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So I read recently that HMV – the UK based, music retailer – have instructed their staff to hide tattoos and have presentable hair, in a bid to be more inviting and approachable to shoppers.
Now I appreciate that their business has been severely hit by internet sales – plus they contributed to their own downfall by being late, and stubborn, to embrace online retailing, including digital music sales – but it’s not because some of their sales staff look like fucking freaks … in fact, if it was up to me, I’d encourage hiring even more people like that.
You see while HMV might not be able to compete on price or range, the one thing they can challenge the digital boys on, is service and knowledge.
When I was younger, I used to go to a shop in Nottingham called WayAhead.
While there were a whole host of record shops in the city – from the big boys like HMV, WHSmiths, Woolies, Our Price and the smaller shops like Selectadisc – WayAhead was, for me, literally way ahead.
You see apart from specialising in the sort of music that would make Northern want to kill himself, the shop owners and staff knew their shit.
Buying a record from them wasn’t just a financial transaction, it was a lesson in music appreciation and understanding.
They would given you their view on what you were buying … why it was so good/bad … tracks that were worthy of special notice … the background on the band or its musicians plus a bunch of other artists you should check out, based on what you’ve just purchased.
In essence, it was a music education … something that even Apple’s Genius’ or Amazon’s algorithm couldn’t compete with … and it ensured I went back again and again and again.
I recently told this story to a client of mine who has retail outlet ‘issues’.
I pointed out that one of the things they need to get a grip on, is who they hire.
Rather than base their staffing criteria on ‘who will accept a particular wage’, they should look at who is good to represent the brand and attract the audience.
That doesn’t mean they have to overspend on staff costs, it just means they have to be more discerning on the criteria of employment.
It also means they have to train … train … and train again.
HMV has a special place in my heart. I know that sounds ridiculous, but they do.
My concern is that if the person managing the company thinks that the key to their fortune is ensuring transactional accessibility, then they’re going to end up encouraging what they say they are trying their hardest to avoid.
Music and film are food for our emotions.
They are, for all intents and purposes, what makes us human.
Fuck, they should be on Maslow’s fucking hierarchy of needs.
The last thing HMV needs is neat, tidy and efficient retail staff, they need people who can invigorate and ignite the masses passion and excitement for music, films and gaming on every visit.
In this World of price consciousness, passion – genuine passion, not the poor excuse too many marketers try and pass off as passion – can be a commercially valuable, true competitive advantage.
I hope the powers-that-be at HMV see the light before it’s too late.
As evidence of what I’m saying – even though it’s from a fictional book/movie – here are two clips from the wonderful movie, ‘High Fidelity’. You’ll note I’ve linked the film to the HMV store, rather than the Amazon one – just to do my bit for their sales. Ahem.
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