HMV spins a positive trend for vinyl and Oxford Street.
HMV’s return to London’s Oxford Street on the same site that had been its original home since 1921 heralds the renaissance of the iconic shopping street and highlights that vinyl records and CDs have come back from the dead.
Among the store’s range of 35,000 different products, split over three floors covering 10,500 sq ft, is a selection of 8,000 different vinyl albums and 12,000 CDs. These sit alongside over 4,000 products from franchises including Pokémon, Star Wars, Marvel and DC, as well as over 750 different T-shirt designs.
The idea is that the retail space at 363 Oxford Street – London’s largest entertainment store – will be the destination for music and pop culture lovers and become a community hub for fans. Record enthusiasts and collectors will also be able to browse and a wide range of music technology.
HMV owner Doug Putnam has stated that the re-fit of the store has cost around £1 million and that he expects the flagship outlet to operate at breakeven. This is somewhat better than the £3-4 million losses the unit was making annually at the time of its closure in 2019 when the company went into administration before Putnam’s purchase.
“I want our stores to be at the heart of a community of music and film fans and a place where they can not only satisfy their passion, they can also meet each other and discover new artists as well as see some of the biggest names in the business perform. 363 Oxford Street is a homecoming for the brand and a clear statement about the strength of HMV, of London as a shopping destination and the state of music in the UK,” he says.
Integral to the store’s success will be its vinyl offer, which had been a format that had almost died out at the hands of CDs rise and latterly streaming but has been enjoying a comeback globally. Vinyl sales in the US were up almost 22% in the first half of 2023 over the same period last year, according to a report from Luminate, which has found the resurgence is now in its 18th consecutive year of vinyl sales growth. The more recent uplift in sales follows an impressive 108% year-on-year increase in 2021.
Traditional physical album sales as a whole, encompassing vinyl, CD and cassettes, were up 13%. CDs specifically, which like vinyl were also an almost-dead format, enjoyed an uplift of almost 4% over this time last year.
The return of vinyl has also benefited London-based independent music retailer Rough Trade, which recently announced the expansion of its music subscription service, Rough Trade Club, to broaden its appeal to a multi-channel customer shopping in-store, online and attending live events. Designed for loyal customers who regularly come to the company’s shops, to events and buy online, Tier 1 subscribers will get free shipping on all orders, 10% off food and drinks at the bar, exclusive access to events, early access to online sales and 10% off Rough Trade Vintage in-store.
Emily Waller, UK head of brand and content at Rough Trade, says: “We are incredibly excited to launch a new and improved version of our beloved Rough Trade Club. The new version offers our customers a more accessible, better value and comprehensive subscription that provides benefits both online and in-store. The subscription service is a great opportunity for music fans everywhere to get their hands on the very best releases hitting the shelves, including limited edition vinyl pressings handpicked by our staff, and with exclusive access to sales and sought-after events.”
In-store events continue to be an important part of the experience at Rough Trade and this is something that will be replicated at the HMV Oxford Street store that had a strong heritage of bands playing live in the outlet over the years. It hosted gigs and signings from global artists such as David Bowie, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, The Spice Girls and Blur. The new store includes a purpose-built second-floor performance space that is expected to attract signings from similarly renowned artists.
The opening of the store saw an appearance from Madness, which was followed by other musicians in-store including Baby Queen, The Reytons and Hard-Fi, as well as an acoustic performance from Rachel Chinouriri.
More broadly the HMV re-opening reflects well on the ongoing renaissance of Oxford Street as a premier shopping thoroughfare in the UK. Geoff Barraclough, cabinet member for planning and economic development at Westminster City Council, says: “HMV is returning to its historic home on Oxford Street. I am excited to welcome the store back to where it stood for more than 90 years, replacing one of the largest American candy stores which had temporarily occupied the space. Its return along with numerous other brands is testimony that the buzz is back on nation’s most-loved high street.”