I had the misfortune today of stepping inside the new HMV Flagship Store at 363 Oxford Street.
As a long-term loyal and fairly high-spending customer of HMV since my mid-teens, I have long loved the incumbent 150 Oxford Street Flagship. I have watched the introduction of various new departments, and experienced the store evolving and changing to fit its ever-shifting retail environments. Some changes have been better than others, but the beautifully laid-out 3 floor store has always been an enjoyable shopping destination for me. Even after Hilco took over, some beneficial changes were made to the shop-floor displays and layout - even though product stocks never recovered.
The only chance HMV has versus stores like Amazon and Apple iTunes or even Spotify and Netflix, is to retain customers like myself, who still number among the few to buy physical products. For me to want to shop in HMV, the environment and experience needs to be a pleasant one.
Alas, the new 363 Oxford Street store is a total abomination - a little like the British Navy having a pedalo for its flagship. So what is wrong with the store?
Let me count the ways!:
It is as if the designers of the store have forgotten anything and everything that Apple taught us about store design when their Regent Street flagship opened back in 2004 - this was the new wave of how stores should be designed and managed. HMV could have taken some of that experience and put more of it into either of its leading stores - how about more gigs, music seminars and talks - and some actual themes and imaginative retail events to encourage customers into stores - how about a beautifully designed retail environment and a pleasant browsing experience? I’m not saying the store cannot be entirely saved, but in its current form it is cluttered and wholly misplaced - totally out of tune with the new Chairman Paul McGowan’s message of "It’s really important that people will recognise HMV as still current and relevant" - far from it on this evidence. Who did they get to test out the store? Would Paul McGowan shop here himself?
The new store does nothing new, if anything it is too old-fashioned and just totally out of touch with the current generations - both young and old. The heritage shop signage seems to condemn it to its past failures rather than augur a bright future. HMV cannot trade on its past history, most of its target audience does not care about its past credentials, and neither do I really. I am deeply saddened that 150 Oxford Street will be closing after Christmas, looks like I won’t be shopping at HMV any more ...