Nostalgia and frustration among visitors to Oxford Street store as end of an era beckons
Among the shoppers visiting HMV’s flagship store on Oxford Street in central London on Tuesday to take advantage of its month-long sale – and perhaps to bid a fond farewell – was the broadcaster Paul Gambaccini.
“It’s inevitable and I’ve seen it happen in New York,” he said of HMV’s collapse into administration. “We lost Tower Records and you cannot buy a physical CD in Manhattan. That is an amazing thing.
“It happened all across America, even the finest record stores could not survive. The march of time does not always go forward, sometimes it goes sideways, and what’s happening now is a movement sideways, and in every aspect of entertainment in the past 15 years convenience has trumped quality.”
He added: “Even if the MP3 doesn’t sound as good as some quality recordings, that doesn’t seem to matter, it’s the convenience that counts, and I understand that. You can’t be King Canute and pretend the tide is not going to come in. The tide is coming in, and for these poor folks today [at HMV] it has arrived.”
Nostalgia was evident among the digital generation as they reluctantly accepted that the end of an era in music retailing beckoned.
“I’m really disappointed because this suggests the end of buying physical music,” said 18-year-old Ally Irwin. “I think, however, this is all understandable because HMV do charge quite a lot for music compared to iTunes, and when you can get so much music for free it’s understandable why they went bust.”
HMV’s prices were widely identified as a factor in the store’s collapse. “This is very sad but it’s been on the cards for ages,” said Seb Fox, 30. “This is definitely to do with HMV charging high prices, and then when no one buys CDs they go into the sale at rock-bottom prices so they never make any money on them. Everyone buys online now.”
There was frustration at the announcement that any unspent gift cards and vouchers were now ineligible. “Loads of my friends got gift vouchers for Christmas, one person got £60, and now it’s just worthless” Irwin said.
Others were more forgiving. Liz Byrne, 31, said: “It’s really awful regarding the gift vouchers, but on the other hand I do understand because HMV have got to try and keep the business going.”
On Twitter, the singer Paloma Faith wrote: “I’m devastated that HMV is closing down! I have been buying music in there for years. Going to the shops to buy an album is over.”
The rapper Professor Green tweeted: “We may as well just give up on any medium that involves hard copy and get on with it #sadtimes.”