Opinion: HMV couldn't outthink supermarkets or embrace digital

The inevitability of HMV's demise makes it no less disastrous. One often marvels at the pace of change in the games industry, but not so when it comes to the sudden advances in the extinction of high street games retail.

Who, in good confidence, is willing to bet that any specialist game stores will survive the next ten years?


Zavvi, GAME, Blockbuster, Comet, Woolworths and now HMV. These British retailers have either hacked away their own assets to survive, or have lost that chance completely.

What seems unbelievable at first is that all these businesses have fallen during the same console generation. In truth, such drastic changes and mass redundancies have become par for the course.

Especially in the case of HMV - a retailer with nearly one hundred years of experience that has done a frankly miserable job of countering the buying power of supermarket chains and the growing prominence of home delivery websites and digital downloads.

It is easy to forget that, in the age of CDs and DVDs, HMV was so unbelievably profitable that its previous CEO Brian McLaughlin was questioned about business practices during a House of Commons Select Committee investigation.

"It's easy to forget that, in the age of CDs and DVDs, HMV was unbelievably profitable"

Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, HMV's management were warned repeatedly about how the supermarkets could take over, and how music could be digitally downloaded directly to devices.

To its final day before entering administration, HMV refused to adapt. The business needed to outthink the likes of Tesco and embrace digital media distribution, but it did neither.

Its luck was out too - 2012 was not a landmark year for film and game blockbusters, and high street retail in general is in decline. The mainstream media also, rather brutally, declared HMV dead back in 2010. Its fall into administration isn't so much vindication for the newspapers, but the fulfilment of a prophecy.

These are immensely difficult times for games shops. There is no margin for error, but HMV has made many. Its fall into administration proved yet again that - even with a glittering brand that has existed for more than 100 years - if a business is not permanently running scared, then it's already too late.