UK music retail giant HMV entered into administration earlier this month, with nearly 4,000 jobs across 239 stores at risk after the retailer was denied a £300 million (approx $AU 450m) loan from creditors to rescue it from its financial woes.
Then record label majors Warner Music, Sony, and Universal Music – that owns rental stakes on over 238 HMV stores in the UK – scrambled to rescue the doomed music chain, risking a loss of $240 million in investments should it sink.
The more human element side of HMV’s collapse has emerged however, with The Age reporting that one of the music retailer’s staff did not heed the call of ‘His Master’s Voice’ and hijacked the company’s official Twitter account on Thursday 31st January to cover the mass lay-offs occurring at the company.
190 jobs at HMV’s head office and distribution network were made redundant, with the music retailer’s joint administrators Deloitte issuing a statement reading: “Although such decisions are always difficult, it is a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern.”
The online revolt over the lay-offs began the same afternoon as the news was first announced to redundant staff. Using the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring to reveal that 60 members of staff were being fired en masse, the first rogue Tweet reading:
The rogue social media staff member then began tweeting a series of equally bitter messages, writing “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand.”
A later message read: “Under usual circumstances, we’d never dare do such a thing as this. However, when the company you dearly love is being ruined, and those hard working individuals, who wanted to make HMV great again, have mostly been fired, there seemed no other choice.”
Word quickly spread of the hijacking, as it began to spread virally through the more than 60,000 followers of the @HMVtweets account, with word eventually reaching top brass: “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?” said one message.
Another rogue tweet noted that the Twitter “accounts were set up by an intern (unpaid, technically illegal) two years ago.”
HMV’s former social media planner, Poppy Rose Cleere, later claimed responsibility for the hijacking, as The Telegraph reports, the sacked twitterer saying senior staff had “never seemed to grasp” the importance of social media in building its customer relations.[do action=”pullquote-2″]”There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand.”[/do]
“I would apologise for the #hmvXFactorFiring tweets but I felt like someone had to speak,” wrote Ms. Cleere from her own personal twitter account. “As someone without a family to support/no mortgage I felt that I was the safest person to do so.”
The cuts to HMV office staff were focussed at offices in London, where 78 jobs have gone, while others were made redundant at Canning Town, Marlow, and two sites in Birmingham, reports The Independent, but no redundancies were made to the work force at the retail chain’s shops, with all outlets continuing to trade while administrators Deloitte continue to seek buyers.
US-based restructuring firm Hilco were in talks with Deloitte and had agreed to buy HMV’s considerable debt, a move that could see them effectively taking control of the 92-year-old retail company, and its 4,120 jobs across 223 stores. Hilco previously helped turn around the fortunes of HMV Canada, paying $165 million of its $190 million debts.
The Australian leg of HMV operations disappeared in 2005, purchased by rivals Sanity Music, with the final store, a Brisbane HMV outlet, closing in 2010, and by October 27th 2012, underlying net debts stood at £176 million (approx $AU 268m), with the company selling off its live entertainment business sector to stay afloat.
The retailer had hoped that they usually booming Christmas retail period would provide a last minute saviour, but when economic conditions proved too tough for another holiday spending spree for consumers, HMV instead went the opposite direction with a month-long sale that saw shares in the company sinking to an all-time low, valuing the company at a measly £5 million (approx $AU 7.6 m) at its nadir.
You can view the full list of the deleted HMV tweets below (courtesy of Gigwise)