The moment I learned that Apple is launching its iTunes Store in Hong Kong, I immediately thought of nearby shops that sell compact discs and DVDs and how this development impact their business. As people have become more used to buying products online, it is not surprising to hear such announcement of setting up an online store selling music and movies.
Besides, it’s a convenient route for those who own smartphone devices to buy music directly from their phones as opposed to going to a retailer, buy a CD, rip it on a desktop/laptop and transfer files into their mp3 players.
Yet, despite their disadvantageous position, traditional stores like HMV don’t feel threatened too much — at least that’s what they say.
“We’ve already moved on from just selling CDs and depending on music sales,” says Emily Butt, the managing director for HMV in Hong Kong and Singapore. The last time I’ve been to an HMV store was when its Central’s Central Building shop was still in business. But even at that time, HMV has been selling digital media music, movies and games on top of its wide variety of CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs. I can recall HMV closing its Queensway outlet in late 2008, but I am not sure if falling sales, steep rentals or lack of foot traffic contributed to that decision.
The establishment of iTunes Store may not be the biggest challenge of HMV and other music retailers in Hong Kong and elsewhere. These shops continue to face threats of music and movie piracy, the result of which has taken a heavy toll in revenues within the business. No wonder legislation ruled that those who participate in peer-to-peer file-sharing are subject to a variety of punishments. But strangely, others think that the presence of file-sharing websites help boost music sales. Tell that to retailers who have to deal with finding the right location, decorate shops, hire people and promote products before making sales.