BY ALEX LUPUL
With digital purchases and streaming services becoming increasingly popular to consumers, entertainment retailers have been fighting a difficult battle over a market that has been shrinking in size as their digital competitors continue to gain ground.
This trend has become increasingly clear to Canadians, as HMV, the nation’s largest entertainment retailer, has been forced into receivership.
With this announcement, all 102 HMV locations Canada-wide will be closed no later than April 30th, a result that may lead to long-standing effects on the Canadian entertainment industry.
Through a post on his website, entitled “What Losing HMV Will Mean for Canadian Music,” Canadian music broadcaster Alan Cross discussed HMV’s importance to music sales across the country, writing, “some estimates say that the chain was responsible for selling 25% of all CDs sold in the country. … With so many fewer places to buy CDs, we’re going to see sales of physical music drop drastically over the next few months.”
In a discussion with Billboard, HMV Canada CEO Nick Williams spoke of the two main challenges the company has faced, leading to its recent announcement, stating, “the labels and the studios have other avenues to market; and subscription services and streaming services have become more dominant and subsequently have had an impact on the decline of our sales. … The reality is that a younger audience is less into purchasing music and film than the generation ahead of them. So we had to find a way to get the youngsters back in.”
This attempt to bring in a younger customer base, resulted in a restructuring to the company’s business model and the products they offered to customers.
In an interview, former HMV sales associate Marissa Melanson discussed these changes, reflecting, “I think they really tried to change with the times. They didn’t just try to sell CDs and DVDs. As records started to get more popular, we got more records and record players in. As well as all of the clothing and gifts and collectibles.”
Despite these changes to their business model, HMV Canada now find themselves nearly $39-million in debt to their creditors.
The departure of a nation-wide chain such as HMV brings forward questions about the longevity of physical media, and the brick and mortar stores that sell them; although these questions will only be answered in time.
But with any store that has been around for the 20+ years, long-time customers will surely have a connection to a store-location they regularly visit.
With that in mind, former HMV key holder Elizabeth Richardson reflected on the responses she received from customers, stating, “there were regular customers who were disappointed, because they got to know us as individuals, and people would come in looking for a specific employee because they wanted to know what we were into. And it’s a little depressing to have that go away.”