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HMV in administration: Nipper remembered as His Master's Voice fades out

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 16, 2013

  • Nipper the dog, whose image became synonymous with HMV for more than 90 years

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His name may be little known, but he lent his image to one of the most iconic logos of the 20th century.

And yesterday a solitary bouquet of flowers was laid at a statue of Nipper, famous as the dog staring into the gramophone on the logo of music store HMV.

The stone carving sits on the side of a commercial building in central Bristol which was once home to the terrier in the late 19th century.

Nipper belonged to Mark Barraud, a scenic designer at the Prince’s Theatre in Park Row, Bristol, upon whose death in 1887 he passed to his brother Francis, who noticed how the dog would stare at the gramophone when a recording of his late owner was played.

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Francis painted the scene – entitled His Master’s Voice – and the Gramophone Company bought the rights to it. The record company adopted an abbreviated version of the painting’s title, in 1908 and opened in London in 1921.

The chain has been forced to call in administrators, after a disappointing Christmas failed to deliver enough sales to keep the business afloat.

At a store in the centre of Bristol, angry customers demanded the shop accept gift cards, many of which had been given as Christmas presents.

A worker at the store, who asked not to be named, said he had dealt with dozens of people annoyed they wouldn’t be able to use their gift cards.

He said: “Everybody is shocked we might be closing down – I only found out last night and I’ve no idea what I’m meant to do now.

“It’s such a shame. HMV is a British institution, like tea and crumpets.”

Once a cherished brand on Britain’s high street, HMV’s collapse has been described as inevitable for a business that has been in “terminal decline” in recent years.

The retail chain has struggled amid the boom in music downloading and intense competition from online rivals and supermarket giants.

After years of store closures and asset sales, the 92-year-old business is a shadow of its former self with 239 outlets – far fewer than the more than 600 stores it owned two years ago before drastic steps such as the disposal of bookstore Waterstones.

HMV’s management under former boss Simon Fox and more recently Trevor Moore sought to revive flagging sales by shifting the emphasis from declining CD and DVD markets into growth areas such electronics and gadgets.

Mr Fox, the ex-Kesa Electricals chief operating officer, quit last year to head up Trinity Mirror, but had hoped his vision to transform HMV into an entertainment retail hub would save the business.

The group also hoped to carve a name for itself in the live music and festivals market, but sold its live music division Mama Group last year soon after it offloaded the Hammersmith Apollo as it sought to focus on its retail division.

Bosses yesterday said they were “convinced” they can secure a future for the business despite collapsing into administration after poor Christmas sales.

Trevor Moore, chief executive of HMV, insisted there was a place for HMV on the high street and said he was “confident that we will find a solution”.

All of HMV’s 239 outlets – including nine Fopp stores – will remain open while Deloitte attempts to find a buyer, although it is likely that there will be widespread closures.

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