HMV rescued as Canada's Sunrise Records spins a rare cheerful tune for the high street on vinyl
Tycoon Doug Putman has built a more than 80-strong chain of music stores in his native land. Investing in the UK high street is a brave move, but if he gives HMV the love it has lacked he could pull it off
An all too rare piece of good news for the High Street: HMV has been saved, and by someone not named Mike Ashley.
Canadian entrepreneur Doug Putman’s Sunrise Records is taking on 100 of its stores, representing nearly three quarters of the total, in a move that will save nearly 1,500 jobs.
The music industry will be breathing a sigh of relief at the news. Notwithstanding the streaming boom, HMV remains an important outlet for its product, and with Putman having built an 84-strong chain chain in Canada of record stores in Canda he will clearly be a better owner for the business than Ashley would have been.
Given the apparent determination of this country’s dismal Government to wreck the economy, any sort of sort of investment in the UK right now represents a bold move. Putting money into bricks and mortar stores here could lead one to question whether Mr Putman has been indulging in a certain herb that’s popular with musicians and is now famously legal in his native land.
HMV may indeed be an “iconic brand”, with its famous labrador and gramophone logo, a point Putman refrenced in the press release announcing the deal that was issued by administrator KPMG.
Trouble is, iconic brands have been disappearing from the streets of Britain at a faster rate than the polar ice cap.
But Putman has a plan. Part of it involves vinyl. HMV already has a third of the market for the one physical music format that’s still growing.
The growth slowed markedly last year, to just 1.4 per cent after well over a decade of double figure sales increases. But the BPI, the music industry’s trade body, points out that there was no global mega release to turn up the volume on the figures, and vinyl is also starting to run into capacity constraints. There is a shortage of plants to press new product.
Nonetheless, the format has a solid and enthusiastic base, and there is the potential for further growth if the latter issue is addressed. That growth would likely have gone into reverse had HMV gone.
Just as important for for the chain's future is the fact that the new owner seems minded to give it the love and attention it has lacked, as opposed to wringing the last few drops of cash he can get out of it.
Those music lovers who are still buying physical formats are the sort of people who tend to flock to independent stores, which have undergone a welcome revival themselves. That is particularly true of vinyl aficianados. But the point that was made to me this morning is that even with the help of directories such as allgoodrecordshops.com, coverage is patchy. For some people, HMV may be the only game in town.
If Putman can replicate the indie experience, fire up staff who must be feeling a little punch drunk as a result of recent events, and turn these shops into the destinations that they were in their early days, he could yet prove there’s life in the old dog.