Night Of The Living Dog: HMV's Ongoing Apocalypse
Posted on Thursday, 31 January 2013 | No Comments
Two articles on the on-going strife at the biggest music retailer on the high street in just over two weeks might seem a little excessive. But since the eventual fate of the company will have huge ramifications for the future of the music industry in this country - and since there's been some shocking developments since - an update at this juncture hardly seems hysteric.
So, as I pointed out last time, a lot of HMV's woes are essentially self-made, its slump into administration a sadly inevitable result of years of mis-management and bad decision that have pushed it ever further from its raison d'etre, and thus further from anyone who might actually want to spend any money in the place.
Even with the incompetence of their upper management fully in mind though, it's hard to comprehend the colossal fuck-ups of the last few weeks. Almost as soon as the administrators were called in, all Irish branches of HMV were shut without warning (presumably the first bit of 'pruning' to get it to a reduced, easier to sell state), and staff left without pay. The subsequent - and, thankfully, successful - sit-in protests by staff in Limerick highlighted how many hard-working members of staff were suddenly being consigned to the trash can, and demonstrated the callous and careless nature of the suits upstairs. This wasn't to be an isolated case.
Until yet more acres of bad PR were flung their way, consumers were also hit by the firm's refusal to honour gift cards - cards they had, of course, been more than happy to sell right up until the day before the firm filed for administration, presumably aware of just how dire the situation was. Although this position was eventually reversed, along the way HMV had managed to burn out some of the good will thrown their way when the administration was announced. Then, earlier this afternoon, the mass firing of sixty employees became public when one of the shocked very-recently-employees took to the official HMV Twitter account to berate the firm and air some dirty laundry. Once again, the majority of engaged employees trying to help save the firm are being suffocated by a leadership that seems determined to kill the firm off once and for all.
At this point, the management team of HMV seem to be more engaged in a strange kind of denouncement of Randian Objectivism. These John Galts, these mighty captains of industry leading the path in turning household names into little more than rubble (something current and former chied executives Trevor Moore and Simon Fox have a fair amount of experience in), refuse to down tools and stop their entirely worthless efforts. Instead, they keep working, and with their remarkable indiviualistic visions - turning record shops into places that sell Angry Birds toys and cheap biographies of gangsters, taking DVD stores and trying to convince their film-loving customers that, actually, wouldn't they much rather buy some over-priced jeans and checked shirts instead? - grind everything in their path into submission. If only they would go on strike, the company might stand a chance.
Let's be clear about this: the music and film industries are desperate for HMV to survive. They need somewhere to sell their goods, and if this goes under, it just gives more power to Amazon and the supermarkets to limit stock and cut margins. It's only through giving HMV increasingly favourable terms that they've clung on for this one. Hilco are in the running to purchase the company to prop up a reduced chain, with full backing of record and film companies, while Game are also sizing up a share of stores for purchase. If it's given a chance to do what the shops and staff are there to do and actually focus on music, DVDs and games, HMV can recover. It's just a shame that the people running the show seem so determined to stop any chance of survival.