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The history of HMV as chain goes into administration

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: January 15, 2013


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It boasts a 90-year history and 250 stores, attracts music and film lovers of all ages, and even played a part in the success of The Beatles. But today, music and DVD retailer HMV has announced it is to go into administration.

After holding discussions with its banks over the weekend, it is understood the company failed to agree on new terms for its debt. The jobs of its 4,500 workers are at risk.

The announcement marks a dark chapter in the brand’s long history.

Established in 1921 through its landmark store in Oxford Street, His Master’s Voice quickly became known for its dog and gramophone logo.

Starring Bristol-born canine Nipper, the painting by Francis Barraud was acquired by HMV owners the Gramophone Company in 1899, and the design used on its record labels from 1909.

When the Oxford Street building was destroyed by fire on Boxing Day 1937, only the front-of-store Nipper logo survived unscathed. It features on HMV’s logo and merchandise to this day.

The retail store, the first in the world to offer listening booths, served as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War. Trading continued as usual upstairs, however.

In 1962 Brian Epstein visited the store's recording studio and cut a demo for The Beatles. It led to the band meeting Parlophone's George Martin, and they recorded their first single at Abbey Road studios four months later.

By 1986, having acquired 25 stores across the UK, the brand ventured overseas, opening stores in Ireland and Canada. It also opened a new Oxford Circus shop - at the time the largest record shop in the world.

In the years that followed His Master’s Voice became known for its ground-breaking in-store celebrity appearances, and each year hosted 200 such events.

By 1986 EMI (formerly the Gramophone Company) created the HMV Group, and launched the brand worldwide. Stores opened in Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and the US during the 1990s, as well Singapore and Australia.

In 1998 EMI and venture capital firm Advent Investors created HMV Media Group, which then acquired HMV, Waterstones and Dillons - later rebranded Waterstones.

HMV was the UK's leading music retailer by the end of the century. Two years later, in 2002, HMV Media Group was renamed HMV Group, and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

By the time Gromit (of Wallace and Gromit) stood in for Nipper during a three month advertising campaign in 2007, there were more than 400 HMV shops worldwide. That year the chain acquired a number of Fopp and former Zavvi stores.

In 2009 HMV bought venue owner MAMA Group for £46 million, and in doing so took its first step into the world of live music.

But in January 2011 HMV announced it would close 60 UK stores in the next 12 months in response to declining sales. Later that year the cash-strapped chain sold Waterstones to Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.

The sale was deemed vital to secure the future of HMV.

HMV forged an alliance with Universal Music and other suppliers in January the following year – a move the company hoped would help return it to financial health over the next three years.

Later that year it brought to a close its live music business, selling the Hammersmith Apollo for £32 million.

In December 2012 HMV warned it may be on the verge of breaching banking agreements, as it reported another fall in sales.

According to the BBC, sales for the six months to October 27 fell to £288.6m, down 13.5 per cent. The firm's shares fell 1.6p to 2.5p at the close of trading, a 40 per cent drop.

Today, HMV announced it is to go into administration.

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