On HMV’s administration

Robert Plummer’s BBC analysis of HMV’s administration gets it right: where do you spend time on the High Street once the last place worth browsing in has gone?

There’s a something for everyone aspect about HMV that sees its aisles packed on a typical Saturday.

You may not end up buying anything (and therein may have lied the problem) but it’s a place where you can congregate and feel part of the crowd without ordering a latte, paying an admission fee or owning a credit card.

The change in your pocket could at least see you walk away with a discounted DVD and kill a few hours on a wet UK afternoon. Entertainment for the common man and accessible – that’s HMV to me.

An analogy to a church may stretch the boundaries, but in buying and browsing music, DVDs et al. with other people, you do feel more a part of the cultural conversation.

For example:

“I stayed up until the midnight store opening to get xxx.”
“I took the kids down there and told them they could pick the film.”
“Her birthday is tomorrow, so I’m nipping down at lunch to pick up x.”
“You go there, I’ll just browse in HMV for a bit.”
“That song that was just playing, what album is that on?”

Yes, I’m aware that buying a digital version or ordering on-line doesn’t exclude you from being part of the current conversation, but it does remove the rewarding step of making the effort to acquire something you want, something that adds to the viewing or listening pleasure. I’m excluding supermarkets as legitimate places of purchases as they are all positively feral, impersonal and cater their range to the lowest common denominator.

HMV is also an employer who recruits staff of the same demographic it serves (excluding the 40-plus parents who have to return their children’s tablets only to face humiliation at not being able to explain what precisely is “wrong with it”.) 4,000 estimated jobs potentially gone.

With the disappearance of Woolworths, Virgin and now HMV, high streets will become increasingly bleak places filled with here-today-gone-tomorrow pound shops. Bookshops like Waterstones tend to stay confined to affluent areas, while other towns make do with a cash converters or variations thereof.

In the relentless pursuit of efficiency or the best possible price, we lose something that we can’t put a value on until after it’s gone.

Something to think about when you’re next walking down your local High Street.

posted by admin at 11:31 pm  

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