As threatened, throughout April - in celebration of Record Store Day - I offer up a daily post related to all things record shop.
And if any of it sounds like a Manifesto, consider it good practice for my election campaign next year.
Day Seventeen of this steaming pile of japery, kinghell boring bullshit and contentious nonsense...
If Dolphins Were Monkeys...
At some point in the late noughties, HMV/Fopp took delivery of pallet loads of stock from a record company gone bust. Sanctuary had the license for loads of really cool box sets, and because they'd gone under, their stock was selling for peanuts. Easily the most coveted of these boxsets was a four volume set of Lee Scratch Perry seven inches. We were hard-wired into HMV's Track system so we were obliged to sell them at 'system' price. Which was £3 each. Four boxes of Lee Scratch Perry seven inches for £12. You can imagine, right?
The boxsets had been on the shelves for about an hour and the word went out around Bristol. Soon enough, we had every second hand dealer within a ten mile radius descending on the shop, loading up multiple shopping baskets stuffed with cheap boxsets.
They'd go. And then come back. And go. And come back again; a string of cars pulling up outside the shop with Del Boy on his mobile dog & bone laughing his head off like the horses had come in.
I was...bemused. My Team Leader was livid, stalking around the shop floor, foaming at the mouth, muttering about 'the cockroach infestation'. I couldn't really blame him.
On the one hand I knew that the profit margin of the Sanctuary boxsets had already been factored into our retail price. I also understood free market opportunity when I saw it.
But fighting this was my knowledge that as soon as the boxsets left the shop their street value was multiplied tenfold - the genuine potential fans* were being gazumped by dealers who were going to flip their haul to make bigger profits. It also struck me that the Head Shed wasn't doing any favours for our net margin KPI - I didn't need some arsehole moaning at me about overspending on carrier bags when we'd practically been giving away limited product to our 'competitors'.
*FANS: As a shop keeper (as opposed to a business man) one of things I've retained from my early days at Fopp is the idea of people coming into the shop and finding bonafide solid gold THINGS at incredibly low prices. A guy bought an armful of books yesterday that would have cost him around £80 in Waterstones. He got them at LFD for about £25. Shop keeper me positively glowed that we'd made someone's day.
And so much for all that...
I phoned my boss and told him we should either immediately increase the retail price of the boxsets by a couple of quid (which would still make them an absolute bargain) or we limit the sets to one per customer, thus eliminating the 'cockroach infestation' and leaving copies for the normal punters.
The Head Shed settled on the latter, at which point we discovered that families in the Mild Mild West were breeding like it was still the 1800s. One family claimed to have over a dozen siblings, who were all mad for Lee Scratch Perry; I've got one sibling and the only thing we've got in common is our parents, so what are the chances of that eh?
Which brings me messily onto the RSD practice we calling 'flipping'.
There's a law in retail that prevents competitors from price rigging. THIS IS A GOOD LAW. Common sense and the competitive market means that generally, shops abide by a similar unspoken pricing structure; a shop selling identical product at twice the price of the competition isn't going to last very long; customers will just shop cheaper elsewhere.
On RSD, we find that while shops are encouraged by the organizers to keep their pricing sensible, product is doubling or even trebling in value as soon as it leaves the shop door, with flippers hitting the shops early and then loading their haul onto ebay and Discogs. This profits neither the shops nor the customers, and because so much of the RSD is limited, it becomes a secondary sellers market, and the fans who were encouraged to visit a record shop find the shops haven't got what they want and they have to buy it online anyway.
You might call this 'entrepreneurial'. My Team Leader would call 'cockroach!'
In the early nineties the comic book industry had a massive renaissance, revolutionized by the founding of the creator-driven Image Comics. Comic books became big business, and buoyed by the sales explosion the publishers started pumping out huge numbers of collectable 'variant' covers. Hundreds of new titles and characters were created. The industry thought that there were millions of new comic book fans. But there weren't; speculators were buying up multiple first edition first issues not because they were fans and collectors but because they believed they were investing in a profitable and resellable commodity. When the speculators realised that they'd got it wrong, that the comic book renaissance was just a fad, they abandoned comic books and moved onto the NEXT BIG THING. Suddenly, the industry realised that the market was saturated with comics that had no audience. And just like that, the comic book industry imploded as quickly as it has exploded.
END OF INTERLUDE
Blimey. That got a little bit ADAM CURTIS. Where were we? Oh yeah, FLIPPERS.
It strikes me that at least one of the problems for RSD is that price hikes have driven the speculating flippers from the market, which means we'll see a glut of records being made for which there isn't an audience. Perhaps we already have. And in turn, labels simply won't make records for RSD anymore.