FOR generations, a trip to HMV was a chance to explore the vast treasure trove of Britain’s musical archive.
It didn’t matter whether you were a fan of Elgar or the Beatles, HMV’s giant stores were sure to stock something by your favourite performer.
Fans and customers of the iconic brand are now, however, coming to terms with the fact the shutters could be about to come down on the chain, forever.
HMV has entered into administration after poor Christmas sales. One of the oldest and best known names in music retailing, has long struggled to compete with discounted prices offered by online retailers and supermarket chains.
After years of store closures and asset sales, the 92-year-old business is a shadow of its former self with 239 outlets – far fewer than the more than 600 stores it owned two years ago before drastic steps such as the disposal of bookstore Waterstones.
There had been hopes that as the last major high street DVD and CD chain left in the UK, it stood a chance as the “last man standing”, but experts have said it failed to move quickly enough with the times.
Yesterday, Trevor Moore, chief executive of HMV, insisted, however, there is still a place for HMV on the high street and he was “confident” of finding a solution.
The group has confirmed it had been a torrid Christmas, saying sales had been disappointing after the failure to secure the supply of two key tablet computers saw it miss out on surging demand for the gadgets.
While it did not reveal its festive performance, HMV said sales decline remained around the 10.2 per cent level seen in the half year to October 26.
The group’s 4,500 staff face an uncertain future after it revealed its intention to appoint Deloitte as administrators on Monday night, marking the latest in a run of high profile retail collapses following the demise of camera chain Jessops and electricals group Comet.
But Mr Moore – who also previously headed up failed retailer Jessops – said: “We remain convinced that we can find a successful business outcome.”
Prompting speculation of management involvement in an attempt to rescue the business, he said bosses remained “passionate” about the chain.
“I am every bit as passionate about HMV as I was when I joined in September. I’d like to be involved in the business going forward if the opportunity presented itself.”
He added the group was doing “whatever we can in conjunction with Deloitte to safeguard jobs where possible”.
“I would like to personally pay tribute to the 4,500 people who work for HMV. Clearly this is a very worrying time for them and their families,” he said.
HMV had continued to sell vouchers and gift cards until Monday, fuelling questions over the group’s decision to offer them in the face of concerns over its future.
Many consumers have been left out of pocket after the chain stopped accepting gift vouchers. The group said it had redeemed a significant amount but only made the decision to stop issuing them on Monday when it became clear the company would need to call in administrators.
All of HMV’s 239 outlets – including nine Fopp stores – will remain open while Deloitte attempts to find a buyer for some or all of the business, although it is possible that there could be widespread store closures as a result of the collapse. Online orders will also continue to be fulfilled, the group said.
Squeezed by internet retailers and supermarkets, whose scale has enabled them to offer CDs and DVDs at cheaper prices, HMV warned before Christmas the entertainment group was in trouble. Mr Moore said the group would fail to meet expectations for the year to April and would breach the terms of its loan agreements later this month.
Suppliers including Universal Music came to HMV’s rescue in January 2011 with a deal which helped it shed some of its huge debt pile. But, according to the Financial Times, they balked at a request last week for about £300m in additional financing to pay off its bank debt and fund an overhaul of the company’s business model.
However, HMV praised the “amazing support” it had received from suppliers throughout its trading troubles. The role of HMV’s lenders in its collapse is also under scrutiny, especially given that lead banks Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group are backed by taxpayer cash. RBS said: “Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of management, lenders and suppliers, it has not proven possible to avoid a formal insolvency process.”