When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

HMV brand could survive administration

The inevitable administration of HMV has shocked no-one, but the question now is what happens to the brand next.


That HMV and its sister brand Fopp are trending on Twitter and the hashtag #HMVmemories is already running wild demonstrate the positive emotion that the HMV brand continues to evoke in people.

The fact is that HMV’s business model of selling physical CDs and DVDs has been outdated for some time and the chain didn’t do enough, early or quickly enough to do anything about it and halt the decline of its 230-strong store network. HMV didn’t do enough to make its stores exciting and marketing didn’t do enough to tell its story and offer a point of differentiation. The retailer’s latest Christmas activity featuring an animated Nipper the dog, was the first activity in years that tried to tell the brand’s story.

Efforts in the last few years to diversify and modernise by ramping up its digital business, and expand into relevant technology were the right moves, but they were slow to happen and struggled to have an impact against the drag of its traditional retail operation.

Because HMV is entwined with music it has always had an emotional place in people’s lives, more so than other retail brands that have fallen into administration such as Comet or Jessops.

Memories and emotion are not enough to sustain a business but it shows that there is strong opportunity for the HMV brand to remain in some form and I imagine there will be considerable interest in the brand and the authority it has in the music and entertainment sector.

Record labels, which have showed significant support for the brand over the last 12 months, also have a vested interest in keeping it alive in some way which will give strength to any opportunity.


Without the overheads of such a vast retail estate it could operate HMV as an online only retailer and download service better able to compete with online rivals on price than it has until now.

Play.com, a nemesis of HMV’s, ceasing its operations as a direct retailer, has opened up a gap in the online market that could be filled by HMV, although it will be tricky for any business to operate purely as a retailer of physical music and DVDs. Amazon is only able to do so because CDs and DVDs are just one part of its vast range.

A new owner could look at the possibility of running a small chain of almost boutique record or film stores, becoming akin to an independent specialist harnessing its heritage and expertise and making better use of its retail space in a way that HMV has not done as a large scale chain.

It could also take its recent moves into high-end technology and focus stores on this aspect of the business while maintaining its music and film catalogue as an online business, although Comet’s decline signals the challenge in that sector too.

What’s clear about the future of the HMV brand is that it will cease to be a shop on every high street, but the brand could live on yet.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Enjoyed the article! Thanks

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  • The latest activity featuring nipper the dog kind of sums it up.

    Featuring a dog which no longer features in a lot of their signage, and a gramophone when I doubt most of their target market know what it is.

    Outdated and a noisy, expensive shopping experience. I for one don't feel sad at all about the brand's demise, just the loss of jobs.

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  • It is so strange you said this, that I pretty much tweeted the exact thing about making it a retro vinyl store with the vinyls having QC codes and front covers for the DVDs CDs and games. This would give HMV back their Usp.

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  • Hi

    Just having the same debate over the kitchen table, one of the few surfaces without any CDs/DVDs/Vinyl on it. I think they could learn a lot from the independent record store experience. Access to knowledgeable staff, proper listening booths not just a sweaty set of headphones that don't work properly, more music (in lots of stores music seems secondary to games/dvds etc) stores, a cafe area and choice that appeals across the age ranges, especially those of us who grew up buying music that way. OK some of this might not work on a mass scale but there's got to be some value added in going to the store.

    I hope they manage to regroup somehow.

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  • Over priced and haven't shown anything new for 10+ years. I can get everything I want online for cheaper, including postage

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  • How can they possibly survive, when they have just alienated thousands of their customers by refusing to redeem / refund Giftcards, whilst knowingly selling them in the leadup to Christmas ?? Most of these disgruntled Giftcard-holders are their next generation of customers they would want to appeal to !!

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  • Comet, HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster… There’s a common thread with all of these sinking retailers, they lost their cool. They thought it would be everlasting, but the times changed, cool is fleeting if you’re not careful. HMV’s management became so out of touch with what consumers wanted that they even banned tattoos and long hair, like some out-of-touch, curmudgeonly parent. HMV didn’t just stagnate, they actively stifled the one thing that had the potential revive a worthwhile USP; the staff.

    Should HMV be dragged out of the mire by a white knight, it needs to begin by putting people first; both in terms of the consumer and its staff. The in-store experience offers something wonderfully unique, human interaction. Even in the face of online mass merchant juggernauts, nothing can replace the human element of sales.

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  • I would like to see HMV survive this. I love wandering around HMV, listening to the music and rifling through their CD’s. I actually think that their prices are pretty good, especially for the old stuff which is what I listen too. And I like the fact that I can buy a CD and come home and listen to it straightaway – I don’t need to wait for it to be posted. I agree with Daniel about the instore, human experience. Get people in who love music and can talk about it enthusiastically and passionately. Last year I went to HMV in Canary Wharf and Azari and iii were playing and the guy behind the counter was dancing and singing along. I asked him what was playing. He showed me the CD and said that he thought they were ace and I ended up buying it. And it’s still a CD I listen to now.

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