A century after debut, UK music store HMV makes Oxford Street return

British music store HMV will on Black Friday return to its former flagship store on London's Oxford Street after a four-year absence, offering vinyl, clothing and merchandise

Reuters
Published : 24 Nov 2023, 08:33 AM
Updated : 24 Nov 2023, 08:33 AM

British music store HMV will on Black Friday return to its former flagship store on London's Oxford Street after a four-year absence, offering vinyl, clothing and merchandise in a vote of confidence for physical stores in an increasingly online age.

The 363 Oxford Street address hosted the very first HMV store in 1921, opened by composer Edward Elgar, and was central to the development of British popular music and culture.

The retailer, famous for its dog and gramophone trademark, left the site in 2019 when Canadian music entrepreneur Doug Putman struck a deal to save the bankrupt firm, shutting 27 prime locations and keeping 100 stores open.

At the centre of Britain's most famous shopping street, it had recently lain empty or sold American candy.

Now, thanks to a more favourable rent and business rates package, HMV is coming home.

"We feel really good on the future of physical stores for retail," Putman told Reuters in an interview. "As much as things are still selling digitally, our customers love coming in. They like to browse."

The store will sell 8,000 different vinyl albums, 12,000 CDs, music merchandise and a wide range of music technology.

It will also offer more than 4,000 products across franchises such as Pokemon, Star Wars, Marvel and DC, as well as over 750 T-shirt designs.

"It's about us offering a lot more than just, say, a CD or a DVD or a piece of vinyl. It's offering all that accessory product around it," said Putman.

With a purpose-built performance floor in-store, the new shop will also host performances from major names and local artists, harking back to its past and showing how hard retailers have to work to make physical stores a success as more trade shifts online.

CHER TO BLUR

The site is steeped in history. Its shoppers have included John Lennon, Cher, Elton John and Michael Jackson, and it has hosted a raft of British bands in store and on the roof, including Echo & The Bunnymen and Blur.

It also played a key role in the Beatles' rise to fame. In 1962 their manager Brian Epstein took a tape of the group to its in-store recording studio. Having liked what he heard, the studio manager started a chain of events which culminated in Epstein meeting George Martin, who became the Beatles' producer.

HMV fell into administration in 2013 and again in 2018, but under Putman's ownership it has grown to over 120 UK outlets and returned to profit in 2022. It opened a store in Dublin in June, one in Antwerp on Thursday and plans further European expansion.

Its resurgence has mirrored that of the vinyl market. HMV says its vinyl sales are significantly ahead of UK annual market growth of 18%, and account for half its physical music sales.

"We feel pretty confident that we're going to still see growth in vinyl for the foreseeable future," said Putman.

Councillor Geoff Barraclough of Westminster City Council, which oversees Oxford Street, said the HMV store represented what they wanted to do on Oxford Street: "an experience beyond traditional retail".