When I Bought A Record Store By Mistake @artistsmakers #IndieRetail

Boutique and beautiful, indie stores are green buds that show our town centres could soon bloom again. As I travel the UK (and I’ve visited thirty towns and cities in the last three years, looking at empty shops) it’s obvious that there’s a revolution happening, and a resurgence in people opening indie stores.

Multiple retailers moving out mean great opportunities for Independents…

If you’re a pessimistic sort, you might look at the hollowed-out town centres and boarded-up parades around the UK and think it’s all over. In some ways you’re right; the model of multiples making every high street look the same is certainly coming to an end. Clone town Britain is on life support.

But that’s a great opportunity for new independents to open, offering something different, making places distinct and creating diverse town centres.

However optimistic you are, opening a new store is risky. You don’t have a loyal customer base; you don’t have supply chains in place; you don’t have the capacity for extensive research to test the local market. So how can you lessen the risk, and make sure you’re not opening a shop that’s bound to fail?

“I bought a record store by mistake”!

A few years ago, I bought a record store by mistake. The previous owner was selling in a hurry, and there was six months to run on the lease. The cost for stock, fixtures and fittings was remarkably low, the rent reasonable, and business rates affordable. So rather than buy a couple of CDs, I bought the shop, pretty much on the spot and without stopping to think.

Knowing I had a limited time before the lease ran out, I could afford to take the risk and see what happened. I could build on the store’s existing customers, and look at whether the market could be expanded. I could explore new stockists, and see what worked with local shoppers. In short, I could see whether there was a working business, or not, at a fairly low risk. It turns out that there wasn’t, but I didn’t lose much to find that out. Revolutionary Music opened for six months, was a risk worth taking, and was great fun, too.

Why pop up shops offer a great opportunity for retail entrepreneurs to try things out

Pop up shops offer an opportunity to anyone who wants to do the same. Across the country we’ve seen big brands open pop up shops as part of multi-layered marketing campaigns.

But pop ups are far more useful for people who want to prototype and test, and for small traders who want to expand a business. A pop up is open for a specific period, often just days or weeks, so rent and rates are low. The risk is limited, and you can see the end if it’s not working out.  You can open one anywhere you want to try an idea out, from shopping centres to sidestreets, and see whether there are enough customers locally. And you can do just about anything in them, too.

Pop up shops may be the secret to breathing new life into our town centres, seeding new growth once more.

The town centres I’ve visited need new life, and I see shops opening in every place I visit. But they’re often not there when I go back. Watching independent shops open, struggle and collapse in a few short months is painful.

If you want to open an independent store, you should. It can make you a reasonable income, give something back to your local community and employ people too. It’s incredibly rewarding, and will bring you pleasure in a hundred unexpected ways. But if you want to succeed, any entrepreneur will tell you that you have to try, test and fail sometimes, too.

And the best way you can do that, is with a pop up. Plant the seed , and make our town centres grow again.

Author: Dan Thompson, Founder of The Empty Shops Network

This blog was written by Dan Thompson who is founder of the Empty Shops Network, Dan has worked across the UK on projects recycling empty shops. He is the author of the “Pop Up People” report (which is at popupreport.co.uk) and “Pop Up Shops For Dummies”, due to be published in October 2012.

Dan also started #riotcleanup, which aimed to help independent traders recover from riots across England. That project saw him praised in the prime Minister’s keynote conference speech as an example of British leadership. You can find Dan on Twitter @artistsmakers.


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
This entry was posted in Independent Retailer Month - Blog-a-day for #IndieRetail and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When I Bought A Record Store By Mistake @artistsmakers #IndieRetail

  1. danthompson33 says:

    Reblogged this on Empty Shops Network and commented:
    However optimistic you are, opening a new store is risky. You don’t have a loyal customer base; you don’t have supply chains in place; you don’t have the capacity for extensive research to test the local market. So how can you lessen the risk, and make sure you’re not opening a shop that’s bound to fail?

  2. We here at STRINGER have always dealt with better end retailers, many of which are indies. If you are thinking of opening a POP-UP shop but don’t want to look like a newsagent inside we here at STRINGER have a good range of interior systems that can be customised for your unique look whilst still functioning well as a retail system. We have 25 years of experience and love to share it so come to our showroom open Monday – Friday 9-5 nearest tube North Greenwich – Bond St 22 mins. http://www.stringer.co.uk We can help and you’re not obligated by coming in. 0208 293 4242 We have a great library of inspiational literature too you’re welcome to sit and browse.

  3. Pingback: A blog-a-day for #IndieRetail | Clare Rayner: The Retail Champion

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