mr Putman said HMV’s online business had done well throughout the pandemic, helping to offset the loss of sales in stores.

“Our online business – very similar to most retailers – doubled, tripled throughout the pandemic… [but] it still doesn’t obviously make up for the loss of 100-plus stores.”

Music stores have been particularly affected by the shift to digital over the years. The challenges from music downloading and streaming have added to the general shift to online sales affecting most retailers.

Earlier this month, supermarket giant Sainsbury’s said it had stopped selling CDs and DVDs as its customers increasingly went for music and films online.

CD sales have shrunk in the past decade but were still worth £115m last year and vinyl sales continue to enjoy a revival of fortunes.

There aren’t many companies that have continued to trade on our high streets for a century. That HMV survives may surprise many who wonder how a bricks-and-mortar retailer of physical media survives in a world of downloads and streaming. The venerable brand has focused on staying relevant to pop culture fans. The company’s Canadian owner appears to have continued faith in the UK high street at a time when it’s undergoing a change just as challenging as any in HMV’s history. New stores are planned just as some people have questioned the purpose of the high street post-pandemic.

UK retailers have been through a deeply painful period of forced temporary closure, plunging sales and an accelerated shift to online shopping. Despite financial support from the government, some businesses have not survived the pandemic and the pain may not be over. There are dire predictions of thousands of more high street closures to come, as firms are weighed down by lockdown loans. The profound changes taking place in retail cannot be stopped, but businesses say they need the government to act.

A radical change to the business rates regime is top of most retailers’ list of requests. Ministers are already conducting a fundamental review of the rates system and the outcome should be published in the Autumn. Confidence is also key at a time when many shoppers are anxious about the ending of the legal requirement to wear a face covering in England.

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