Record shops are bracing themselves for the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the message loud and clear in the wake of the postponement of Record Store Day until 20 June: support your local shop…
Record Store Day organisers were left with no choice but to put the event back by two months as social distancing and self-isolation measures came into effect. The outbreak has left shops uncertain over their future, with high-street footfall plummeting, but many stressing that they remain open for business – even if that means online or personally delivering to customers.
A spokesperson for Record Store Day said: “Given the challenges now facing the independent record store community, we urge music fans to continue to support their local record shop in whichever way they can to see us through what is about to become a very challenging time. This was absolutely not an easy decision to make, as hundreds of independent shops and labels have been working hard towards this year’s celebrations. We’re working with all of our partners and our stores to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone: customers, record stores, artists, labels and more. Record Store Day is everywhere and we want to hold our party when everyone can gather around safely to celebrate life, art, music and the culture of the indie record store.”
Beyond the postponement of Record Store Day, the COVID-19 pandemic is a far graver existential threat to our independent record shops. Natasha Youngs at Brighton store Resident Music, and part of the organising team behind Record Store Day, sounded a stark warning: “The moving of Record Store Day isn’t what’s impacting the shop hardest right now. Dealing with the COVID-19 virus is the single biggest challenge the independent sector has ever faced, and as the high street was already on its knees, this is frankly brutal. If we don’t handle this smartly, it could well be the end of high street retail.
“In the circumstances, it’s 100% the right decision [to postpone RSD]. It wasn’t an easy one and we were keen to make sure all territories were in agreement, but we got there in the end and we all feel more comfortable that we won’t be holding the event during what is predicted to be the peak time for the virus spread.
“In all honesty, as the decision was made before we had to commit to any stock orders, we can adjust to a new date easily. Yes, we will need to rearrange the entertainment we had booked and may have to find some alternatives, but this is all very manageable in comparison to everything else we are dealing with.
“At least this year, if it goes ahead in June, it’ll be a heck of a lot warmer for those crazy dedicated overnight queuers! It’s also not a bad time of year for it to happen in terms of releases, as Easter/April is traditionally quite a busy time for new releases, whereas June is more geared to the festival season, so can be much quieter.”
‘The biggest fear is all music events being stopped until further notice’
And Youngs underlines the importance of customers digging deep in these troubled times to support their local shop. “What customers can do is continue to shop with us, in store or online, as long as circumstances allow them to.”
Union Music’s Del Day says he’s hopeful his customers’ support will see the shop through what’s certain to be the toughest time they’ve known. “I think we, like every store, will feel a real punch. But if we all pull together and help each other out we can get through it I’m sure.
“Financially, Record Store Day is a massive day for a small shop like ours, so we shall have to cut our cloth accordingly and will be really careful with our ordering of regular titles and new releases. We have a wonderful customer base here who love the shop. I’d be hopeful they will keep coming in and buying records! We do mail-order too and are happy to drop albums off to customers if they are unable to attend in person.”
Bristol’s Friendly Records, meanwhile, are seeing the enforced break as an opportunity, using the time to close their doors and move forward a plan to knock through their bar and shop to create a single space. Elsewhere, other shops are sanitising doorhandles and shelves, providing disposable gloves and offering free delivery in an attempt to stave off the financial threat.
Adam Gillison, of Jumbo Records in Leeds, said trade had already slowed. “We have heard the words ‘town’s quiet today’ from more than a few customers. It’s all changing quickly and the working from home impact and then indeed the spread of the virus haven’t had a chance to really hit us yet. It’s difficult to know what to plan for the best.
“The change of date has come early enough for us not to have committed too much, and most of the plans we have made so far are transferable to the new date. In the meantime, we’re really hoping that customers will use our website if they can’t visit us. We’re a physical shop, and that’s what people know us as principally, but in the short term it’s going to be really important that people use that virtual shop. We’re only an email or a phone call away if people want to ask our advice.”
At Longwell Records, owner Ian Aitchison says he is fearful of the economic impact of the virus, but has been touched by the reaction from customers already, with the last Saturday before self-isolation measures came into play a busy one. “The biggest fear is all music events being stopped until further notice. In some respects, Record Store Day being pushed back is a good thing, as if it went ahead it would have felt a real gamble taking part due to the virus. We are certainly going to be putting more stock online and Facebook marketplace.
“I’m unsure about Record Store Day in June, but if it goes ahead we will make it a super day at Longwell Records, and it would be mint to have some form of party after coming out from this pretty scary scenario.”