In Conversation is a new BASE LINE monthly editorial feature for 2022. Each month BASE LINE will speak to a key category partner, and share their insights and vision for the future.
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”9551″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]BASE LINE: What does 2022 look like for hmv customers?
PH: It looks great. The team have used the last two years to really re-imagine how we can give customers all the best bits of hmv in new ways, with new stores, a new store format coming to existing sites, tonnes of great new product to complement our much-loved franchises, and a broadening of our events calendar to continue turning our stores into true community destinations.
BASE LINE: How many hmv stores will there be by end 2022? And are there plans for more in 2023?
PH: By the end of this year we plan to have around 130 stores, up from the 108 we came out of the pandemic with, and with further expansion on the cards for 2023. We only lost one store during Covid, and that was due to the local council (the landlord) taking the property back to create a new leisure centre. We are actively seeking to return to that market this year.
BASE LINE: Tell us about the concept of ‘super-serving’ fans?
PH: Super-serving fans is about identifying the fandoms we currently and could potentially deliver for, and really challenging ourselves to excel for them across every touchpoint. That means selling the product that really speaks to them, merchandised in the way that makes sense for them, hosting the types of events they want to attend, speaking to them in their language, marketing to them in the places they spend their time, and being extremely customer-focused. These groups are very discerning and highly informed, but they’re also very loyal, and with hmv’s history and credibility in these spaces, we can build on these relationships when we think beyond the basic elements of stocking and racking product. Our store staff are all fans of particular genres and franchises, and they are a key part of the strategy: tapping into their knowledge to make sure we are really in tune with them with regards our offer is a no-brainer.
BASE LINE: Tell us about the importance of emerging technology and advancement to hmv audiences i.e. 4k, UHD, Blu-ray
PH: Higher quality formats offer a close-to-theatrical experience in a fan’s home, which is something the convenience of streaming doesn’t equal. There are casual viewers and then there are fans, and these formats speak perfectly to the fan communities that shop with us, and as a result they are a big part of our future plans for visual. When you add the collectability of a steel book to the format quality, and then align that with the right related merchandise, you can see they are crucial to delivering a really powerful fan offer.
BASE LINE: What has fundamentally changed for the high street since March 2020?
PH: The UK high street has changed enormously, and some of the pillars of the high street two years ago are no longer there. Doug Putman and his team had got hmv into a great position before lockdown, which meant we were able to not only survive but take the time to really think about how to take our stores to the next level and improve our online presence. As a testament to that, whenever we’ve come out of lockdown, we’ve seen customers who moved to other retailers come straight back to purchase in our stores, because the unique sense of community that they get from our bricks and mortar offer cannot be replicated. That’s not to say life on the high street is straightforward, and there is certainly a great deal more the Government could be doing to ensure the British high street continues to thrive.
BASE LINE: What titles do you think hmv customers are most excited about in 2022?
PH: Fans are excited to have a solid pipeline of new releases each week. As theatrical releases kept moving back there was obviously a knock-on effect on the home entertainment window. Now there’s lots to look forward to, including Spider-Man: No Way Home, Eternals and Scream, with Dune doing really well after just a few days of release.
BASE LINE: What is the most exciting thing about the film and TV home entertainment landscape now for hmv?
PH: At Christmas the new Bond movie had a huge revitalising effect on both the cinema and home entertainment industries, and Spider-Man has built on that and really set in motion what is now a consistent supply of content for customers. I personally have really enjoyed taking my kids to see the new family releases at the cinema – you realise the importance of those little moments that were missed while we were locked down.
BASE LINE: What would hmv ask of distribution in 2022 and beyond? What is working well, what could work better, and what could be a game changer?
PH: It would be great to see more consistency established in terms of release windows. Not all consumers scour release dates but in general people do get a rhythm for when something might appear on physical formats after it’s been released at the cinema. That consistency was hard to achieve during the pandemic, and we haven’t seen a true pattern emerge since. However, we have seen that regardless of when the physical release happens, core fan communities and collectors are still invested in getting hold of physical formats on release.
BASE LINE: What role can/do ERA/BASE play in supporting your business?
PH: There’s a consumer perception that TV and film streaming offers infinite choice at low cost, but the reality is that the platforms offer a quite limited range, so you need to be spending a hefty amount each month on several different platforms to have any kind of selection. With the vast range of physical skus that we stock, the choice is much, much wider – and you can curate what you watch rather than being presented with something you decide to ‘settle’ on. Ultimately, the customer experience is much better with physical, but its value has lost profile. It would be great for ERA and BASE to help highlight this advantage when it comes to physical.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]