It called itself the ‘world’s most famous music store’ and had a proud history going back to 1921.
But after being forced to shut its flagship shop in London‘s West End four years ago, HMV is finally returning home.
The music chain has revealed that it will reopen the world-famous site at 363 Oxford Street – which saw hundreds of stars perform and host record signings over its 98-year existence – later this year.
HMV closed the flagship store in February 2019 after becoming unprofitable amid rising business rates and dwindling footfall. It was later turned into one of the many gaudy American sweet shops now in that area which are selling vapes which are helping to fuel the child vaping epidemic.
In the face of intense competition from cheaper online retailers and streaming services, HMV – which stands for His Master’s Voice – has come up with an ‘evolved retail concept’ and will stock a wide range of pop culture merchandise, vinyl, film, TV and music technology.
The announcement is a huge boost to Britain’s beleaguered High Street, and especially Oxford Street, which has seen major brands closing including Topshop, Debenhams and House of Fraser all close as they have been dealt hammerblows by economic crisis after crisis.
It will also likely be welcome news to authorities as they seek to clamp down on the US-themed candy stores.
The news comes as a major report today finds that nearly a fifth of shops in the North East stand empty compared to just one in 10 in the South as high streets slowly perish.
The HMV store on Oxford Street in London is pictured in 2018 shortly before it closed (left) and in its current form as ‘Candy World’, one of the gaudy American sweet shops in the area (right)
BEFORE and AFTER: HMV’s flagship store was unceremoniously turned into a ‘Candy World’
2011 – One Direction pose for a photograph at a fan greeting event at HMV Oxford Circus
2003 – Russian singing duo t.A.T.u. kiss after performing on stage at HMV Oxford Street
2007 – (From left) Vanessa Hudgins, Lucas Grabeel, Zac Efron, Aleysa Rulin and Monique Coleman from Disney’s High School Musical attend a DVD signing at HMV Oxford Street
1995 – Blur hold a rooftop concert at HMV Oxford Street to launch their ‘Great Escape’ album
As for HMV, the retailer shut the flagship store in 2019 after falling into administration before a rescue takeover by Canadian Doug Putman’s Sunrise Records.
It is understood that HMV has signed a deal to replace the current occupant, whose lease is set to expire in around six months.
HMV said the return to 363 Oxford Street was the ‘latest sign of a dramatic turnaround’ after collapsing four years ago, with the firm bouncing back to profit last year.
The store will feature the company’s new logo and new store layout, which it has been rolling out since 2021.
The retailer has shifted further towards pop culture merchandise, vinyl, music technology, such as headphones, and live music and signings in stores amid waning demand for DVDs and CDs.
HMV said it will have brought the concept, which it dubs HMV Shop, to 24 new sites and 14 existing stores by the end of the year.
HMV currently has 120 shops across the UK, including a West London location in Westfield in White City, the specialist Fopp store in Covent Garden, and the 25,000 sq ft Vault in Birmingham – which is Europe’s largest entertainment store.
Mr Putman said today: ‘The expansion of our fan-focused pop culture offer is really working for us and the reopening of our flagship represents the culmination of a good few years of hard work.
‘We are also opening stores in Europe this year, so while it is the culmination of one phase of work, more excitingly we see it as the launch pad for an exciting new era for HMV.’
1953 – Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation procession travels past HMV Oxford Street
1950s – Shoppers look at classical music vinyl records at HMV Oxford Street
1950s – Shoppers listen to new releases on early listening posts at HMV Oxford Street
1950s – The HMV Oxford Street outlet was once billed ‘the world’s most famous music store’
1921 – The opening ceremony at HMV Oxford Street was led by composer Sir Edward Elgar, which is thought to be the first ever in-store personal appearance by a recording artist
In the past year, HMV stores in the UK have welcomed artists such as Charli XCX, Stormzy, Shania Twain, Raye and Ellie Goulding for signings, and more are set to follow at the Oxford Street store.
It is also set to stage performances from up-and-coming acts through the hmv Live&Local programme.
Councillor Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, said: ‘It’s fantastic to see this iconic brand back on Oxford Street, where it stood as a driver of music and pop culture in the capital for so long.
‘It’s also particularly pleasing it is replacing one of the many US candy stores which sprang up during the pandemic.’
Sam Foyle, co-head of prime global retail at Savills, acting on behalf of the private landlord for 363 Oxford Street, said: ‘The return of HMV is a major milestone for Oxford Street. It shows the growth in belief and confidence for the street.
2018 – Little Mix hold an in-store promotion of their new album LM5 at HMV Oxford Street
2012 – Holly Willoughby, Keith Lemon and Fearne Cotton at a signing at HMV Oxford Street
2010 – Kate Nash performs songs from her album My Best Friend Is You at HMV Oxford Street
2006 – Primal Scream pose for a photograph as they hold a late-night performance at the store
2006 – Matt Lucas and David Walliams in character as Lou and Andy at HMV Oxford Street
2006 – A-Ha meet their excited fans during an in-store signing session at HMV Oxford Street
‘The previous vacancy and short term candy store tenant, was the focus of the challenges facing Oxford Street. HMV reopening along with many other global transactions in progress, demonstrates that Oxford Street has recovered.’
HMV opened its first shop on the site in July 1921.
The gramophone brand of HMV was founded that year and it then opened its first dedicated store at 363 Oxford Street.
The opening ceremony was led by composer Sir Edward Elgar, which is thought to be the first ever in-store personal appearance by a recording artist.
In 1931 the company joined with Columbia Graphophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries (EMI), but six years later a Boxing Day fire destroyed the store and offices.
The firm had to take up temporary premises on Bond Street and Regent Street, and it took 250 firemen to bring the blaze under control.
A bigger Oxford Street store was re-opened in May 1939, and it operated by candlelight during the Second World War.
2005 – The Kaiser Chiefs perform live during an in-store appearance at HMV Oxford Street
2004 – Duran Duran are seen during an in-store appearance at HMV Oxford Street
2003 – Jazz singer Jamie Cullum promotes his album Twenty Something at HMV Oxford Street
2001 – Members of the Popstars band Hear’Say hold an event at HMV Oxford Street
2002 – Pop Idol star Darius Danesh holds a copy of ‘Colourblind’ at HMV Oxford Street
2002 – Sven-Goran Eriksson launches a CD of his favourite music at HMV Oxford Street
By the 1960s HMV had expanded its retail operations across London amid a massive upswing in business thanks to the revolution in popular culture
And in the late 1970s it was claimed that the store was so successful that its tape floor was responsible for 10 per cent of all tape sales in the UK.
In the 1980s a merger between EMI and Thorn Electrical Industries ended a 60-year association between HMV and the music company, and they were then renamed HMV Record Shops Ltd.
During this decade there were personal appearances from Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, and famous shoppers included Cher, Elton John and Michael Jackson.
In 1986 the chain opened a larger outlet at 150 Oxford Street, with Bob Geldof opening what was at the time the world’s biggest record store.
By 1993 it had the world’s largest computer games department, which was opened by presenter Chris Evans, and the following year saw the longest in-store signing session, lasting five hours with Irish star Daniel O’Donnell.
In 1995, The store at number 363 then hosted a famous rooftop gig featuring Blur, who performed six songs to launch their ‘Great Escape’ album.
2011 – American singer and X Factor judge Kelly Rowland during a visit to HMV Oxford Street
2006 – Feeder perform at HMV Oxford Street to promote their new single Lost And Found.
2010 – A shop assistant stacks CDs on the shelves at HMV Oxford Street
2010 – Glamour model Katie Price launches her latest novel ‘Paradise’ at HMV Oxford Street
2005 – Fans get their hands on the Playstation PSP as it launches at HMV Oxford Street
2003 – The Manic Street Preachers launch their album Lipstick Traces at HMV Oxford Street
2002 – Singer Dolly Parton poses for photographers at a signing at HMV Oxford Street
2016 – Members of the band Bastille launch their album ‘Wild World’ at HMV Oxford Street
PRESENT DAY – This revamped interior of HMV’s store in Wigan gives an impression of how the new Oxford Street outlet will look, according to the music retailer
The following year the 363 store hosted the official Oxford Street Christmas lights switch-on with the Spice Girls in front of a crowd of more than 6,000 people attended.
In 1998 it became the first music retailer to establish a transactional website, hmv.co.uk; offering more than 250,000 music titles over the internet.
But, ironically, the internet was one of the main reasons for its downfall over the following years as people found they could purchase CDs far cheaper online.
The flagship Oxford Street store was then closed in 2019 after HMV fell administration before the takeover by Sunrise Records.
The announcement of its reopening comes days after the boss of Marks & Spencer described the landmark shopping street as a ‘national embarrassment’.
Stuart Machin, chief executive of M&S, said in a letter to the Evening Standard: ‘The high street which is meant to be the jewel in London’s crown today is a national embarrassment, with a proliferation of tacky candy stores, antisocial behaviour and footfall remaining in the doldrums, 11 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels.’