Glad to see the back of 2018?

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Some thoughts from Paul Mc

Well, from a business point of view, my memories of 2018 will not be overly fond, to put it mildly!

The retail climate has been the toughest in many, many years and the High Street has generally had a pretty torrid time. This has affected all types of retailers from the big Department Stores, through to Maplins, Toys R Us, right along to the smallest independent retailer.

Whilst we have sadly seen some shop closures in our industry this year, they have still remained remarkably few, and the resilience and creativity of our shop owners and staff to remain trading in the teeth of this onslaught “against” a physical shop, is nothing but remarkable.

The costs of actually running a retail business on a High Street remain eye-watering in so many cases, with the ridiculously out-dated Business Rates model, unrealistic rental rates and a controlling governance from above that simply does not seem to see the danger to the future existence of our High Streets (as a side note, I am delighted to see how many MIA members have had their Business Rates Bills reduced this year by our Altus Group specialists).

Our Chancellor is talking about some sort of on-line tax to “level the playing field” for physical retailers. Talk is cheap. Mike Ashley of Sports Direct demanded of MP’s that any retailer that makes more than 20% of its sales online should be subject to an additional tax.

Thankfully we still sell products that (by and large) need to be touched and tested. We still see the wonderful comments from our customers about the amazing staff that helped them in their local music shop. We genuinely change people’s lives for the better with what we do. Long may that continue!

The passion we have for the products we sell and the effect they have on people’s lives is our biggest asset. We actually believe in and care for what we sell, which makes us pretty unique on the High Street!

And let us hope that the proposed CITES exclusion for finished musical instruments containing rosewood comes to pass next year. The MIA along with instrument brands and industry trade bodies from all around the world are united in trying to make this happen!

But, not only are we facing this challenge to physical retailing and the unchecked growth of internet shopping (especially in the UK where we are the biggest web shoppers per capita in the world)….we also face a personnel challenge. Many (the majority?) of our independent Music Shops are owned/run by a Baby Boomer and there are a large number contemplating/actively seeking to retire. Is there a generation wanting to take over/take on a shop (any sort of shop?) in this climate… I worry that we already know the answer to that…

The paperwork involved in managing a shop has never been larger, be it CITES/WEEE/Health and Safety/GDPR to name but a few……wouldn’t it be nice to have time to actually run your shop?

I won’t event get started on Brexit and the damaging effect this has had on consumer spending confidence and the damaging effect it may well have for some time to come. Suppliers and retailers alike will all feel the impact and ramifications of this.

Our industry, along with most others, is certain to see more “consolidation” in years to come. This could be the number of supplying companies to our shops or the actual number of shops. Or both.

However… (and this is a big one, please bear with me)

We have seen some of MIA Member Shops experience their BEST EVER YEAR. And I am not talking about the “big ones”!

These are shops that are finding a way through the challenges of running a shop in 2018 and are creating a proposition that brings customers to them.

A few examples of this include:

  • A portfolio of brands that makes a real profit for the business
  • A focus on nearly new and second-hand
  • A focus on rental instruments
  • Profitable teaching services
  • A regular series of events in the shop, ticketed (in many cases)
  • A focus on making the business and products attractive to females
  • An understanding that 25% of our Nation will be over 65 in a few years’ time… target the “Silver Surfers!”

I genuinely believe that this challenging climate will support and allow our best businesses to both survive and thrive and the MIA remains here to do anything it can to promote, protect and support the UK Music-making industry!

Happy Christmas to MI!