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April 2018

Record Store Day 2018

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Long before iTunes, Amazon and Spotify, there were Record Shops. They were magical places with rows and rows of records (and CDs), waiting to be discovered. Then along came the supermarkets and the internet and everything changed, for some…

This weekend sees the annual UK Record Store Day. The event started in 2007 in America and is the day of the year that all independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. There are special releases by artists from around the world and in-store performances along with meet & greets with artists, DJ’s, in-store quizzes and many other events.

Back in the eighties there were over 2,000 indie record shops in the UK. That number fell to under 300, but the great news is, it’s now on the increase. The number of stores selling music and video has more than doubled since 2009. And of course, sales of vinyl records are at their highest level since 1991, with 4.1 million vinyl albums sold in the UK in 2017 according to the BPI.

With that in mind, our Head of Music Nick Bewes takes a trip down memory to the record shops that helped grow his love of music.

“When I was a kid, my musical tastes were a little bit different to most of my school friends. They were into the likes of Madness, Duran Duran and Culture Club. Under the influence of my eldest brother, I was into Heavy Rock and the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Twisted Sister. So many times, as a kid, I’d see a band on Top of the Pops on a Thursday night and I’d get on my bike either the next day or at the weekend and buy the record from Woolworths, yes from Woolies, but soon the big W was replaced by a new kid in town, Anagram Records.

This was my kind of record shop. Run by long haired guys in denim who knew their music, it was heaven, but sadly only for a short time. They moved out of town and then even that new shop closed. As the eighties turned into the nineties, I was at college in Leeds and spent many a lunchtime and indeed teatime, going through the latest releases in Jumbo Records and Crash Records. We’ve now reached 1990 and everything was about to change for me.

Down the road from where I worked, appeared a brand-new record shop called Mix Music. Far too much time and money was spent in the company of owner Mick and the rest who worked in the shop over the years. Mick, who remains a friend to this day, knew what I would like and what I wouldn’t. So much so, that when I walked into the shop, whatever was playing would disappear and some new American band would explode from the speakers. Pleasantries out of the way, he would be very disappointed if I hadn’t asked ‘what’s this?’ by the end of the first song! That is what record shops are all about, the knowledge of the staff to bring new music to your attention. The interaction, the banter, the music!

Around the mid-nineties, Mix had expanded to 4 stores, now sadly, like so many others, they have all gone. And that was the end of me having a regular record shop I’d spend loads of money in, but my love of discovering music continued and moved online with blogs, Twitter and the like. Without a doubt, all that time spent in record shops from a young age fed my obsession for music which I’ve been lucky enough to use for my job for the last 2 decades.

A couple of years ago, I visited the old Jumbo Records on Record Store Day. Well I did eventually, after spending over an hour in a queue which snaked its way from the shop, across the front, where bands were playing and then down the side of the restaurant next door and nearly down to the car park entrance. By the time I got into the shop, everything I had earmarked to buy had gone, but I eventually got a couple of things to remember the day by. Oh and I didn’t even own a turntable to listen to the records that I had bought! It didn’t really matter. It was more about the experience of being there, waiting to get into the shop, chatting with other music fans, and listening to the live bands. One of the things that struck me was how many teenagers were getting involved in it. Some had even come to Leeds to see what they could get after shopping in York early doors.

If you fancy visiting a record shop this weekend to try and bag some rare vinyl, here’s the list of releases…

My advice – get there early.”

Nick Bewes – Music Profiler

For expert music profiling from Nick Bewes and his team on your audio service, give KVH Studios a call on 0113 233 7800 today.

Re-Tales: the top stories from Retail Week 2018

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Retail Week 2018 didn’t just provide a welcome escape from whichever incarnation of the ‘Beast from the East’ was hitting home (Leeds was being besieged by snow again while I was spending two sunny days by the Thames), it was a fascinating insight into the thoughts, ideas, and strategies of some of Britain’s biggest retailers at what is an interesting, if not somewhat troubling, time for British retail.

The British high street seems to find itself in a watershed moment; with big name casualties such as Toys R Us and Maplin, retailers are trying to work out how to incorporate the rise of online into the traditional bricks and mortar model – or whether to even incorporate it at all.

What most people agree is that the stores we walk into today will most likely be very different in the near future – if it still exists at all, it will be with a heightened customer experience, more interactive touch points, incorporating the online offering, and providing much more than just the single purchase transaction relationship.

So what, exactly, does this mean, and what will it look like? Here are the three main trends and discussion points from Retail Week 2018, and how they’ll shape retail;

1) The bricks and mortar model isn’t dead

The current retail landscape was succinctly summed up by John Rogers, the CEO of Argos, when he said; “It’s never been easier to buy, so why are stores struggling?”

I was surprised to learn that, after Amazon and eBay, Argos are the UK’s third most visited retail website. In addition, they were the first UK site to hit £1bn of mobile sales and also £1bn in app sales. 48% of sales were purely digital in 2016, and this is expected to grow to 59% in 2018. And yet, despite all this online activity, Rogers hailed Argos’ store infrastructure as paramount to their success.

Argos are using their physical store network to provide ultra-convenient options for customers. As well as the traditional click and collect, their stock efficient store network and incorporation with Sainsburys means they remain close to their customers, and can offer a 4hr fast-track delivery service to 90% of UK households. Rogers was keen to point out that they ensured that their stores were close to their customers.

So for Argos, their physical stores are the backbone of their success. While their stock efficient model can’t be directly replicated by other retailers, the fact that 72% of their online orders are still collected in store means that even though the purchase may start online, customers still need that convenient, physical touchpoint.

2) Your brand is everything

So, if customers are still needing the physical store, how can retailers enhance the experience for when these customers enter, and keep them coming back?

The most interesting answer to this was offered by Shamil Thakrar, co-founder of Dishoom, who offer customers a Bombay Café-style experience across one Edinburgh and five London sites. This growth has been relatively slow compared to most others, at a rate of almost one a year, but this has been deliberate.

Thakrar has refused to simplify or scale the service, and instead let each individual site have its own identity, look, feel, and story. For each new site Thakrar wrote a story about the characters that founded each one. For their Kings Cross restaurant, for example, he imagined an old Iranian in Bombay being late for a train, and spending more time than he had originally anticipated waiting around in the old train station, and then being inspired by its architecture to open a restaurant styled like it.

It’s this level of detail that has set Dishoom apart from anything else, and that offers customers a unique dining experience. Those photos on the wall aren’t just meaningless decoration; each is tied to the restaurant’s story, which is all fully explained in the restaurant’s 50-page design guide. This guide is personified by the members of staff with in each restaurant, who maintain the immersion through passion and knowledge.

The Dishoom model is proving that, if a retail space is well thought out, well designed, and offers customers a new, unique, authentic, and truly immersive experience that they can’t get anywhere else, then people will come, with 40,000 customers served every week. Dishoom’s success can literally be seen by their long lines, with customers prepared to join long queues for their dining experience.

3) The individual store will be more important than ever

With a strong brand established across the estate, there will then likely be an increase in trust given to individual stores to express and interpret these brand values to their local community and customer demographics.

Marc Dench, CFO of premium lifestyle brand Joules, spoke of a store manager led approach to their stores. Understanding the challenges stores were facing following reduced footfall and higher operating costs, the brand realised the retail environment needed to change to draw customers in.

Above all it needed to be an enticing shopping experience. Dench was keen to play down the ‘experiential’ buzz that he believes only works for some brands, and instead stated a focus on meaningful experiences that add real value, delivered through;

Individual Store

Location – being as close to the customers as possible (see point 1)

Reason – giving the customers a real reason to walk in, whether to pick up a product or through enticing POS/displays

Sales Experience – it needs to be better than online

Interaction – use each and every interaction as the starting point of a lasting relationship

While Dishoom’s restaurants are vastly different from each other, they are still all linked by strong brand purpose and values, and this is key to Joules’ success according to Dench. The brand shouldn’t be diluted, and be consistent across the board, but individual stores given licence to express these and incorporate them into every staff interaction.

Read recent news headlines and you’d be forgiven for thinking the British high street has seen better days, but for those within the industry, it’s an exciting time of re-thinking existing models and changing the offering. The real winners here are the customers, who are going to see their high street shopping experiences change for the better.

Brands are examining how to make better use of their physical assets and making the right first impression is now more important than ever. At KVH Studios we have been designing bespoke store services for decades, using sight and sound to provide customers with positive and lasting brand experiences. Drop us a line today to see how we can ensure your brand is heard in this changing retail landscape.

Joe Muddiman – Account Manager

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