Avalanche: The Next Generation

avalanche-logo-use NMEWhile there may be no definite announcement just yet the thinking behind Avalanche’s future has at least become clear

There are two very different types of customers. Those who will always look to visit Avalanche/record shops if they are in Edinburgh and regulars who have supported the shop for many years. Then there are those who stumble across the shop or just recently our stall and have their interest in music rekindled. Now as more people are buying vinyl it is very noticeable that those buying from our stall are not the customers we got in the shop. Similarly some travel many miles to look through our posters while others have no thought to look for posters but once they see them are delighted to have done so.

For the first sort of customer Avalanche simply needs a relatively central base. People will find us. A small shop would do but I’d prefer to be part of something a little bigger. For the second type of customer we need high footfall which is expensive. I’ve been advised several times now that we should go for somewhere more high profile to reach the customers who will undoubtedly love what we do but would never normally venture into a record shop. This I’m told can be done short term relatively cheaply given the number of empty properties. It is why HMV can strike such good deals to not leave shops that it will be hard to find another business for.

The few things we have done outside the shop have only reinforced the thinking behind this. The day before Record Store Day is normally very quiet but our first day at the Ceilidh Culture Street Fair this year was very busy indeed with visitors keen to buy vinyl but with no thought for RSD.

Something else that has become very clear is that customers don’t want too much choice. Also, and this I did find odd, they preferred to look through the seven racks we had of unpriced, recently arrived LPs to the priced records all in their correct sections. There certainly was an element of couples/families looking through the records and reminiscing about their youth ! The amount we had at the street fair seemed about right and most found many more than they could afford or wanted to spend and went through the pile they had amassed putting ones back that weren’t “essential”.

The posters need more space which is partly why we moved to the Grassmarket and they will need to be accommodated in a smaller area while still giving the enjoyment of browsing rather than looking through regimented racks.

Visitors still love to ask about local bands but as has been well documented already the time spent with them makes it uneconomical. We do get people in who read the blog and follow on twitter and know what they want which of course is great and then it is no problem to recommend a couple more albums. Again a base these people can visit for Withered Hand, Quickbeam, Star Wheel Press, There Will Be Fireworks etc just needs to be central. Many prefer to wait and buy in the shop when they are visiting rather than buy online. 

Sales of new releases have plummeted as we are very much caught between a rock and a hard place as most bands/labels sell directly and HMV/FOPP have all stock consigned. This is an area we may well just have to concede. 

London is doing very well with 25% of all music sales and 40% of all vinyl sales. Surviving outside of this haven will become more and more difficult for those without other strings to their bow be that tickets, second hand sales etc. It is now better to be the only shop in a small town with only online for competition. Some big important shops have closed over the years and as with the US they are often replaced but with much smaller often second hand shops.

The increase in new vinyl now a whopping 1.2% of sales has led to a disproportionate response from others all looking for a slice of what is only a slightly bigger cake and now of course everybody is a bit “indie” too. Reports this year of second hand shops spending more on RSD product than they spend on new releases all year and other shops last year having thousands of items for sale online only show that the original aims of RSD have been lost. Don’t get me wrong better it is sold online than sitting unsold in racks but maybe it shows that too many titles are accepted with no chance of selling through in shops.

So those are the thoughts and background to any decision that will be made. With the resurgence of the Avalanche label and all being well worldwide distribution for some of Avalanche’s best selling bands as well as more posters being commissioned there is much to be positive about. With the different needs of the shop I hope it is clear why I haven’t jumped at moving somewhere immediately. Establishing a base camp may very well be the most sensible way forward at least initially. I didn’t have a closing down sale because we weren’t closing down despite the efforts of the Evening News headline writers to say otherwise (the actual article was fine) but I do now have a lot of stock to clear so if anybody has a big empty shop they want to lend me for a few weeks please get in touch ! 

One more thing has also become very clear and that is despite the fact that many people come especially to visit the shop and speak to me with the other interests, and I’m regularly being offered new projects, I can no longer base myself in the shop all the time and any new shop will need to be able to cover having others involved. I already have one young lad helping me and he has coped very well given how incredibly useless young people can be and how grumpy I can be about it.

In these days of brands Avalanche has a history you simply can’t buy and is recognised in different parts of the world for different things. For some it is our support of current local bands but for others it is the early support we showed for bands like Bright Eyes and Neutral Milk Hotel and again for others it is the Scottish bands from the 80s and 90s we had on our label. Add in financially backing some of the seminal bands and labels to come out of New Zealand at the same time and there is a legacy even I to be honest had failed to recognise until recently. Finally for some, and to bring us up to date, it is Avalanche’s social media presence. I’m continually amazed at how many people read this blog and engage on twitter.  

As with many shops Avalanche only survives at all by me working long hours every day and that will need to stop. I’m not short on other businesses wanting to be associated with Avalanche but few offer financial support or sponsorship which is what is needed. I did say at the time that how we moved forward crucially depended on how takings were in the weeks before we left. Unfortunately without the mayhem of a closing down sale little changed and we still have far too much great stock and not enough of the cash we need. Many have suggested a kickstarter campaign – I haven’t ruled it out !  

One Response to “Avalanche: The Next Generation”

  • Murray:

    Popped down on Friday to visit the shop and was sad to see you have closed. I sincerely hope you will continue on in some way. There are too few shops like Avalanche. Good luck and I will try to get down to Edinburgh to support your next venture.

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