HMV is targeting Christmas shoppers by opening up to a dozen short-lease pop up stores across the country.
The troubled high street retailer told Huff Post UK that its pop ups were a great way to either extend its offering to locations it doesn't have a year-round presence in, or to complement and support existing HMV stores, such as those in shopping centres, which can get busy during the festive season.
"Our experience is customers welcome the additional choice, as this really helps them with their Christmas gift purchasing requirements - especially when it gets close to Christmas week and they prefer not to take the risk ordering online," Gennaro Castaldo, head of press at HMV told Huff Post UK.
He added that landlords of the sites where the pop ups materialise are also keen, as they like having major brands on their pitches - making them prepared to be flexible on rent and other costs.
Castaldo claimed HMV's pop ups could trade anything up to an additional 40,000 - 50,000 square feet in key locations at a time when many people are making their entertainment purchases, and create extra seasonal fixed-term jobs for up to 150-200 people.
The stores tend to start opening from early November, to coincide with the release of major titles on CD, DVD/Blu-ray and games and the launch of key technology products, and trade through to early-mid January, covering the Boxing Day sales period.
And the pop up store statistics can indicate whether there is an appetite for a permanent retail location.
HMV's pop up units will appear in Barnstaple - Devon, Harrow, Lakeside Thurrock, Sutton Coldfield and Welwyn Garden City as well as secondary sites in Birmingham, Cardiff, Southampton, Manchester and Bluewater.
Among the items expected to sell well at the HMV pop ups are CDs (with Olly Murs, Robbie Williams and One Direction's album offerings expected to do well), DVDs (The Dark Knight Rises and box sets of Downton Abbey, Mrs Brown’s Boys and The Only Way is Essex tipped as the top stocking fillers) and portable technology, such as ear phones, wireless speakers and iPhone accessories.
Despite HMV's optimism, retail analysts remained unconvinced over the company's long term future.
"HMV is in an extended toughing it out mode," said Shore Capital's retail analyst Clive Black. "Pop ups are a good reaction to technology but the group continues to face the challenge of digital encroachment.
"What is in HMW’s favour is that it is the window for a lot of artists' material; if HMV disappeared, the market would contract. However, such a fact should not hide the slog of managing down an estate, coping with weak footfall and the digital challenge.
"In a market slog HMV is also in a category mire. The sad thing is it is a great retailer, it’s just that its market has changed and it hasn’t demonstrated category leadership online."
Mintel's Richard Perks, retail director, was less sentimental. "Pop-ups cannot be anything more than a 'nice to have'; they'll help with sales over Christmas and by the sound of it they can be profitable, so that makes them worthwhile - but they can't be anything other than a small add on," he said.
"I wonder if it even points up the weakness of the business. As regular demand has moved to the supermarkets and online, has HMV become even more geared towards Christmas, as Woolworths used to be? I am not convinced there is a place on the high street for a music and video specialist. I think that it needs to be part of a broader range offer and, preferably, put in cheaper, secondary space."
However, Redmayne Bentley's stockbroker Lauren Charnley brought a little Christmas cheer, telling Huff Post UK: "It’s clear the industry is moving more online, with the likes of play.com and Amazon flourishing, so HMV’s revolutionary pop up shops could be what is needed to turn things around for the group.
"This Christmas will no doubt be a challenging one for the sector as a whole, but HMV’s innovative way to maximise holiday sales without a year long commitment could be the boost required for a change of fortune."
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