Editors comment

Let’s face the music

I recently moved home and was pleasantly surprised to find that most rarest of things… a stationer.

Although technically new to the area, I used to spend a lot of time and money in the music store that was a couple of doors down. Granted it took moving close by to notice the stationer – a modest, discreet store but full like a chocolate box of stock inside.

Sadly the music store that used to be there is no more. The owners, like so many other independents, got fed up of fighting rising rents and falling sales. Being a self-confessed ‘crate digger’ I was disappointed to hear that they had chosen to do that but I could understand why.

After all, from an office products perspective we’re frequently being told that the consumer loves online convenience and we’ve seen how even the big boxes are finding it tougher to keep up their footfall rates.

Besides, music retail has changed dramatically in the last decade. The ‘indies’ used to be the place to go to find new and obscure releases, but even Best Buy now stock independent rock or underground hip hop, and what store can compete with the other large multi-channel retailers such as Wal-Mart on price? Chain stores like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores and others in the past couple of years certainly couldn’t, so what chance the small and vulnerable. indies?

The surprising truth is more than you think if retail data published to coincide with April’s international Record Store Day is anything to go by.

In the US, the percentage of music sales grew from seven percent in early 2009 to nearly 10 percent in early 2010. In the UK, store openings were up, when in the previous year, a quarter of all the indie stores in the country had closed. Statistics Canada reports non-chain record store net revenues have averaged a 17.1 percent increase per year between 1999 and 2007, whereas revenue from chain stores has decreased by 11.1 percent in the same period.

Incidentally Record Store Day is now the biggest retail sales day of many indie stores and surpasses the Christmas holiday for profitability.

It’s such a shame that the owners of that music store near me couldn’t have ridden out the last few years because these statistics suggest that there could be a renaissance for shops like it on the horizon. At the very least the survivors have avoided what had looked like certain extinction only a year ago.

They have also learned to listen to what their clientele want again and used that as a basis to begin to recommend new records/products far more effectively than any online store could. After all, that’s why their customers got hooked on going to them in the first place.

Watching the store in action, I’m sure this is why my local stationer is going strong and it is a lesson even Staples should learn from.