HMV Reopens In London… Is Physical Music Back?

27 November 2023 | 4:04 pm | Mary Varvaris

The re-opened HMV will stock 20,000 vinyl records and CD albums, over 8,000 Blu-Ray and DVD products, and other music technology items.

HMV Logo

HMV Logo (Pic via Facebook)

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Last week, cultural institution and music store HMV reopened after a long four-year absence in its flagship location of Oxford Street in London. Due to its return, music lovers are likely wondering if physical music stores will thrive again.

Doug Putman, owner of Toys R Us in Canada and engineer of HMV’s newfound success, cited a re-emergence in interest in CDs as well as other physical music formats.

Following the Oxford Street store’s closure in 2019, HMV fell into administration, and the space was transformed into an American lolly shop before the landlord and music store agreed to a deal that marked HMV’s return.

According to Putman, who spoke to The Guardian in a recent interview, fans are collecting any variant of physical media there is per artist, with artists like Taylor Swift finding anything from vinyl to CD to cassette selling.

Putman believes devoted fans are “doubling down on trying to buy everything [an artist] comes out with”. The Guardian’s report details that the comeback of HMV on Oxford Street will stock 20,000 vinyl records and CD albums, over 8,000 Blu-Ray and DVD products, and other music technology items.

Could the resurgence of HMV’s flagship store signal some hope for recently shuttered music stores, such as Sanity?

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On 26 March, The Music’s Stephen Green walked into a local Sanity store (Browns Plains) for the last time. “In a world where first music and then movies made their way online, the closure of the chain is no surprise,” Green wrote, “but the historical moment isn't lost on staff who are philosophical about the closure and despite losing their jobs are more focused on mourning the loss of the store and the impact on their customers.”

Speaking to staff members Emma and Mel, the former admitted that she was in “denial” about the closure. Emma told The Music, “Sanity is such an amazing company to work for, and it's really sad that we're the last ones. Next week, I think I'll be pretending I'm on annual leave and that Sanity is still here.”

The first Sanity outlet, a rebranding of Brett Blundy’s Melbourne-based record and cassette store Jetts, opened in 1992 in Doncaster before expanding across the country and eventually being acquired by Ray Itaoui in 2009.

Itaoui said the brand would continue to live online, with the Sanity website one of the country's biggest destinations for physical media. 

“With our customers shifting to digital for their visual and music content consumption and with diminishing physical content available to sell to our customers, it has made it impossible to continue with our physical stores,” he said.