HMV store
The original HMV store on London's Oxford Street was forced to close in 2019. AFP

British music retailer HMV returns to the iconic site of its former flagship store in central London on Friday, in a much-needed boost to the flagging fortunes of the capital's premier shopping street.

The re-opening of the historic shop comes as authorities fight back against a wave of so-called American candy stores which have plagued central London since the pandemic.

Steeped in musical history, the one-time HMV store at 363 Oxford Street was opened in 1921 by English composer Edward Elgar and later helped propel The Beatles to fame.

But in recent years, the capital's main shopping thoroughfare has struggled as big department stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser shut.

"It feels like Times Square in New York, heavy on quantity but low on quality," unimpressed US tourist Brandy Fons, 51, told AFP.

Fons, a film publicist on a visit to London with her teenage daughter Sienna, said they had been struck by the amount of rubbish constantly needing to be cleared up.

"We've been to better, a lot better," she said, adding that she would love to see some local boutiques instead of just big international brands such as Disney.

After HMV Oxford Street closed in 2019, it was converted into one of the many unwanted sweet stores that popped up during the pandemic when only food shops were allowed to stay open.

Local authorities say that at its peak, there were 30 candy or souvenir shops on Oxford Street, traditionally home to big, prestigious retailers.

They also accuse them of questionable business practices and say they owe millions in unpaid business taxes.

Geoff Barraclough, of Westminster Council which administers the area, told AFP he believed the reopening of HMV was a turning point for Oxford Street.

"Its return... is testimony that the buzz is back on the nation's most-loved high street," he said, highlighting the much-anticipated opening next year of an IKEA store.

The new HMV, which will also feature a space for performances and signings, represented "exactly what we want Oxford Street to be all about -- an experience beyond traditional retail", Barraclough added.

The store front will also see the return of the company logo -- the image of a dog listening to its late master's voice coming from a gramophone. HMV stands for "His Master's Voice".

The Oxford Street flagship secured its place in musical history in 1962 when Brian Epstein cut a demo for The Beatles in the shop studio.

That led to the Fab Four signing with EMI, the record label that owned HMV until 1996.

But HMV fell into financial distress in 2019 as it struggled to compete with music streaming and the Oxford Street site was forced to close.

The company was eventually rescued by Canada's Sunrise Records for an undisclosed sum and has since experienced a renaissance under businessman Doug Putman, returning to profit last year.

The turnaround in its fortunes prompted the retailer to announce in April that it would be "back by popular demand on Oxford Street" in time for Christmas.

For some Londoners that cannot come soon enough.

London scaffolder Dave Jacobs, 60, said like many Britons he had fond memories of browsing and buying music in HMV.

The candy stores made the whole street look "trashy", he said, adding that he was "glad they're getting rid of them".

The HMV store was "just a part of London", he said.

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