HMV, the biggest record store in the UK, last week announced a controversial new “appearance policy” which dictates how employees in store and in the company’s London head office must dress to work. The policy includes a new uniform of pink t-shirts and blue jeans and rules that “extreme” body art must be covered and long hair must be tied back. There was a rumour that female colleagues now have to wear skirts, but the statement rectified this saying that it was untrue.
Members of staff showed dismay and the backlash online and through social media outlets has almost definitely been more than the company bargained for. One of the company’s main selling points has always been individuality and it’s commitment to employing and retaining a workforce deeply committed to and passionate about music. And yet it has just put in place this policy which will affect many employees across its stores. Workers are infuriated, with various Facebook groups exploding with comments of outrage at unfair treatment.
Karma Bertelsen, who was until recently a supervisor in a Surrey store said “I loved the fact that I could express myself through my image there”. Miss Bertelsen additionally said that if the employees don’t feel inspired working there then they would find it hard to share their passions with customers. She also adds that HMV should take down the in store campaign “My Inspiration” which displays posters of artists and musicians citing their influences; many of whom are heavily modified. To Karma, and many others, this seems hypocritical, “I for one will not be buying from HMV any more. I am very upset by this news and wish my friends at HMV the best of luck.”
One 24-year old employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke about his situation. “So far the policy won’t affect me much at all” he begins. He has various body modifications including stretched ears and large tattoos on his arms and wrists. They have currently been decided as acceptable by his store manager, but he goes on “Higher members of management however in future may deem my appearance not acceptable for the workplace and ask me to cover them up.”
In HMV’s official statement they said “We’ve simply tried to make our approach a more consistent one so that we can cater to the growing range of customers who now visit HMV.” An interesting declaration for a company who are publicly known to have had falling sales for the last couple of years. Are HMV really suggesting that to cater for a growing range of customers, employees cannot have visible tattoos? And must wear pink t-shirts? It is difficult to believe that people would rather buy their records from a blank canvas than a sales person with obvious character, passion and personal style- maybe HMV are onto something- hey- what do we know?
Perhaps if HMV focussed on returning to what it knows (or knew) best- music, rather than wasting time and money implementing naval gazing policies and littering shelf after shelf with discounted DVDs and second hand video games it may see it sales increase again. The first ever HMV store was opened in 1921 by Sir Edward Elgar. It was HMV, then part of EMI, that took a chance on The Beatles in 1962 a risk that paid of massively and enabled the company to establish itself as the UK’s leading specialist music retailer.
That was the HMV that we knew and loved. And that’s the HMV that we want back on our high streets.