Despite multiple lockdowns, record shops have kept physical music alive during the pandemic as they switched to new trading models, including collection and online orders.
April 12 is the key date in the calendar for the return of non-essential retail, though social distancing and other safety measures continue to be in place. It means indie retailers and HMV can open their doors once again, although the prospect on an in-store gig is still some way off based on government guidelines.
Record Store Day is set to return for its first drop on June 12. It follows a continuing vinyl boom and speculation that the format has been more widely adopted during the pandemic as fans were unable to spend money on gigs.
Here, Kim Bayley, CEO of ERA, looks at how the return of retail could deliver another boost to music sales…
How are music retailers set for re-opening on April 12?
“Our members are absolutely raring to go. There’s an incredible enthusiasm and spirit. They can’t wait to get back doing what they do best – bringing music fans the music they love. Staff have been recalled, stores have been restocked. It’s a case of ready, steady, go! What we cannot know at this point is precisely how the public are going to respond. Some people will clearly be out and about in the shops as soon as they can. Others will certainly hold back. The big question is how many people fall into each category.”
What proportion of your members will be open for business as usual post-April 12?
“With Scotland and Wales reopening later, we are expecting around 90% of our members to open this week. The best guess is that those shoppers who embraced click-and-collect will be among the first to return to stores. Those who have been happy with mail order may well maintain that habit, in which case footfall may be lower than hoped-for. At this stage it’s impossible to tell.”
I am genuinely proud of the way ERA’s members have stood up to the challenge of lockdown
The signs are that Q1 was strong again for vinyl. Can stores build on this success as the High Street returns to normal?
“The vinyl numbers for the first quarter were significantly above expectation. To achieve a 16% increase in unit sales with stores closed is nothing less than extraordinary. We can only assume that with stores open they can do even better, particularly with two Record Store Days on the way.”
What are your hopes for second quarter including releases such as Taylor Swift, AJ Tracey, London Grammar, Royal Blood, Rag N Bone Man, Griff and Wolf Alice?
“The message from retail is consistent – give us the right product and we’ll sell it. The important thing is to have a range of product to touch all the different audiences. On that basis Q2 is looking promising.”
How important will RSD drop 1 be in June?
“If the reaction this week to the announcement of the product line-up for the first RSD drop is any guide, this is going to be another classic RSD year. With restrictions on events still in force, drop one will not be a normal RSD, but with the expectation that there will be further relaxation by the time drop two comes around, hopefully that will be a lot more event-driven. Clearly we didn’t choose it that way, but with two different days under very different conditions, this could be a very powerful combination”
Is retail able to cope in the event of another lockdown?
“Naturally it’s something no one wants to contemplate, but the evidence of the past 12 months is that even if the worst was to happen, retailers would make the best of it. I am genuinely proud of the way ERA’s members have stood up to the challenge of lockdown.”
Click here for our recent report on the resilience of vinyl – and click here for the industry’s reaction to the return of HMV.