Preface: This post is a direct result of a very heated discussion with the MI (Music Industry) on the following article at MI-Pro and as such is very MI centric and should be taken as such
MI Retail stores are fast failing in the UK, and its been happening for years not just because of the ‘recession’. The common held wisdom that if you build a music store they will come and sample the wares and buy – bricks and mortar is good. However, as history is consistently showing the MI Retail sector isn’t making much out of this philosophy. Maybe there are exceptions to the rule, but at large retails stores with their inherent overheads of staff and upkeep as well as stock – its a complete non-starter.
These issues are further compounded by the shear number of ‘lifestyle’ business, where the owners have made their money elsewhere and have the music store as a play thing. At the end of the day the balance sheet doesn’t matter its all about something todo. Therefore you have a market that fosters a race to the bottom, rather than quality.
Aversion to new things.
For an industry that is so often at the forefront of new technologies, such as the MOOG and the Roland V-Piano. We are also terrible bad at adopting new technologies into the industry. The internet is still seen as a threat (even though many wont admit it), as such many reputable retailers have little to no web convincing presence see JG Windows, Reverb and even Chappels of Bond Street. These are supposably some of the respected flag bearers of the industry. The trade has always had an arms length relationship with internet, leaving the market wide open for newcomers such as Dolphin Music, and they have seen explosive growth.
Taking the Dolphin Music model, they were an internet startup. The brain child of Rob Williams and Jason Tavaria [more] whilst still at university. They grew amazingly fast and basically dominant a huge chunk of the internet pie, not just because they were first to market and saw the value of online, but also because there is nobody else who can contend the market.
What about Demos?
The lack of a demonstration equipment I think is the motivation for Dolphins Music push into retail (Bricks and Mortar) you will see prominent links on all Dolphins pages that let you see if that item is in stock at your nearest store. Despite there prime locations Dolphins stores work, because of the user base it generated online. This is we the key under estimation of the internet comes, it isn’t less personal but more personal.
I as a web developer can tailor search results and product recommendations uniquely to each of my visitors, I can also because the time taken on writing an email is much less than face-to-face contact write personal responses to each enquiry whether there be one or a 1,000. You can easily build a rapport with a customer and a community online that reaches a much larger audience online than you can simply with a small local store or even a chain.
So where do Bricks and Mortar Sit
Bricks and mortar stores, sit in the sweet spot. Much of a catalog of instruments/accessories can easily be served online with fast delivery and good service. However you do have the items such as Pro-Keyboards and Guitars that do need demoing before you can decide that is perfect for me. However, traditionally and especially for stores without a reasonable web presence, you quickly find that a potential customer will come into a store and demo a guitar for a considerable amount of time, not buy and buy online later. By having an online store something amazing happens, you can filter customers. Easily decide between sales leads that have a good potential and leave the ones that don’t.
Even if you have no contact between you and customer before they enter the store, they can know whether you have stock where you are when you open. So the chances of converting that business is extremely high as they have already chosen you. You already have a connection with the customer and you have effectively done nothing for it, as such even a relatively small company can appear as a large trading enterprise and also carry the expertise that would imply for a fraction of the cost.