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HMV extends massive sale to raise cash, stay afloat

HMV's extending its Christmas sale for another month, with 25 per cent off a bunch of films and games. Is it in dire trouble?

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Nick Hide
2 min read

His Master's Voice is singing a sad, sad song -- the dog-tricking disc-flogger is selling off a huge amount of stock on the cheap, reportedly to raise quick money for creditors. Extending its 'big sale' for at least another month means a whole basement of bargains, but is the retailer in real trouble?

Go to HMV.com today and you'll see it plastered with 'big sale' banners, which have been up since Boxing Day. Retailers all cut prices on stuff they didn't flog before Christmas, but the sales usually end come the first week of the new year.

HMV this week announced another flog-off -- a Blue Cross Sale -- that starts this Saturday, seamlessly continuing its new year sale for another month with 25 per cent promised off "a wide range of titles and products".

Apparently it's "not [its] standard January sale, but trying [a] new tack to generate cash to meet bank covenants", according to ITV News' Laura Kuenssberg. "Not good," she adds sagely.

"We thought we'd freshen our promotional mix up a bit and try something a bit different that will hopefully stand out from all the other sale offers on the high street right now," an HMV spokesman told me.

The company has been in crisis talks over Christmas with creditors and suppliers, according to Retail Week. It warned in December that it would probably not raise enough dosh pre-Chrimbo to meet its debt obligations (aka bank covenants), The Scotsman reported.

Media companies have bent over backwards to keep HMV going, desperate for somewhere on the high street to flog their shiny discs. For us customers, the ongoing sale means low prices and the survival of somewhere we can still pay cash, rather than having to buy with a credit card online.

Scorching deals on geeky treats currently include the whole James Bond series (up to Question of Sport) on DVD for £49, Big Bang Theory seasons 1-5 for £30, the Back to the Future trilogy for £8, all the Terminator films for £12, Drive for £3, Prometheus for £7 and, er, Men in Black 1 and 2 for a fiver. Games on offer include Need for Speed Most Wanted for £20 and Dishonored for £28.

Most of these prices are being matched (or even bettered) by Amazon though. Whether it will continue to stay as low as HMV into February and beyond remains to be seen.

All retailers of physical goods are feeling the pinch as Brits increasingly opt for the convenience of downloads -- we spent £1bn on digital media last year. Even online shops are struggling, with Play.com yesterday announcing it would stop selling stuff itself and just be a marketplace. Jessops also fell into administration this week.

What do you think HMV can do to stay afloat? Do you think it's offering a wide enough range of stuff, or is it impossible to match online stores such as Amazon? Analyse and verbalise in the comments, or over on our cut-price Facebook page.