HMV says its flagship store in Toronto isn't going anywhere
The music industry in Toronto is ever-changing, but 2016 was a particularly difficult year for HMV.
The Eaton Centre location announced its imminent closure when its lease came up for renewal, which was the same story at the Bloor Street store. A company that was once ubiquitous in Toronto is now down to a handful of stores.
It leaves many wondering about the future of 333 Yonge St., the 4,000 square foot flagship store near Yonge and Dundas. It's been around for 30 years and can't help but feel like a bit of a vessel for movie merch and bargain bin pop cultural items.
Nick Williams, the president and CEO of of HMV Canada has a status update about the store and the main message is that it's not going anywhere.
"Every time we have to close a store or move a store we get lots of letters and emails from our core consumers who don’t like that change," he says. "The reality is the problem in some of our downtown markets, the rental markets are so prohibitive for retail in the malls.
"The big landlords and Cadillacs of this world command such high rent that we just get to the point where we can’t afford to pay them anymore. Our business model doesn’t allow us to."
HMV wasn't able to reach an agreement with the Eaton Centre landlords and left. It's now concentrating its efforts on the mega-store and what stores are left in Ontario and Canada. Thankfully, it has a lot more traffic at Yonge-Dundas Square and a better relationship with its landlord.
"Yonge and Dundas is a really important store for us, simply because it’s been there since the start," says Williams .
"The landlord is a good friend of ours and really supports the business," he continues.
It's cool the landlord supports the business, but does the consumer?
The space has an underground concert hall for special, one-off private shows, and acts as a storage unit for their online retail store (they also have a digital locker shop where you can buy music), but is anyone buying anything at HMV anymore?
"It’s an ever changing model but one that we always feel we’re ahead of the curve on and try our best to give the right offer to our diehard fans who pop in and see us regularly," says Williams.
Williams says music sales are about 65 per cent digital and 35 per cent physical, and Toronto is a tricky market. People here like their music handy and on a mobile device since many commute.
This is why HMV has its digital download store and offers as much as it can, including vinyl and pop culture merchandise, for people who still collect music or need gift ideas.
"Lots of retailers are scratching their heads wondering how to maintain a business in such a high rental market," Williams says. "We obviously have a number of challenges and that is how people are consuming our products differently.
"It’s an interesting and challenging model, but the brand has great value, people love shopping with us ... people aren't buying music the way they used to, but we've accommodated this."
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