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MIA NEWS: Have you got soul in your shop?

Paul McManus
MIA NEWS: Have you got soul in your shop?

Price and convenience are vital for any MI retailer, but has your shop got soul asks MIA chief executive, Paul McManus..

Many of you will have seen the recent news that the Best Buy launch in the UK has (basically) failed and that shops are being shut. Whilst I am sure that the likes of Currys and Dixons will be rejoicing, it may be worth looking at what happened here.

On the face of it this was a hugely successful US retail company. We all also noted that selling musical instruments had become an important part of their portfolio in the States.

I actually went to visit the first UK Best Buy at Thurrock. It was very large but totally devoid of any “soul” and atmosphere (more of this later). Add to that, Brits are generally quite conservative and it was quite clear that very few people knew anything about Best Buy, the brand or its’ values.

Contrast this with the frequently reported woes of HMV. Here we have a brand that is something of a national treasure, but one that is struggling for existence. In this case, we generally love “who” they are. The problem with HMV is that the sales proposition is not in tune with the buying public in that they are fundamentally still all about selling physical products (CDs etc). The world has changed. I don’t think my teenage daughter actually has any CDs…come to that, I can’t remember when I last bought one.

So, what does this have to do with us selling musical instruments in UK shops? Ted Eschliman writes regular (excellent) articles for the Music Inc. trade magazine in the US (www.musicincmag.com) and he recently suggested three specific requisites that a music shop must have:
1)    Price – an appealing proposition for today’s “savvy” customer. Does not automatically mean cheapest.
2)    Convenience – not just location, but trading hours, internet, open 24/7 etc, helpful staff, clear labeling and so on.
3)    Soul – reputation, being part of the community, integrity, “vibe”, always goes the extra mile etc.

He went on to argue that any viable retail business in MI must be able to satisfy at least two of these criteria simply to keep the doors open. Soul is naturally the hardest criteria to attain, but is often the one that means most to customers over time.

Any shop-keeper worth his salt is more than aware of the extreme competition on RRPs in our industry (and most other industries, for that matter). A balanced mix of prices that are either highly competitive, competitive or downright high margin are required. The latter is clearly essential to survival and is often driven by hard-to-find products, unusual items/brands or “packages” that are created by the retailer to distance itself from direct price comparisons.

And how about convenience? Today’s customer wants you trading when it suits them, not the reverse. Which hours, which days? When are the phone lines open? Is an internet order available to be processed at all times? How about delivery times? Are you selling what your customers actually want (ie HMV)? Can they get what they want when they want it? How quickly can they find what they want in the shop?

And then “soul”. This is all about customer perception and is earned over time. You can “feel” a lot of this every time you walk into a music shop (any shop, for that matter). Do I feel welcome here? Are the staff glad to see me? What is the environment like? Does this business simply want my money or is this the start of a relationship? Do I feel that this business puts something back into the community (supports local music teachers, local events, charity work etc)?

I suspect that most businesses will spend the majority of time on price and convenience, which is totally understandable when shops are fighting for every sale in the till. However, the shop with “soul” can often negate the price objections from customers  as well as being a magnet for people who simply want to visit for the experience.

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Tags: Retail , MIA , paul mcmanus

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