There was a lot of sadness when HMV Records announced they were closing. For a time it seemed they were going to big enough and strong enough to last. In recent years they started losing money to changing tastes in how people consume media. Some if due to illegal file sharing but streaming music and video has meant consumers have chosen not to own but rather rent their collections.
HMV had tried to find areas of the market that they could make a profit in such as cultural goods that had a better mark-up. However, the leases inside the malls might have just been too pricey to make the numbers work. In the end, the company folded its tent and called it a day.
Manitobans would remiss if they thought this was the last multi-store record chain in Canada. Sunrise Records has been around since the 1970s and was once thought of as the big five in Canadian retailing along with Sam the Record Man, Music World, A&A Records and HMV. Even Sunrise appeared to struggle and closed the original 1977 built store on Yonge Street in Toronto in 2014.
The downward spiral might have continued save for the fact that Sunrise Records was bought by Douglas Putman, owner of Everest Toys. Instead of closing stores, the new owner started to open stores in Ontario defying the trend. Going against the grain was familiar ground for Putman. As owner of Everest Toys since 1992, he offered traditional quality toys using an online platform and found success in Canada, the U.S. and beyond.
In 2017, Sunrise had nine locations throughout Ontario when it was announced that HMV would be shutting down all Canadian operations. In the last several days, Sunrise has jumped at the chance to go national and has taken over 70 of HMV’s leases including Polo Park Winnipeg.
The re-branding of HMV to Sunrise will be occurring soon. The new company intends to carry more niche market product like vinyl records which is making a bit of a comeback. They also intend to carry more local artists in each market. Like HMV they also will be stocking higher margin entertainment apparel and merchandise.
There is probably room in the market for a music and entertainment store. Like bookstores, there has been a return to old product for the right price and for the niche market. There will never be a return to the grand days when several stores competed on one street for attention. However, well curated and local oriented stores could possibly be the right antidote to an online world.
This has been a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations