The reopening of HMV’s iconic London flagship shop at 363 Oxford Street after a four-year hiatus is a step in the right direction for music retail. When I moved to the UK capital in 2007, the city’s music megastores were among its main attractions for me. But a series of big chain closures followed and the industry was consumed by the belief that physical products would cease to be profitable in the era of music streaming. The recent boom in vinyl sales suggests that the view might be misguided. HMV’s return is not only a testament to the fact that consumers are still keen to buy something with a tangible, lasting value but also that they enjoy visiting a space where they can ask staff for recommendations.
According to Doug Putman, the billionaire owner of Canada’s Sunrise Records who bought HMV in 2019, downloading and streaming have failed to kill the record shop. HMV is posting profits this year with a growth in CD sales and even a resurgence of the cassette tape. The return of the retailer brings the fun back to an Oxford Street that has recently been plagued with ugly sweet shops and unfortunate pop-ups. A day before the grand reopening, passers-by were sneakily trying to get a look inside the new emporium. An exciting line-up of artists is scheduled for the shop’s event space and UK band Madness were in attendance during Monocle’s visit, signing copies of Theatre of the Absurd Presents C’est la Vie, which currently tops the country’s album charts.
This is less an exercise in nostalgia than a lesson in retailing. Isn’t it better for customers to browse and discover new music in person or take part in the shop’s many activities, such as special events and concerts, than just scrolling through endless streaming lists? As the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, the reopening of 363 Oxford Street is a sign that things are looking up for London’s busiest shopping thoroughfare.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle Radio’s senior correspondent and music curator. Listen to his full interview with HMV’s Doug Putman on ‘The Monocle Weekly’. And for more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will travel to the state of Georgia today to attend a memorial service for former first lady Rosalynn Carter, who died earlier this month aged 96. As president Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn was well known for championing various humanitarian causes, most notably issues relating to mental health. She was also part of a long line of first ladies who have played a significant role in US global diplomacy as wielders of soft power.
“She redefined the role of America’s first lady,” says Rebecca Tinsley, the founder of the Network for Africa, who once worked alongside Carter. “She had a sharper political sense than her husband, was thoroughly informed about the issues facing the presidency and sat in on cabinet meetings. She combined intelligence, charm and determination to drive her agenda, both during and after her years in the White House.”
Malaysia’s prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has announced an easing of entry requirements for Chinese and Indian nationals, starting this December. The move is a bid to encourage tourism and investment in his country and will allow tourists from both countries to visit without a visa for as many as 30 days. It comes after Beijing announced earlier this month that citizens of six countries, including Malaysia, will be allowed up to 15 days of visa-free travel in China. “We’re seeing the equivalent of tectonic plates shifting in the tourism world,” Paul Charles, CEO of global-travel consultancy The PC Agency, tells The Monocle Minute. “Countries that have hitherto put up barriers to travel are now dismantling them in order to boost their economies. Waiving visas for tourists from countries with large populations, such as China and India, will lead to a rapid surge in visitor numbers and encourage people to move more easily. Other countries will surely follow.”
London-based architecture firm Foster + Partners, headed up by Norman Foster, has won an international competition to design a new terminal at Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia. The design takes stylistic cues from the nearby Rijal Almaa village, emphasising local materials and landscaping while including open courtyards and walkways that optimise prevailing winds for natural ventilation. The terminal will also feature restaurant and retail clusters.
The involvement of a major architecture practice in Saudi Arabia hardly comes as a surprise: Adjaye Associates, Studio Fuksas and UNStudio have all worked on the nation’s controversial Neom project, for example. But the announcement of Foster’s involvement in a project in a Middle Eastern petrostate failed to raise as many eyebrows as it might have done a few years ago. As Saudi Arabia charges forth on its government-orchestrated and infrastructure-heavy Vision 2030 plan, it seems that a shift in international opinion is happening in real time – with a little help from architectural soft power.
Bonnapart Galeng is a co-founder of Spruce Gallery, an exciting new magazine space in Metro Manila. He tells Monocle about his shop’s design, the publications that it carries and his future plans.
Where can we find Spruce Gallery?
We are in the heart of the Ortigas Center in Metro Manila. It’s a small shop but we try to have it as well designed as possible. The racks and stands are all painted black so that the magazines – and the work and dedication that editors and art directors put into every issue – can pop out. The covers always face the visitors. We tend not to display magazines in the way that a bookshop might, with people just looking at the spines.
Tell us about the magazines that you stock.
We’re overwhelmed with titles. When we came up with the idea of this shop, we had a very long list of titles that we wanted to carry. We proudly tell everybody that nothing here is foreign to us. When you pick up a title at Spruce Gallery, you can assume that we have bought a copy in the past or that we subscribe to it. We refuse to sell anything that we don’t understand and never recommend something that we don’t know about.
Do you plan to hold events?
Yes. The second stage of our businesses is to stage art exhibitions and we are planning to feature up-and-coming local artists. We also want to host our own art-book fair because Manila doesn’t have one yet. We hope to spark that interest.
For our full interview with Galeng and his Spruce Gallery co-founder, Ric Gindap, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.
Basket-weaving is almost like a dance for Annemarie O’Sullivan, who bends willow to her will in her workshop near Lewes in southeast England. Monocle Films captured an afternoon in the studio with O’Sullivan, hearing about her sensory connection to the materials that she employs. Read more about this story in issue 12 of Konfekt, purchase your copy today.