Page 7: Looking forward
The big opportunities for retailers in the music industry are the:
- rapid developments in technology and the products on offer
- changing nature of customers' expectations.
Over the years HMV has stocked and sold it all, including: 78s; LPs; audio cassettes; CDs; Mini Discs and now DVD. As the leading specialist retailer in this market, HMV has to be part of this process of change, and to anticipate where the market is heading and to plan accordingly.
As a customer-focused company, HMV seeks to provide what consumers want, whilst recognising that new technology and new products help to shape their requirements. A great deal of judgement is involved in deciding which products to stock in depth and give space to. Not every product, however initially appealing, turns out to be a winner; and not every recording artist proves to be a stayer. Successful retailers are therefore the businesses who 'get it right' more often than not.
In the rapidly changing music market, it is very difficult to predict what the new technologies and mass markets of the future will be. HMV has sought to position itself at the forefront of new developments so as to be able to respond to changes in consumer requirements as and when they happen. The key to success lies in understanding changes in customer requirements - finding out what they require rather than seeking to force change on them.
HMV has always recognised the importance of looking into the future in order to be at the leading edge of change. Currently the new Oxford Street store is helping to pioneer futuristic innovations, whilst it also frequently stages exhibitions around enduring cultural icons like Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles to remind people of its own rich heritage.
Although HMV's brand values are drawn from its heritage it also recognises the vital importance of looking to the future and promoting New Music. In 2002, and to great acclaim, HMV launched its 'playlist' sampler. This features exciting new talent and is given away free with all New Music purchases. As a music specialist, HMV has always supported emerging artists and championed new music, seeing itself as a showcase for their talents in order to bring them to a wider audience. The chain stages many in-store personal appearances (PAs) - usually album signings, but increasingly also live performances. Over the years it has hosted appearances by superstar artists like Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Robbie Williams, The Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue, whilst recently Stereophonics, Coldplay and David Bowie have all made appearances. Ultimately, it keeps coming back to HMV's basic trading ethos of giving people the widest possible access to recorded music.
Picking winners is not easy, but through HMV's retail experience and knowledge, combined with its instinctive understanding of its customers, the company is able to work with record companies and other suppliers to make informed judgements in support of major product releases and new formats like DVD.
The music industry has always lived in 'interesting times' and is not for the faint-hearted. Given the scale of the HMV operation, the sums committed to 'getting it right' in response to changing products and changing retail patterns are enormous. A long history does have advantages; in changing times, having a positive brand identity not only gives HMV an important competitive advantage over of its rivals, it also helps to create the basis of continued growth in future.