The Times They Are A-Changin’

These are difficult times and credibility and cult status are no shield against economics. New York’s The Cake Shop has gone down the band route of trying to raise money using PledgeMusic. I was a big fan of Louisville’s ear X-tacy’s stance that raising money via gigs (they had had many generous offers) was very kind but didn’t solve the problem that not enough people were using the shop. They are two very different shops and Avalanche is different again. I have never been more proud of what has been achieved than I am at the moment. We have more new and second hand vinyl than ever. Armstrongs vintage clothing looks great and we currently host the Record Store exhibition that has been very well received. Only last Saturday we had Conquering Animal Sound playing in the shop.

I spent a sizable five figure sum creating the space and was quite prepared to fund things for the first year to show what could be done but we are now half way through the second year and while I receive emails from all over the world saying what a great experience was had visiting the shop and compliments aplenty from visitors in the shop (today a couple from Montreal and a young girl from Ireland) that doesn’t sadly pay the rent or the rates or the record company bills.      

Without a doubt things would be a lot different without the presence of an HMV sponsored FOPP. HMV themselves are now of course supported and part owned  by the record companies and have terms I could only dream of. Our USP (unique selling point) of supporting Scottish music has been eroded by the bands themselves to a point that makes such a position untenable. You only have to follow other shops on twitter to see how important ticket sales are but despite some support it became clear that in Edinburgh at least most sales were online and if not through the established outlets.

What we do have is a selection of posters unavailable anywhere else and a fantastic choice of second hand vinyl. It still amazes me to see customers walk in with FOPP bags having bought new vinyl more expensively. Oddest was folk paying £19.99 for the latest PJ Harvey when we had it for £16.99 with a print. More recently several customers admitted they had just paid a pound more for the new Twilight Sad LP. I could easily concentrate more on online sales for vinyl and posters and that is what I will have to do. Both annoyingly have seen the costs of posting go up recently but at least what we have is either unique or hard to find.

There are many more possibilities for the shop and the Grassmarket as an arts hub but really there is just me and without some sort of financial support or sponsorship what I do most of the time simply does not make economic sense. The shop generates offers from all over the world to support Scottish music but sadly both bands and Creative Scotland are going in other directions. The irony is never lost on me that visitors often comment that Edinburgh is so lucky to still support a shop like Avalanche when actually it is the visitors that are the mainstay.

From next week I will change the opening hours and maybe even shut some days. It is not uncommon for second hand shops to close on a Monday and Tuesday for instance. Now nobody rushes in for new releases that is a possibility. Generally on Saturdays everything we do in the shop works very well indeed and of late the tradition of shopping on a Friday after work seems to have returned but otherwise unfortunately while we may be quiet it is never so quiet that I can get on with selling online. At best I get to read and answer a few emails and update twitter.  

Quite simply I need to make more money and quickly. As many of you will know we are not short on stock. First plan is to make it to the end of August. Make no mistake Avalanche has many supporters and I can only thank them. The Avalanche brand has never been stronger or more influential but turning that into hard cash is proving problematic. We have a fantastic space in a great location and our record for supporting the arts speaks for itself. Maybe somebody out there will see some value in that ! 

2 Responses to “The Times They Are A-Changin’”

  • Will:

    Times are tough, man.

    You gotta keep it going though – don’t underestimate the role Avalanche plays in joining the dots across the Scottish music industry. I don’t know anything about retail but I have seen successful examples of turning shops into cafe’s and keeping afloat. Also, some record stores have pushed art exhibitions and made a buck or two in the process.

    Good luck, stay up.

    W

  • Problem for all of us these days is we are running out of options. We tried doing coffee but we were too quiet during the day as even on busy days the bulk of business was between 4pm and 6pm. We have an exhibition on at the moment as you will see from our blog and while they are often successful in reaching a far wider audience than might otherwise have been achieved they add little to sales.

    Tickets would help but the bulk of sales that aren’t online are cornered by the established stand alone ticket sellers. As I have said second hand vinyl and posters are what keeps us going at the moment.

    The old adage of having great customer service and interesting events certainly used to be true and was a cornerstone of what Avalanche was about but too many people now use shops in general to browse and ask questions but then buy online. In the case of music they will just go away and listen online for free. They come along to the events but again don’t feel obliged to buy anything. Your good self is more of an exception to the rule these days.

    Thanks a lot for your comments they are much appreciated.

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