According to TheJournal.ie, HMV stores in the UK are to start accepting vouchers again. Meanwhile, a sit-in by staff at some of HMV’s Irish stores came to an end over the weekend, as the Receiver confirmed that they would receive pay due to them; and, in a separate development, the Receiver also confirmed that the proceeds of a charity single would be paid. However, for so long as the Irish operation remains in an increasingly complex receivership and the shops are closed, there is no practical means by which to redeem vouchers, gift cards, and the like. But the UK operation is merely in Administration (equivalent to Examinership), and Sky News is reporting that the Administrators have bowed to public pressure, and have announced that gift cards and vouchers can be redeemed in stores from today (Tuesday). Update: calls from the Taoiseach on HMV to give their Irish customers the same rights as those in Britain to redeem vouchers seem to have fallen on deaf ears (in much the same way as calls to him to change the law in this regard have equally fallen on deaf ears, though some legislative changes might be afoot in the UK).
These are the very same Administrators who tried to say last week that the process of Administration prevented them from honouring the vouchers and gift cards. If the law prevented it last week, then it prevents it today. If, on the other hand, the law allows them to honour vouchers today, then it allowed them to do so last week as well. As I argued here and here, it was clear to me that the law did not prevent them from honouring the vouchers last week, and that claiming otherwise was nothing more than disingenuous spin on the part of the Administrators (seeking to save a few bob: it was reported last week that the outstanding vouchers could have been worth £100m, but it is being reported today they are worth in the less eye-popping range of £6m to £7m). In fact, they must have known that they could honour vouchers in an Administration, as the same firm conducted the Administration of electrical retail chain Comet, in which they initially suspended vouchers and then subsequently honoured them (though the Administration was not successful and the shops were eventually closed).
At least this week’s story is more plausible; according to the BBC, the Administrators have said that they can honour the vouchers after assessing HMV’s financial position. Last week, for the Administrators, the sale came first, and the truth came second; this week, it’s all about the money, money, money. The Guardian reported that consumers greeted the news warmly on Twitter, though there was speculation as to whether many shoppers would already have thrown their vouchers away.
The moral of the story is very simple: if you are in Ireland, hold on to your vouchers, and wait and see; if you are in the UK, and if you have HMV vouchers and gift cards that you haven’t thrown away, don’t walk to the shops; run!
Update: The US restructuring specialist Hilco, which had bought out HMV’s Canadian operation in 2011, has purchased HMV’s debt from the group’s lenders, thereby taking effective control of HMV’s UK operations and giving the Administrators more time to attract further backers. The receivers of HMV’s Irish operation declined to comment on whether this would have any impact on the receivership.
There’s still some way to run in this story. HMV may well return in some shape to a street near you, but it will be a far different beast to the one who stood there for decades.
No doubt, but let’s hope that it will honour vouchers, gift-cards, and the like.