You may have noticed that some of the Japanese imports/reissues that we sell are from HMV and/or Lawson Entertainment. How and why are these LP being released by a (seemingly) defunct British record store chain? And who is Lawson? It’s an interesting story.
You may be familiar with HMV, short for His Master's Voice, a British record store chain that started in 1921. They had a decent number of US stores in the 1990’s; a solid record chain, but nothing remarkable. You may also remember the one near you closing - their last US location shut down in 2004.
This is where the Japanese aspect of the story comes in. Physical media never died in Japan - people still buy CDs and records. There are still record stores everywhere, from mom & pop operations to massive corporate stores (like HMV). There are still record shopping neighborhoods.
While closing stores in the US, HMV in Japan kept going without missing a beat. (There are still Tower Records there too!) Eventually, HMV Japan was spun off from the original British company, and then around 2010, HMV Japan was acquired by Lawson, forming HMV/Lawson Entertainment.
Who is Lawson? Lawson was a guy in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He had a chain of dairy stores, which similar to 7-11, got franchised in Japan and eventually got bought out by the Japanese group. Today, they’re a Japanese conglomerate/convenience store chain. (Mitsubishi owns just over 50% of the firm.).
If you’ve been to Japan, you’ve seen Lawson everywhere (ex. In Narita airport, street corners, alleys, small towns, and almost everywhere else.) If you haven’t been to Japan, Lawson stores are what you'd expect from a convenience store, but much more so. These places are just better in Japan - every type of canned/bottled beverage imaginable, including some that are available hot. There are baked goods, prepared/heat-at-home meals and also ready-to-eat foods. In particular, Lawson is known for their fried chicken, which I can vouch is delicious. Lawson (and their competitors 7-Eleven and Family Mart,) have pushed the convenience store business so far forward that Americans visiting marvel at these stores when they visit. (This author included.).
While HMV may initially seem like an odd acquisition for a convenience store chain, it does make sense. If Lawson can innovate the hell out of a convenience store, they can also innovate the record store. This is how we get to them repressing classic LPs. When you consider that Japanese customers can order LPs online and pick them up from their corner shop, repressing seems like a simple innovation.
There's no larger meaning to this tale. It is interesting example of global capitalism mutating and evolving such that Japanese records come from now-obscure-in-the-West British and American brands. We hope you can appreciate that it allows us to provide interesting and hard-to-find represses of Japanese LPs from the 70’s and 80’s. And if you read this far, we also hope you appreciate us pulling together all this information in one place.
Photos Courtesy of the Author
NOTE: Many of the above details are sourced from Wikipedia, so they may be off (or altered after the fact to embarrass the author.)