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Banks, Lenders & Investors General Insolvency Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Why HMV may just survive while other high street retailers crash and burn

Despite the continuing carnage on the High Street there are glimmers of hope emerging from the restructuring process currently being carried out on the music store HMV.
Why? Well as with any business restructuring the first step is to carry out a review which includes a thorough look at the accounts to identify any areas where savings can be made, the most obvious in this case being loss-making stores, onerous rental agreements and  the employment roll.
Already the closure of 66 loss-making stores has been announced, plus a further 37 this week, and also administrators Deloitte have noted that landlords have been generally “flexible and supportive” during the ongoing efforts to restructure the business.
Most significant, however, may be the recent announcement that trading agreements for the supply of new stock have been signed with the majority of HMV’s suppliers, something that is generally unusual when a company is in difficulties.
It is clear that HMV’s business model needs to change to take account of the shift in consumer behaviour and deal with intense competition for the sale of music, DVDs and games from online suppliers, digital downloads and also from supermarkets.
HMV however has support from a record industry, particularly the independent labels, which is keen to maintain a High Street presence and can learn from other retailers that justify their High Street presence by providing consumers with a retail experience rather than just a place to purchase goods.
Artists, too, have expressed support with Elton John suggesting holding live gigs in the stores.
The secret is in the details. Customers have been quoted as saying they valued the opportunity to browse, to talk to knowledgeable experts when they are searching for unusual and niche items and to have a sample listen to tracks before they buy. With appropriate staff training, these could provide a USP for the retail arm of the business to highlight.
All this illustrates that a thorough business restructuring involves attention to detail and identifying those aspects that make it special or unique and that may just help it to survive by returning focus to core strengths that may have been lost sight of over time.

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Business Development & Marketing Cash Flow & Forecasting General Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery

Saving the High Street

Retail pain continues with the news that Mothercare is to close a third of its 373 UK stores.
JJB Sports has just announced losses 0f £181.4 million for the year to 30 January 2011, three times the previous year’s loss of £68.6 million and plan to close 89 of their 247 stores over the next two years.
And HMV has just had to sell Waterstone’s for £53 million to pay down some of its £170 million of debt. In addition, they also propose to close 40 stores.
Oddbin’s too, has gone like most other wine retail chains, following its failed attempt to agree a restructuring plan with creditors, which was rejected by HMRC.
Plainly there is a major earthquake taking place on the High Street, and it is not all about cutbacks in consumer spending. More importantly retail purchasing is changing. Consumers are becoming sharper shoppers by looking elsewhere, not just in the High Street.  They are visiting dedicated retail parks combining shopping and leisure to offer an experience, entertainment and convenience in one place and are also increasing their online spending.
The government has recently asked Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas to take a look at the country’s High Streets and come up with suggestions for rescuing them, clearly hoping to find a way of rejuvenating this part of the UK economy.
She may well conclude that the competition from shopping and leisure centres with their easy access via car and public transport is too much and that the High Street can survive but only if it offers something different.
Locals still like to buy from local shops that provide a personal service, ideally selling local produce such as farm-sourced. This ought to support retailers like the grocer who lets you taste a piece of cheese before you buy, independent butchers who will advise, trim or even marinate meat and local bakers. Pubs, restaurants and cafes that cater for families, young people, the elderly all play their part in supporting community, even the self-help run library. But for the High Street to avoid further decline, everyone needs to work together and this will require leadership.
You never know, the High Street may be once again be a place where shopping is an enjoyable experience, but what will it look like?