Avalanche to close January 6th 2013 – A Statement

We have been in the Grassmarket for two years now and if I’m honest we’ve exceeded all my expectations of how well the shop would be received. The various events we have hosted from in-stores to art exhibitions and film showings have gone well to say the least and we’ve had thousands of visitors from all over the world coming especially to the shop. Not only has the shop’s reputation grown worldwide but there now seems to be an Avalanche brand that other businesses see value in being associated with. Quite how we have become so well known for our blog and social media sites I’m not sure but I often have people in from all over comment they read the blog and/or follow on twitter  I’m also proud that we have so many younger customers attracted by the posters and badges if not always the music we sell.    

I was well aware when we moved that we would be relying on being a destination site rather than hoping for a lot of passing trade but that didn’t seem a big ask for a record shop and certainly the Grassmarket would provide more tourists than we had ever seen before. In the 6 months from the start of 2011 many new releases from PJ Harvey to Bon Iver sold well and certainly the location was not a problem. However over the last year or so not only has there been less big releases for us but even those we would hope to do well with have not sold well. The new Animal Collective album is just the latest example. The last Frightened Rabbit EP and new Godspeed album were reminders of how it used to be. As happened with the Tom Waits album that FOPP seemed to fail to keep in stock we did get a fair number of people who came to the shop for the new Godspeed album on vinyl because FOPP were out of it proving unfortunately that our sales are not entirely in our own hands. We are not alone as the figures I gave recently showed the indies losing market share on new vinyl at the same time that sales were increasing by 10%.

However the biggest loss has been in selling local and Scottish bands. While our reputation has grown our sales have plummeted. As many will have heard me say more than once selling an album to fans is the easy bit. Selling it to those who don’t know the album or artist is far harder and often time consuming. If that is all that is left to a shop it simply isn’t economical. Even the latest Meursault album which is at No. 2 in our chart achieved that with just a quarter of the sales of the first album. Seventy per cent of those sales were on my recommendation.

The Olympic Swimmers, Randolph’s Leap and Kevin MacNeil and Willie Campbell will testify to what we can do if given a fairly clear run at promoting an album but those chances are now few and far between. It will only get worse with albums out over the next year from many I would consider friends of Avalanche (Withered Hand, Kid Canaveral, There Will Be Fireworks, eagleowl,  The Last Battle, Star Wheel Press, Conquering Animal Sound etc). Frightened Rabbit will do their best to support the shop despite the pressures of being on a major label and Ballboy already have a cunning plan to help shops for their album but generally the perceived way to go about things now is to sell as many as possible DC (direct to customer).

I’ve received several offers to support Scottish music on worldwide online platforms and there is a plan in place to send Avalanche’s best selling albums to 30 of the best record shops in the world but it would need far more cohesion than is currently being shown. Thousands of people will look at our charts over the next week alone and most artists and labels appreciate that I’m sure. It certainly does smaller bands no harm to be seen in the company of much bigger bands and achieves far more than many a PR company. Kid Canaveral and Star Wheel Press both benefited hugely from being our top selling album and I regularly receive enquiries from the media when the official end of year charts are published.

While Avalanche is certainly a destination for those from further afield (recently our first two customers of the day were from Brazil and Mauritius) locally, though we have a small and loyal band of regulars, there are nowhere near enough customers to sustain a shop of our size in the city centre. Sensibly therefore I will seriously have to consider if Avalanche can continue as primarily a record shop as so much of our business has been eroded. The national figures I see only confirm that again we are not alone.

It is going to take a major rethink if we are going to remain in the current location and I have to say that currently I don’t have all the answers we need to survive. We already exist only because of the help of some very kind supporters of what we do who have helped in many different ways including recently financially. There has been a fair amount of interest in more formally financially sponsoring the shop and there has been a lawyer for whom this is a speciality working on this for free. However so far there have been no concrete results. While there was a positive response to my blog saying that just a few extra sales a day would make a difference as often happens it soon fizzled out and October was actually a terrible month for us even with the release of the Godspeed album.  

Consequently I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and that date is Sunday January 6th 2013. I hope that by then there will be a plan but at worst I will simply close the shop and concentrate on expanding our online presence and pursuing other opportunities. I’ll always be keen to support Scottish artists but maybe the focus on how that is done will need to change. I’m happy to listen to all ideas of course. Avalanche is a fantastic shop window quite literally for Scottish artists and their music but sadly it is often taken for granted.

Up to that date I will need to take as much money as possible to catch up on just about everything (rent, rates, tax, record company bills etc) and therefore will have the sale I vowed I wouldn’t have. We are not short of stock and hopefully a sale when added to some Christmas business and the visitors here for the festive period will enable us to catch up. With the announcement that the new Frightened Rabbit album will be released on February 4th in an ideal world a new revitalised Avalanche would be in place by then but as our good friends in One Up in Aberdeen have said unless there is a noticeable and prolonged improvement in business we simply can’t survive where we are.

The most common comment about the Grassmarket shop was that it was an improvement on the old shop which had itself been very popular. Too often shops move to smaller premises in side streets and to quote customers “are a bit sad”. The number one priority is to attract more people and there I am stuck for an answer in the current economic climate. That the Greater Grassmarket BID was a success raising at least a £100K a year to promote the area is good news but only of course if it is handled properly. We will hopefully have something better than some other recent efforts.

Again I would like to thank those who support the shop by actually buying things and those that give up their valuable time to help in other areas. When I was watching the documentary about Ian Rankin’s new book and he said that he had no idea how he was going to get to the end I knew exactly what he meant !             

19 Responses to “Avalanche to close January 6th 2013 – A Statement”

  • Cameron:

    I think the shop is an ideal location for a cafe! if you were to somehow collaborate the record shop and and cafe, I reckon it would be an even more awesome little hang out!

  • Richard Huw Morgan:

    This is very sad news, a visit to Edinburgh, our fellow Celtic capital, will not be the same without you there. I hope that through some sort of public awareness campaign, similar to that mounted by our beloved Spillers down here in Cardiff, that you can make your local potential customers realise what they will be losing through your disappearance. Please do all you can to carry on, love, support and best wishes,
    Richard Huw Morgan x

  • Hey Kev

    So sorry to hear this. I’ve had quite a few messages through from fans that have come across my music after finding it in Avalanche, so I think the store will be sorely missed by both patrons and musicians when your doors close on 06/01/13.

    I hope it all works out somehow. Thanks for all your help to date.

    Cheers
    Arran

  • It was with great sadness that I caught sight of this on Twitter. Having had to close by own business last year because of the recession, larger outlets opening nearby, lack of customer support (they only miss you when you’re gone) and on-line retailing after having struggled for two years to keep it going, I can assure you I have every sympathy and understand how you are feeling. I wish you every success in the future and hope that circumstances change where you can keep the shop open next year and beyond.

    best regards

    Ralph x

  • So sorry and sad to hear that you are having to look at such a drastic measure. I was talking to my friend in New York the other day and he said the exact same thing is happening over there to so many shops. I love Avalanche, it’s so much more than just a shop, but I suppose I am in the sad minority who still buy and value CDs and the Grassmarket is a difficult area for local footfall. Hope the next few months are better than expected and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  • TRUTH BOMB:

    This begging post is just a big CRINGE.

  • Neil:

    Sorry to be a dissenting voice, but Avalanche ceased to be relevant about 5 or 6 years ago. You never have any decent stock in the shop, the place is a shambles and looks like it’s stuck in 1992 (Sugar ‘Copper Blue’ on tape anyone?). I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve come in and asked about news releases from bands and you’ve never had any of them in stock, or in some cases ever heard of them. i’ve spent 10 quid in there in the last 2 years, there’s actually very little worth buying.

    So, here’s the truth, you haven’t got a clue about new music, outside of the god awful Fence Collective style mumbly folk rubbish that obviously nobody wants to buy – y’know why, almost all those bands are terrible, just dull, and boring. Got anything from PINS, Savages, Bo Ningen, Eat Lights Become Lights, Thee Oh Sees etc etc, the list is endless, answer – NO. Friends of mine went in after the Jim Jones Revue gig to be told ‘Don’t have any as people will just by CD’s at the gig’ Eh? There’s people actually wanting to buy stuff from you for crying out loud – they went to Fopp instead. Says it all. That’s pretty much the stock answer when people go in there.

    In the last year between my friends and I we must’ve spent over 2k online from places like Rough Trade or Piccadilly, places that actually stock decent new stuff, and they’re not alone, 4 of us were in Glasgow for the Tame Impala gig last Saturday, we went to Monorail, and what a difference, well stocked, with a really good mix of stuff, you virtually know your wallets going to take a tanking the second you go in there, you’re gagging to get some of the stuff they have, I bought several records on Ghost Box and Death Waltz (look them up Kevin, I know you won’t have a clue) – the latter of which I couldn’t believe they were stocking, it was a fantastic experience, and the staff were great, friendly, and above all, knowledgeable. Between us we probably spent around 200 quid. Read it and weep.

    Oh, and almost forgot, I had the misfortune for my partner to sign me up to the Album Club when it was going. What an utter waste of her money, no regular monthly packages, just intermittent bundles of stuff and the usual rambling nonsense about why things weren’t being sent out. Oh and of course the music, how could I forget that, the choice of one man, and all the same – see reference to mumbly offensive collective tosh above, quite simply, it was fucking awful, there were some amazing releases at the time but we never saw any of it, just the choices of someone who gave up listening to rock and roll a long time ago.

    Finally, please, quit with the sob stories, it won’t wash, there’s only 1 reason Avalanche is closing, and that’s because it’s a very poor shop with a dire selection of music to choose from and an owner whose knowledge of music nowadays in negligible. If you spent more time looking at what it is people want to buy instead of rambling about your so called misfortune on the internet, you may still have a business. Seriously, do yourself a favour, take 2 hours off tomorrow, drive through to Mono and have a look at the place, 30 secs should be enough, see if you can compare. I’ll tell you, it’s night and day. And I don’t see them whinging about the internet. You’ve been outdone by Stephen Pastel.

    Fingers crossed Edinburgh might get a record shop opened by someone with their finger on the pulse – it won’t be Avalanche I’m afraid.
    Sorry to sounds harsh, but it’s the fucking truth I’m speaking here.

  • Andy:

    Got to agree with the the above comments. The problem with Avalanche for a long time has been the fact that you no longer stock new releases, not ones I want to buy anyway. I’ve shopped in Avalanche for over 20 years and it used to be a pleasure. Now, it’s a depressing experience as I pretty much know in advance that you won’t have what I’m looking for. Why not hire a hip young gunslinger who has their finger on the pulse (no, not me, I’m neither young, nor hip)? You also need to sort out the layout of the shop, it’s a total shambles.

  • I was always told that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Having an opinion is one thing but a spiteful bile-filled personal attack is out of order. Did it make you feel big to post that, Neil?

    The man’s trying to save his business. But it isn’t just a business, Avalanche is held in great affection by a great number of people in Edinburgh and around the world and if it goes it’ll be a sad loss.

    Why don’t you open a shop, Neil, and see how long it lasts?

    Good luck Kevin. I hope it works out for you.

  • [...] are a lot of sad faces in Edinburgh this week at the news of Avalanche’s likely closure in January. If you would like to support a local indie shop, why don’t you buy some stocking [...]

  • Since I saw details of this blog post, I’ve been in two minds on whether or not to post. I’m going through something similar myself, with the very real possibility I will have to close my photography studio. There are many factors, the fact that photography isn’t as valued as it once was and the fact that everyone with a camera is a photographer now being quite an issue, but it mainly boils down to the fact that the money just isn’t there. Folk haven’t got it to spend. I’m in the situation where I just can’t dig (read as work) my way out of the hole, folk just don’t want to know. There has been more going out than coming in for 2 years now, and working at a loss just can’t be sustained. God only knows how many small local businesses will be lost in the next few years, it’s devistating… with very little help from larger companies we rely upon, energy providers etc. All I can say, is the very best of luck… I hope you can find a way forward. I hope we all can… but until the general public decide that they want to support their local small businesses, rather than pay a little bit less for something (in some cases an inferior service) then I’m afraid we will continue to see more and more empty retail units in our city.

  • Neil:

    In response to Jock’n’Roll, I didn’t post that out of spite in any way. More in total and utter frustration at how we don’t have a proper independent record shop in this city which pretty much sums up the dire state of music scene in Edinburgh. I’d be more than happy to say what I did face to face, I’m not someone to sit behind the anonymity of the internet, I can assure you that. None of what I stated wasn’t the truth either. I’d shopped at Avalanche for over 20 years, and spent god knows how much countless £1000s there, but in recent times I’ve stopped going, quite simply as it’s gone downhill massively, and in the past 2 years I’ve spent 10quid on an Elbow CD. What’s the point in going in when there’s nothing really worth buying? I AM NOT ALONE IN THAT, my friends and I are EXACTLY the sort of people the shop should be targeting, but I’m afraid none of us go there now, it’s pointless. I think if the owner spent more time in keeping an eye on what it is people want, and not moaning about things on the internet, then the business may still have more of a future. As I said, we were in Mono last week and spent over 200quid between us.

    A couple more examples of why this place is going under, 1 of the people who went in for Jim Jones Revue CD’s only to be told Avalanche wouldn’t stock it as people would only buy at gigs was also told ‘Maybe I should get a list of gig that are on’ by the owner. Good grief, a record shop that doesn’t have an idea of what bands are playing in it’s home city – beggars belief. Also, someone in while a girl was trying on a jacket now they’ve started selling clothes,”Do you have a mirror?” “No”, was the response. Oh dear. Finally, a mate who went in for the most recent, and widely available, John Spencer LP, also told ‘we’re not stocking it’. Do you think that’s all the fault of downloads and illegal copying of music? Of course not. Just very poor customer service.

    As for me setting up my own shop, good one, not my business, but I’m more than willing to spend quite a lot of money indeed in one that’s run properly and stocked with things people would actually buy. And hey, if I did, I know I’d be putting everything I possibly could into customer service, genuine enthusiasm, knowledge, organisation, and keeping my finger on the pulse, to make it a success.

    The truths hurts.

  • I can see this may run and run so I’ll leave it at this. We ordered the Jon Spencer vinyl but it was delayed for everybody including FOPP. We had the CD in stock. We have a mirrored door which everybody who wanted was happy to use though many liked using their phones. When we get a one sheet to give us all the info we should need to decide on an order there was never the info “the band will be in town the weekend before the release date selling their album” which is an important factor in deciding on an order. Given the hundreds of emails we get cross referencing with gigs is just daft. A band playing in town was always highlighted as a sales point. Now it is hidden.

    We were only asked for Jim Jones Revue CD because it was £15 at the gig. If it had been a tenner we wouldn’t have sold any only confirming it was right not to stock it.

  • Sorry I missed this earlier to approve.

  • Lee:

    Kevin, sorry to hear the news. Your shop is unique, and will be sorely missed if it comes to that. My collection is the richer for the second hand CDs, and the Scottish bands I have heard at your shop. Doubt if I would have brought music by ‘there will be fireworks’, or ‘Remember, Remember’ if not for Avalanche. Frightened Rabbit are a favourite after seeing them play an accoustic set there.

    You have always taken time to talk. I’m glad you don’t sell hi-fi, books or the like, but are a proper record shop. Good luck to you. Will be in soon. Cheers.

  • [...] owner of the Edinburgh record store has published a blog post1 outlining the ongoing challenges he faces, which are very similar to those faced by indie record [...]

  • [...] said in your blog that the shop planned to close, though kind of kept it vague, so the resurrection, while welcome, is maybe not a complete [...]

  • Eisdieler:

    Have been in your shop in the centre of Edinburgh at the end of June and I loved it.Had nice talk with owner about 30 years of music history! Great shop..

  • I am really sad to hear that Avalanche are closing – I was delighted to hear that Avalanche were coming to the Grassmarket – after spending a small fortune in the the shop opposite the Pear Tree when I was a student. The sad fact is that no-one really comes down to the Grassmarket to shop… too much reliance on illegal cafes down here – of which there are many… I am struggling just over the road with trying to run a specialist retail premises and like Kevin I am discussing with my husband closing down and selling online. I know what Kevin means about a few more sales here and there… but when the place is full of stag and hen parties, and people coming down for markets in tents, not shopping with traders who are here all year round – and the over reliance on cafes which have illegally opened and call themselves retail premises – sadly more specialist shops will close quite soon. I am afraid that to date BID has just proved to be a Council stealth tax – and the fact that Christmas down here has more tumbleweed than tinsel down here – the area and its future seems grim for independent shops like Kevin’s and sadly my own… I am not alone in talking about closing – but would not like to disclose here who might also be disappearing from the Grassmarket in 2014…. sad news and times! The Grassmarket is rapidly being turned by the Council into a large beer garden and events space – public space sold by them – and charging tiny shops to promote multi-national companies down here – how on earth can we compete with that vision?

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