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Might entertainment devices replace CDs and DVDs?

OPINION: Could HMV refocus on technology?

As HMV enters administration, there’s much speculation as to how the company can survive, and in what form.

HMV, well known as a music, games and DVD retailer, has been seriously upping its technology offering over the last couple of years. Technology departments with headphones, tablets and laptops to try out have become commonplace.

Marketing and e-commerce director Mark Hodgkinson told PCR in October: "The area of technology where we believe we can make a difference is in what we call portable entertainment devices. If you look at the direction that entertainment is moving in, more of it is experienced through portable gadgets now. In the past you were accessing entertainment with CDs and DVDs, but increasingly it is through your tablet or your smart device."

It makes sense to go this route. Music, games and films are increasingly purchased in digital format and HMV currently devotes a huge amount of floor space to these areas. 

Technology products can be bought online but it’s much nicer to get your hands on them in person before you buy. HMV’s tech areas are pretty good, and I’ve seen a few.

However, don’t get too excited. HMV boss Trevor Moore today pointed out poor technology sales over the key Christmas period, when HMV is normally able to capitalise on the consumer hunt for last-minute presents. He said this was down to supply lines of key tablets, but its unclear whether having the supplies there could’ve made much of a difference. 

HMV seems stuck in that old cliché, between a rock and a hard place. It plays an important role in the music and DVD business, where it’s a vital sales route for small labels with long backlists. It still sells significant amounts of singles and has big stores to ensure it can hold a decent amount of stock. But this is the market that’s disappearing.

Headsets have always done well for the retailer – they were a star at Christmas 2011 – but the transition to selling tablets, netbooks and beyond is seemingly not as easy as the firm hoped.

There’s a lot of goodwill for HMV – particularly from those of us who recall frittering hours away in their stores as a child. But goodwill alone isn’t enough.

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