Stephen Godfroy on Rough Trade's New York City relocation and the vinyl boom

Stephen Godfroy on Rough Trade's New York City relocation and the vinyl boom

It’s a new era for Rough Trade today (June 1).

The independent retailer, which launched in 1976, is launching its New York City Rockefeller Center store and events partnership. It follows seven years’ trading in Williamsburg.

The new Rough Trade NYC is located at Rockefeller Center (30 Rockefeller Plaza, on Avenue of the Americas between 49-50th Streets), nearby the iconic Radio City Music Hall. While the new location in the former RCA building involves downsizing in scale, the amount of vinyl in stock will be roughly the same.

“In many ways, it’s a typical Rough Trade store,” co-owner Stephen Godfroy told Music Week. “The scale of the product offering remains similar, and Rough Trade’s Edit and curation is the same as ever.”

Manhattan has a history of record stores, though in recent years indie retailers have not been bold enough to launch in the heart of New York. Rough Trade has big ambitions for its new store, according to Godfroy.

“The demand for vinyl is stronger than it has been for many years,” he said. “So we certainly have confidence in the market. The move to Manhattan is, in many ways, a step to reach this wider audience and to better connect with a more diverse, broader demand for vinyl.

“We are very confident, in that there’s no sign of the demand for vinyl – from Rough Trade’s point of view – diminishing any time soon. To be honest, our challenges are more supply-led with the problems that we have as an industry when it comes to the manufacturing of vinyl.” 

A music event partnership with Rockefeller Center will commence later this year. Rockefeller Center and Rough Trade together will curate live public events with a quarterly series that will take place at the iconic Rainbow Room, in addition to outdoor events at Rockefeller Plaza.

“The store does not have its own event space,” said Godfroy. “In terms of having to make that compromise, what we gain is the use of what are globally iconic locations within the Rockefeller campus. We see it as breaking new ground for us to be able to introduce those developing artists into environments that better connect to these wider audiences.”

The demand for vinyl is stronger than it has been for many years

Stephen Godfroy

In Q1, the vinyl revival continued in the UK with 16.1% year-on-year growth. Godfroy said that vinyl has become even more entrenched in the US. 

“It’s predominantly vinyl in terms of the format mix,” he said. “It’s more polarised in the US than it is in the UK. CDs are more niche relative to the UK.”

The NYC store will utilise Vestaboard smart messaging displays to show API fed information in real time, from bestsellers and vinyl releases, to artist news and NYC gig information.

“It’s a new digital content platform for the store and we’ll see how it works out,” said Godfroy. “The system itself is a really nice fit for Rough Trade, there’s a wonderful combination of analogue and digital. In that regard, there are a lot of similarities with our championing of the analogue in the digital age. It’s appropriate for this space and we’re excited about the opportunity it provides us and the label community that we represent.” 

While there are global growth opportunities for specialist retailers such as Rough Trade, Godfroy said the focus for now is on the NYC launch and building the UK business.

“We definitely have ambitions to continue to grow Rough Trade internationally,” he added. “There are other countries we could look to expand to at future dates.

“There is still such huge potential for us in the US. But, of course, there are certain opportunities globally that are of interest, so we’ll see what happens as we hopefully start to emerge from this pandemic.”

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