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HMV: The Last Music Shop on the UK High-Street

Updated on August 12, 2014

Can HMV, The Last High Street Music Store, Survive?

HMV is the last remaining music shop chain on Britain's High Streets. Virgin and Our Price record shops all closed down, as did most independent record shops and now HMV's future is looking decidedly shaky too.

I had high hopes for HMV shares. In my current role as a boring value Investor, (which seems like the only safe strategy at the moment) HMV did look like a good, "contrarian", high-yield bet. But HMV is turning into a "Value Trap": a share that looks too good to be true which just gets cheaper and cheaper. With a PE ratio of less than 2 and yield of about 40% what could go wrong?

HMV went into administration on 15th January 2013, so it looks like the end for High Street music sales ... (probably, unless some private equity group can salvage something from the remains of the company) ... UPDATE: Hilco, the owners of HMV Canada, bought HMV's debt on 22nd January - Watch this space!

Other High Street names to go into administration this Christmas/New Year include: Jessops the camera retailer, Comet - electrical goods and now Blockbusters, so you can't even rent a DVD either. Is the High Street a thing of the past or will it reinvent itself?

Disclaimer: Information in this and other linked articles is unregulated and for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon in making specific investment decisions. Appropriate independent advice should be obtained before making any such decision.

Can HMV Survive?

HMV Shares - Are HMV Shares A Good Value Investment or a Value Trap?

HMV was a profitable company with a shrinking business as ever more of its customers buy music as downloaded MP3s straight to their Smartphones or buy CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays from Amazon or Sainsbury. HMV is the last UK High Street music store, as all the others gave up to the online competition. "Everyone" knows they can't survive, but I thought the perceived gloom was overdone, especially given the profitable and popular bookseller, Waterstone's also belonging to HMV. With a few shop closures, more emphasis on their online exposure and a radical re-brand of the remaining HMV shops to appeal to those who want to browse music on the High Street. Unfortunately even Waterstones business is vulnerable to downloaded books to read on the Amazon Kindles, Smartphones or iPads.

HMV Christmas Sales

The wrong sort of snow...?

HMV seem to be having another tough Christmas in 2011 after a very bad Christmas in 2010, with poor sales (down about 10%) partly due to the unusually heavy snow. They made profit warnings and perhaps more importantly announced that they will be unable to meet some terms of their bank loans. They have a market capitalization significantly smaller than their outstanding debt (approximately £70 million and £240 million respectively, at time of writing). They closed many of their 285 HMV and sold the 312 Waterstone's shops.

2011 Christmas Sales

HMV has changed a lot since Christmas 2010, with a far smaller presence on the High Street after the closure of many of the stores and the sale of Waterstone's book shops and HMV Canada. They still have significant debt and may have to close more shops and possibly even sell off their live music division. Like-for-like sales leading up to Christmas are down on last year and losses and debt have increased, although technology sales have increased significantly.

Is HMV a Good Investment?

I bought HMV shares last year as a value investment, sold fairly quickly after a big rise in the price and a profit I couldn't resist, then bought again at an even lower price, repeating the process a couple more times and even getting a reasonable dividend. I thought I had become a genius trader (despite my original intention of this being a value investment) I still hold my last purchase of a few thousand shares at a significant loss that would wipe out my previous gains if I sold now, but I am going to hold in the hope HMV comes up with some sort of clever strategy.

The Rolling Stones

HMV has been around even longer than the Rolling Stones! (The first shop was opened in 1921 by the Composer Sir Edward Elgar)

Where Next For HMV?

The Future of HMV? - HMV closes many shops and sells Hammersmith Apollo venue to help pay down debt

HMV will disappear from the High Street unless something is done. People like to browse through music titles and touch real tangible, physical objects rather than digital downloads. They also make far better presents, so there must be some business for a few years to come, but HMV needs to find a reason for people to want to continue coming to their shops: A trendy music orientated coffee shop for teenagers to hang out, perhaps, or alternatively concentrate more on vinyl, the music format that just refuses to die and really is best purchased from a shop or maybe a more grown-up atmosphere for classical music lovers, who haven't yet moved to downloaded (generally lower quality) music. Unfortunately it would be impossible to suit all of these customers. The teenagers don't want to hang out with old people (and vice versa)

The Waterstone's bookshop chain will probably still have to be sold to help pay the bills, assuming they can get a good price for it. Alexander Mamut (friend of Roman Abramovich and former adviser to Boris Yeltsin's Russian government) is expected to make an offer of £35 million for Waterstone's in April 2011. Alternatively there could be a rights issue (more shares created and sold to investors to raise more cash) but the existing shares would be diluted so much, due to the low valuation of the company, that this may not be viable, but I think there is hope for HMV's survival, if a suitable rescue package can be devised, even if it didn't turn out to be the great value investment I had hoped for.

Update (20th May 2011): HMV to sell Waterstone's Bookshop for £53m

HMV has agreed to sell the Waterstone's bookshop chain, as widely expected, although for perhaps more than had been feared (A&NN Capital Fund Management will pay £53m versus estimates of about £35m, although the sale has to be approved by shareholders and pension trustees)

Update (28th June 2011): HMV sell Canadian stores for £2m

HMV Canada was sold to Hilco, a restructuring company, for just £2m to help reduce debts.

Update (30th June 2011): HMV results

HMV said like-for-like sales fell 14.5% for the year to April. The firm remains in profit, although, before tax the profit was just £200,000.

Sales of CDs and DVDs have declinded due to competition from supermarkets and online downloads, but HMV is expanding its live ticketing, and digital music and equipment business.

Update (19th December 2011)

HMV may sell its live music division to raise funds. Like-for-like sales dropped 11.6% (26 weeks to October versus last year)

pre-tax loss of £36.4m (down £9m)

net debt of £163.7m (up from £151.6)

like-for-like technology sales up 42% in refitted shops

15 more UK stores to be closed to reduce costs

like-for-like sales in the seven weeks to 17 December down 13.2%

Update (20th January 2012)

HMV share-price rose 200% today. HMV is still here and has today, been given a reprieve. A deal struck with their banks and suppliers has given HMV more time to reduce debts, which they aim to halve in three years.

Update (1st June 2012)

HMV has agreed to sell its London comedy and music venue, the Hammersmith Apollo, to Stage C for £32m, which will be used to pay down debt and allow HMV to extend £220m bank loans until September 2014. The Apollo was bought by HMV in 2010.

Survival Plans for HMV?

HMV remains in profit (albeit ever shrinking profit)

HMV owns 50% of a digital downloads business: 7digitaland has an agreement with RIM and the Blackberry Playbook (competitor to the iPad) will come with the 7digital download app built in

HMV will refit 150 stores in September, to allocate selling space for new digital devices: tablets, handhelds etc. and to coincide with the beginning of the Christmas sales market.

Update (6th August 2012):

HMV announced the departure of group finance director David Wolffe, just a few days after chief executive, Simon Fox, announced he too will be leaving HMV next month. HMV still hope to return to profitability in 2013 after extensive restructuring.

I won't be buying any more HMV shares, even at less than 10p each, but I also won't sell the few I have.

Final Update? (15th January 2013): HMV went into administration on 15th January 2013, so it looks like the end for High Street music sales ... (probably, unless some private equity group can salvage something from the remains of the company)

Please Leave Some Feedback

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    • profile image

      fenellashorty 4 years ago

      Apparently the UK supermarket, Asda, is now considering a rescue bid for HMV, although I don't suppose they will manage to save many of the shops, nor the jobs. Shame.

    • McDreamer profile image

      McDreamer 4 years ago

      Turn offs for me in going to a music shop...

      Unfriendly and nagging staff...Friendliness really is important, nor can I stand arrogant staff, some seemed become quite like robots & zombies...Where has human nature gone?.

      Noxious loud music similar to a nightclub....I'm amongst those with sensitive ears and quick get headaches,and just walk out then. I did that often.

      Other things:

      An end to the volume war (aka $loudness war) raged by the music industry since the 90's...It's utter seneless and sadening...Just about every CD is mastered over-compressed with no musical soul (no dynamics), flat, distorted and tinny sounding...No wonder many prefer the mp3's instead. A real change is needed here...The music industry is more or less sinking into its own grave, regarding the senseless $loudness war!

      Some education to the public seems to be needed too I perceve...Many don't seem to know what quality music sounds like. Soulless squashed to bits mp3's are today's pre-recorded cassette tapes of the 80's. Asides vinyl, I've noticed a rise in popularity of previous analogue formats, like the humble cassette...They are beeng sought on eBay increasingly, and dissapearing rather rapidly, particular tapes of quality no longer made...Unlike the low quality speech grade tapes still made today. Newer is not always better. I believe in choice of formats, not this shoved down the throat 'one format suits all' mentality, not to mention nasty $DRM and the sick loudness war just mentioned before...

      In Australia also many music shops have dissapeared too, so its a global issue...sad, sad, sad! :(

    • MarcoG profile image

      Marc 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      Was quite sad when they split from Waterstones. Looks like things are ok for a moment for them. I like HMV, I hope it keeps strong!

    • profile image

      uticketit 6 years ago

      Thanks for Great post. I really like this article.

    • Andy-Po profile image
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      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      HMV had their annual meeting yesterday and announced that sales have continued to fall over the last three months: like-for-like retail sales were down 15.1% and total sales (29 shops were closed) fell 21.8%.

      Simon Fox, the chief executive, said trials of a new store format were successful and would be in the majority of its 150 stores. They will refocus business by offering more technology products - MP3 players, headphones and tablet computers, as well as live music and event ticketing. So there's hope and I won't sell my few shares just yet (I won't be buying any more just yet either)

    • Andy-Po profile image
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      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      HMV have sold Waterstone's book shop chain and have secured an additional loan arrangement for two years which has effectively given HMV a reprieve. The share price jumped about 50% yesterday and is up more today.

    • Andy-Po profile image
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      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      HMV have made a third profits warning and the stock price has dropped even lower.

    • Andy-Po profile image
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      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      @Lemming13: I agree. Not a friendly place to shop. I hope HMV take note of your suggestions. I would love the company to survive, but not in their current form. Apparently there are some proposed changes afoot over the next week or so, so lets hope for the best.

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 6 years ago

      I shop online with HMV - the stores put me off because they are too dark, too noisy (the music is usually awful and way, way above acceptable levels), and I can't queue long because I'm disabled and standing still makes me seize up. Put those issues right and I'd certainly go back to live browsing.

    • Andy-Po profile image
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      Andy 6 years ago from London, England

      @mariaamoroso: HMV stands for "His Masters Voice". Although even in England most people don't know that. It is a very old company and if you can see the logo in the photo above (it's a bit out of focus) there is a dog looking into the horn of an old fashioned gramophone (i.e. he can hear his masters voice in there... It was probably a funny joke in 1899)

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

      HMV ....stands for what? There are so many music stores out there