Archive for November, 2012

Another update on the way forward

My thoughts are that we aren’t going to make enough from the shop to justify the location in the current economic climate. Much could change if we involve other businesses or if as many predict HMV/FOPP fold sooner rather than later but these are not things to be relied on. I’m mainly looking at other reliable income streams and expanding merchandise beyond the shop as well as looking at sponsorship both for the shop and some of our ideas.

If we can successfully add enough income without generating more work than it is worth then we will of course keep the shop on. As I said we will always look to support Scottish music and labels but that focus may need to change maybe again leaning more towards merchandise. I’m amazed that some people thought it was all a publicity stunt. I posted the blog at 11.30pm on Thursday thinking it would filter out over the weekend. I arrived the next day to find half of Scotland’s media at my door. If I had known that believe me I would at least  have had a shave !    

Why Doesn’t MTV Play Music Videos Anymore?

“Your generation, not the one before you, not the one after you — your generation — decided to steal music.”

We should have a cafe !

By far the most popular suggestion so far has been that we should have a cafe mostly by people who seem oblivious that we have already tried the idea. Even when we were busier most of the business was after 4pm. Lunch time trade for several years now seems to have been lost to people checking on social media sites. The idea of getting out of the office and away from the computer long gone !

We had some big names look at taking over our cafe and they all agreed that at best they would break even and it would be hard work just achieving that. Everybody did agree there was the potential for it to look amazing but it would be a lot of investment to make no money at best though as part of maybe a bigger picture somebody might go for that. 

So if somebody wants the kudos of having a “cool” cafe in Avalanche I’d be very happy to listen but I would need a reasonable income and a decent financial investment. Don’t say I didn’t warn you !

Our stocking policy – we did try !

A few people have complained that we don’t stock new releases or at least “the new releases they want”. I know exactly what they mean especially in reference to shops like the excellent Piccadilly in Manchester. When we moved to the Grassmarket I made a very conscious decision to stock more leftfield, unusual, obscure (pick your own word) titles. I even gave them a prominent position in the shop rather than get lost in the racks.

We had all the recommended titles from Cargo, Forte, Southern, Shellshock etc and truth is they just didn’t sell. Bands like Thee Oh Sees have been mentioned that we had in stock and in particular I remember the Peaking Lights album “936” that we stocked twice each time it was released and again it just didn’t sell. Thankfully the stock was SOR but we ended up sending back thousands of pounds of stock to our suppliers.

Similarly the bands I would say were more popular down south I stocked on the basis we had lots of students and visitors but again they didn’t sell. One Sunday a customer who had arranged to meet a friend in the shop, and it later transpired was just visiting from London, browsed for quite a while as his friend was late and ended up buying a dozen or so titles. He was our one success.  

We have of course had success with labels like Gizeh Records in Leeds and we are currently supporting the Last Harbour album on the Manchester label Little Red Rabbit so we are not unknown for supporting labels and bands that are both small and not Scottish ! 

A Quick Update

Those who read all of the blog about closing did get exactly the message I was trying to give. However those who diddn’t read it fully or relied on newspaper headlines may have got the wrong idea. I have set a deadline of 6th January to shut our doors. As I say I had to draw a line in the sand somewhere. I also say howeverI 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.

On a note of optimism I say “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”. I don’t have a break in my lease until next November and I do not run away from my resposibilities so if I can make more money with the door shut than open that will have to be the case. Also there are other opportunities I could pursue that I simply don’t have time to take further while the shop is open. 

I didn’t expect the blanket publicity the announcement got. I posted it at 11.30pm on Thursday and by Friday it was all over the media. I also didn’t expect the response it got. I will reply to everyone I promise and I’ll start to address points made or possibilities for the future one at a time in what may best be described as mini blogs.

For now thanks to everybody for your kind words and interest.

OK I wasn’t expecting that

A quick apology for replying to almost nobody today. There have been 300+ interactions on twitter, dozens of emails, 35 comments on facebook and 7 comments on the blog that I will try to look at tonight. Over 5,000 people read the blog just today. I will work through them all and post an update soon. Thanks to everybody for their almost unanimous kind words. 

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 !             

Avalanche provisional best sellers of 2012

Avalanche Top 20 best selling albums of 2012

 twilightsadnoonecaneverknowmeursault - somethingLeonard-Cohen-Old-Ideas2


1.  The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

2.  Meursault – Something for The Weakemed

3.  Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

4.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah Don’t Bend Ascend

5.  Admiral Fallow – Tree Bursts In Snow

6.  Olympic Swimmers – No Flags Will Fly

7.  Randolph’s Leap – Introducing …..

8.  Kevin MacNeil & Willie Campbell – Visible From Space

9.  Paul Buchanan – Mid Air

10. Rob St John – Weald

11. The XX – Coexist

12. Jack White – Blunderbus

13. Django Django – Django Django

14. Unwinding Hours – Afterlives

15. Human Don’t Be Angry – Human Don’t Be Angry

16. Cat Power – Sun

17. Cancel The Astronauts – Animal Love Match

18. RM Hubbert – Thirteen Lost & Found

19. James Yorkston – I Was A Cat From A Book

20. Errors – Have Some Faith In Magic


Best selling EPs of 2012


1. Frightened Rabbit – State Hospital

2. Withered Hand – Inbetweens

3. There Will Be Fireworks – Because, Because

4. Rachel Sermanni – Black Currents

5. Withered Hand – Heart Heart


Best selling back catalogue

1. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everyhting’s Getting Older

2. Withered Hand – Good News

3. Star Wheel Press – Life Cycle Of A Falling Bird

4. Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

5. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

6. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

7. Admiral Fallow – Boots Met My Face

8. Edinburgh School For The Deaf – New Youth Bible

9. Savings & Loan – Today I Need Light

10.There Will Be Fireworks – There Will Be Fireworks