Sunrise Records, based in Ancaster, ON and owned by Doug Putman, has confirmed that it will purchase British retailer HMV, reports the CBC, preventing many of the locations from shuttering their doors for good.
Putman has long been a supporter of physical media, and put his money where his mouth is back in 2017 when he bought the leases for 70 former HMV Canada locations to convert them to Sunrise record stores. A month prior to his decision, HMV Canada, under the ownership of British retail restructuring company Hilco, went into receivership and announced that it would be closing all 102 of its stores after 30 years in business in the country.
At the time, Putman, just 32 years of age, told the Canadian Press that he felt there needed to be a "great outlet across Canada to buy music." As someone of the digital-first Millennial generation, Putman surprisingly still recognizes and supports the benefits of having something tangible. Those benefits have been recognized by the younger generation, despite popular beliefs to the contrary, through a resurgent interest in everything from paperback books, to turntables and vinyl.
Putman bought Sunrise Records in October 2014, and by 2017, he had increased the remaining store count from five locations to nine, all in cities outside of the greater Toronto area (GTA) like Barrie, Brantford, North Bay, and Timmins. Today, there are almost 85 Sunrise Records locations across Canada, including in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland & Labrador, as well as now 28 in Ontario. Each store sells vinyl, as well as gear like turntables, licensed clothing, Blu-rays, games, and more, and focuses on music from local independent artists. "We feel it's an obligation," Putman said back in 2017, "not to mention we love discovering talented new artists." He referred to the idea of collecting vinyl a passion that is "infectious" when speaking with the CBC.
The remaining 100 HMV stores in the U.K. (27 stores were closed) will continue to operate under the HMV name, and 1,600 people will remain employed with the company. Putman will have his work cut out for him, as more and more consumers opt for the convenience of streaming music, and the concept of subscription services versus owning media. But HMV has had its share of highs in the U.K.: in January 2016, the retailer was the largest of physical music, overtaking even Amazon for the title.
It remains to be seen how long the "vinyl revival" will last. But it seems to be a significant area of growth among both older customers who are feeling nostalgic, investing in high-end turntables, and boosting their vinyl collections, and those of the younger generation who appreciate the old-school nature of vinyl. They often start off with an entry-level turntable and a few albums, but as their interest in and appreciation of the format grows, they not only continue to expand their record collections, but also move up the turntable food chain.
The fact that Putman has managed to grow Sunrise Records so significantly is impressive. The retailer is effectively the "last store standing" in the Canadian music retail world following the closure of iconic shops like Music World, a&b sound, Tower Records, and Sam the Record Man (though one franchise remains open in Belleville, ON). It's unlikely that Putman will bring the HMV name back to Canada. But for now, he's looking to keep the physical music media market alive in the U.K. as well, and show that while the subscription economy has legs, it also needs metaphorical shoes to stand on.