Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Good old Gennaro Castaldo - he's not just there for the soft things in life, like talking about the Singing Sheep or Crazy Frog's chances for a number one; no, he can do business press as well, if, say Business Week wants to know about HMV stores:

As Gennaro Castaldo, head of press and public relations at music store HMV, sums it up: "It's certainly the case that consumers have many more [retail channel] choices today. You have to give people an added reason to come into your store, something that makes the act of visiting a shop as rewarding as acquiring the good itself."

[An] inability to replicate the flagship experience is a constant source of tension in retail strategy, particularly for large established chains, such as HMV, which stages rock performances in its 50,000-square-foot Oxford Street store, while maintaining a national network of 200 satellite shops, often measuring no more than 4,000 to 5,000 square feet.

Says Castaldo: "There's only so much that you can do with a smaller store. There's no sense of theater." But, he adds, "What you aim to do through the flagship is to associate the brand with an aspirational lifestyle that supports the other stores and motivates customers from smaller towns, perhaps two or three times a year, to make a trip up to London to enjoy the full experience."

Good God - does he actually believe that? That once every four months people might want to make a trip from their homes (we imagine Castaldo isn't assuming all of these being made from wattle and daub) so they can go to the flagship HMV? That people who nip into the Watford branch are thinking "well, I'll buy this record here because one day - if I'm good, study hard and save harder - I might get to see the shiny big store in London town."

We know we shouldn't expect anything better, but it's always depressing to find that retailers really do think their fascias and fittings are so deeply pivotal in people's lives. We guess some people might go to London because there are more shops, and while they're there, they'll pop into HMV because it's got more stock than the embarrassingly light CD range most branches hold, but why on earth would knowing there's a branch four hundred miles away with a couple of extra racks of vinyl singles make you any more likely to want to shop in the Liverpool branch that doesn't?

It might go against the fetishisation of the focus group and the clipboard-response, but with record shops - as with any sort of shop, Gennaro - nobody really gives a shag if it's aspirational or has a chrome-plated flagship branch. They'll shop there if it has the stock they want at a price they're prepared to pay.