20 Apr 2013

Record Store Day: can independent shop decline be reversed?

Independent record stores closed at a “significantly higher rate” than other stores, new figures show – but can this decline be reversed?

Figures from the Local Data Company show that, over 2012, the number of record stores in the UK fell from 293 to 274 – a fall of 6 per cent.

(Where is your nearest record store? Browse the interactive map below. Is your local record store missing? Let Channel 4 News know by tweeting us @Channel4News.)

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “In light of the store closures by HMV, the key chain retailer in this space, the significance of independent record shops has increased further.

“The decline in shops is not unexpected but the rate of this decline is significantly higher than that of independent shops overall who have remained stable in the last 12 months.

“Independent record shops are clearly an important part of many a town’s retail offer, bringing uniqueness and diversity.

“With the resurgence of vinyl and retro, one hopes that the decline we have seen in the last 12 months can be reversed or at least be halted. With the large number of empty shops, now is a great time to open a record shop if the consumer demand is there.”

The greatest decline was in London where 10 shops out of 65 closed – a fall of 15 per cent. In the south west, however, there was an increase in record stores – up four to 47.

Download age

In the 1980s there were more than 2,200 record stores in the UK, but the advent of music downloads on the internet put pressure on all music retailers.

In January HMV, the main high street retailers of CDs and DVDs, went into administration. Restructuring firm Hilco has since bought 141 of HMV’s 222 stores out of administration.

Since the download age started independent record stores of all types have had a real hammering. Phil Barton, Sister Ray Records

On Saturday, hundreds of shops across the country take part in Record Store Day – an event which started in the US, and aims to promote independent music retailers.

So what do the independent record stores think of Record Store Day, and the future prospects for their industry? Channel 4 News went to Berwick Street, the heart of Soho’s independent music scene, to ask.


According to Phil Barton, owner of Sister Ray Records on London’s Berwick Street, independent stores have been buoyed by a resurgence in vinyl.

“Since the download age started independent record stores of all types have had a real hammering,” he told Channel 4 News. “If we go back ten or twelve years there were over a thousand independent record stores, and its now just under 300 so that tells its own story.

Read more: Use your head - invest in vinyl?

“What we’ve found over the last few years is that core of 300 has become solid, has looked after itself, is quite resilient and is now focused on what those stores themselves can sell – they have found their niche.

The beauty of vinyl is it is something that endures and lots of shops survive because of it. Duncan Kerr, Reckless Records

“With the resurgence of vinyl, we’ve found ourselves in a much better position than before really. We don’t have to look after the mass market which is what HMV was always struggling with.

“We look after the customers who are looking for a more eclectic mix, so in that way we’ve got ourselves in a much firmer position.”

‘Something that endures’

Figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry show that, globally, sales of vinyl records were $171m in 2012, up 47 per cent on the year before.

Duncan Kerr, the general manager at Reckless Records on Berwick Street, welcomed Record Store Day, in which major labels release vinyl records for stores to sell.

Record Store Day encourages people into independent record stores with limited edition vinyl, and a host of events (picture: David Doyle)

“It is a way of rekindling interest in vinyl amongst young people,” he said. “The beauty of vinyl is it is something that endures and lots of shops survive because of it.

What we’re seeing with independent record stores is the reinvention of the high street. Dan Thompson, Emtpy Shops Network

“The vinyl market has held pretty steady. They say vinyl sales have increased but it is still a tiny proportion of the market.”

Future of retail

Record Store Day will see a number of stores across the country putting on special offers, and hosting gigs. Mr Barton said he was expecting customers to be camping overnight to be the first to the limited edition records on sales.

And it is special events, such as gigs in store, that could help preserve the record store.

Dan Thompson, of the Empty Shops Network, said: “What we’re seeing with independent record stores is the reinvention of the high street, with shops that offer a social experience, in store gigs, a mix of products and friendly yet expert service.

“If you want to see the future of retail, look at the cutting edge, and that’s stores like Rough Trade East in London, Jumbo Records in Leeds and Union Music in Lewes.”