HMV closes last shop in Singapore with no word of new location

Music retailer has said on website that it plans to re-open

The last few customers queuing to pay for their purchases last night at the HMV store in Marina Square before it closed its doors for good.
The last few customers queuing to pay for their purchases last night at the HMV store in Marina Square before it closed its doors for good.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Even on the day of its last outlet's closure, HMV has yet to announce its new location, igniting talk it may be pulling out of Singapore altogether.

The music retailer's Marina Square store shut for good at 9pm on Wednesday (Sept 30), its usual closing time. The store had been clearing stock by offering discounts of up to 70 per cent. Unsold merchandise will be sent to stores in other countries.

Attempts on Wednesday to contact Hong Kong-based AID Partners, which bought HMV Singapore in 2013, were unsuccessful. The private equity firm told The Straits Times last week it planned to open a new HMV flagship store here, but it had yet to find the right location.

On its website, HMV Singapore had also informed its customers of its plan "to re-open a new store in the near future".

When The Straits Times contacted the outlet on Wednesday afternoon, a cashier who declined to be named said he was not sure about a new outlet opening and that Wednesday was his last day. All staff, he added, were told last month that they would be laid off.

A visit to the outlet on Wednesday found over half the store cordoned off, several empty shelves and about 15 customers browsing, a few with baskets full of discounted DVDs and other accessories. A sign with the words "clearance sale" was put up at the shop entrance.

Industry watchers expressed doubt that the chain would reopen in Singapore. Mr Amos Tan, senior lecturer in retail and marketing at Singapore Polytechnic, said: "From a business point of view, it is simply not viable for them to come back. They sell CDs and how many people even own a CD player nowadays?"

He added: "Firms that are bowing out but want to keep their options open may decide to manage the public's perception of the brand. It's much better to say you are relocating, as opposed to shutting down, your last outlet. The impression you leave is different."

Mr Tan said reopening here may work if HMV came back with a totally new strategy. In Hong Kong, the brand is set to open a 40,000 sq ft concept lifestyle store in Causeway Bay featuring music and entertainment later this year.

A Marina Centre Holdings spokesman said HMV, which opened at Marina Square in 2011, did not renew its lease at the end of its four-year term.

The spokesman added that during its tenure, the struggling retailer had approached it with several ideas, including having a deejay booth facility for customers to download music in-store and opening a French coffee joint. But plans were shelved due to cost concerns, among other reasons, she said.

HMV's first Singapore store, at The Heeren, was 25,000 sq ft when it opened in 1997, making it the biggest music store here. It then cut floor space twice before moving to a 12,500 sq ft space in 313@somerset. In 2011, it shut its CityLink outlet and, in 2013, its Somerset store closed, leaving the music juggernaut with its last outlet at Marina Square.

Other music retailers shared HMV's fate. Tower Records and home-grown chain Sembawang Music Centre folded in 2006 and 2009, respectively, amid falling CD sales that experts blame on the rise of digital platforms for music, and piracy.

Mr James Tan, 61, who works in construction, was seen at the store yesterday with a basket of DVDs and comparing the marked-down prices with those on e-commerce site Amazon. "If there was no sale, I wouldn't be buying the DVDs here," he said. "I can buy the same thing online for less."

Chef Davey Low, 37, who used to visit HMV often in his younger days, was more sentimental: "I am sad HMV is shutting... I hope it will find a way to open here again soon."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2015, with the headline 'HMV closes last shop here with no word of new location'. Print Edition | Subscribe