HMV : Making matters worse

Goodwill is abandoned to the mercy of events.

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The feature

HMV, the UK’s only national music and entertainment retailer, made no initial effort online to keep in touch with stakeholders after the business called in administrators. HMV’s dotcom home page is retail-oriented and dominated by a full-width banner for a ‘25% off’ sale and related ‘click online pick up in store’ service. The small About us section, reached from the site’s rich footer, has no news of the company’s decision on Monday (14th) to call in administrators and subsequent developments that are being reported in the UK’s national media. The rich footer is headed by a horizontal bar that carries a set of social media buttons including Facebook and Twitter, which launch the company’s official pages on the sites. The Twitter page ( had not been added to for 24 hours as of late afternoon on Tuesday (15 January) and the most recent tweets were related to the sale. The Facebook page ( also featured the sale in its left-hand panel but the posts were dominated by customers complaining about the company’s decision to no longer issue or redeem its gift cards and vouchers.

The takeaway

HMV is the latest high-profile retailer to run into trouble on the UK’s high street, with the rise of online music stores and download services widely blamed for its collapse. Sadly, as the administrators, Deloitte, work to put together a rescue package for the business HMV’s handling of the parts of the internet over which it has some control are contributing to making a bad matter worse. Coverage of the possible collapse of the business and the attempt to save it has been prominent in television and online news including the BBC. Senior company executives have been quoted and the decision to no longer honour gift vouchers has been widely reported. One inevitable result is that various stakeholders, from individual investors to customers, will turn to the company’s online properties for its side of the story, for clarification of the facts and for the opportunity to comment and question. What they have found so far are signs of the anger of fellow customers – on Facebook – and of a sale apparently continuing, but nothing by way of statements or response from the company. It’s a traditional news management approach based in part on the reasoning that HMV has more critical concerns to deal with – saving the business and its employees jobs. But the response on Facebook is a clear indication that the situation can quickly become more critical if the internet is ignored in the rescue effort – the risk is that rumour and rancour run riot, taking stakeholder goodwill and the business’ reputation down at a moment when they might be the best asset it has left.
First published 15 January, 2013
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