Since Doug Putman rescued UK music retailer HMV in February, he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into operating a transatlantic retail empire.
The Canadian businessman has discovered himself jetting forwards and backwards between his Ontario-based Dawn Information chain and his newer acquisition.
On common, he spends one week a month within the UK. “I need to do about 500,000 air miles a 12 months,” he says.
Now he faces his newest problem, the all-important Christmas interval.
“That is crunch time,” he says. “All of the exhausting work you do for 10 months of the 12 months, that interval is if you see it come to fruition and also you see how good a job you probably did.”
Loads is using on the chain’s efficiency over the festive season. HMV has twice fallen into administration, in 2013 and 2018, and Mr Putman acknowledges that many individuals did not anticipate his relaunch to final six months.
In any case, there have been loads of casualties within the sector. Firstly of the 21st Century, there have been plenty of different large retailers promoting information and CDs, together with Virgin, Our Worth, Tower and Fopp.
However now, though many native unbiased outlets are nonetheless in sturdy well being, HMV is the one nationwide chain standing, with Fopp as its wholly-owned subsidiary.
Poor Christmas gross sales have capsized many a Excessive Avenue retailer lately, however Mr Putman is pinning his hopes on the chain’s “loyal fan base” and the modifications he has been making.
As he sees it, many outlets have run into bother by attempting to be all issues to all individuals.
“I believe shops attempting to enchantment to everybody are actually getting left behind,” he instructed the BBC.
“In case your objective in life is to make everybody such as you, that is not going to occur. Now we have to establish the core clients, be sure that we all know what they anticipate from us and ship on that.”
So who’re these core clients? Younger or outdated? “It is not about their age, it is about what they’re into,” he says. “Now we have a youthful technology coming in to purchase Ok-Pop and vinyl.
“It is about individuals who need one thing tangible, who recognize bodily codecs and speaking to the workers – it is the non-public contact. They need one thing bodily, whether or not it is for gift-giving or amassing.”
Beneath Mr Putman’s possession, shops have given extra space to vinyl albums and displayed them prominently, though he admits that CDs are nonetheless greater than vinyl for HMV.
In a music trade that’s more and more dominated by streaming, file outlets need to be attuned to altering traits in bodily codecs.
Reflecting the vinyl revival is one in every of plenty of “straightforward wins” that Mr Putman says he has achieved prior to now seven months.
Others embody displaying workers picks in shops and permitting particular person shops to go their very own manner when it comes to choosing the proper inventory for his or her native clients.
“I do not imagine in taking away an excessive amount of management from shops and micro-managing from head workplace. In case your clients need extra steel, let’s get extra steel,” he says.
“It is about permitting shops to create their very own assortment combine. Once I’m doing my retailer visits, I am seeing it change.”
Wanting forward, Mr Putman needs to ascertain HMV because the trusted gatekeeper in a crowded cultural setting.
“We have to be the skilled within the leisure discipline. We have to reduce via the noise,” he says.
“We are able to say, listed below are the 100 songs which might be actually attention-grabbing, listed below are the albums which might be value listening to.
“It’s kind of overwhelming at instances: what film, what present do I need to watch? These are small issues that we have to do higher.”
HMV now has 113 outlets, however is affected by the shortage of a giant central London outlet for the reason that closure of the closely loss-making flagship retailer in Oxford Avenue within the wake of Mr Putman’s takeover.
“We’re simply looking for a location that is smart. Oxford Avenue was a really, very large location, however we could not make the financials work. If we will discover that proper location, we will definitely be again,” he says.
New outlets are already coming to different cities, with a 25,000 sq-ft retailer often called the HMV Vault now open in Birmingham.
This boasts “an unrivalled vary” of music and DVDs, plus a everlasting stage space and PA sound system, consistent with Mr Putman’s intention to “make the shops extra thrilling”.
Additionally within the run-up to Christmas, HMV’s on-line retailer and its Purehmv loyalty card scheme are being revived.
“We’re fortunate to be in an trade that you simply’re both captivated with it otherwise you’re not. That is been its power from day one. It attracts individuals who love speaking about movie or music,” he says.
However even when HMV is making progress, Mr Putman is aware of he can’t afford to change into complacent.
“The minute you’re feeling you are precisely the place you should be and nothing wants to vary, that is if you begin falling into issues,” he says.
“That you must be at all times altering, whereas staying genuine to what you’re.”
Nevertheless, retail analyst Richard Hyman questioned whether or not the enterprise would proceed to progress when having to combat towards on-line giants equivalent to Amazon.
“The challenges dealing with HMV are that the product is identical wherever you purchase it from,” he mentioned. “More and more in retail, it should be tough promoting another person’s product.
“Issues like scale change into the principle differentiator. Just one particular person might be the most cost effective and have the most effective and most handy supply.”
Mr Hyman mentioned the difficulty with providing a variety of merchandise and having “incredible” customer support was that “they may kill your buying and selling economics as a result of they’re each very costly”.
“Again within the day, when retail was much less cut-throat and earlier than the web got here alongside, that was a viable retailer,” he mentioned. “That has change into more and more tough when your predominant competitor has received the dimensions to blow you out of the water.”
He added that the UK retail market was the “hardest on the planet”, partly because of the ease with which retail companies might enter the market by shopping for an off-the-shelf web site and partly as a result of softer shopper demand.
BBC enterprise reporter Tom Espiner contributed to this text.