A Year in MI Retail: Garry Chapman’s new challenge and his reflections on 2020

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This week, we’re delighted to be rounding up 2020 with our ‘A Year in MI Retail’ series. Running a music retail business in 2020 has been an experience like no other. There’s been challenges, but there’s also been opportunities. We’ll be bringing you interviews with retail businesses and sharing their thoughts and reflections on one of the most unique years in MI retail.

Today, the MIA’s General Manager Alice chats to Garry Chapman. Garry worked with PMT for nearly 20 years, and has just started a new role with Fair Deal Music.

Garry says:

“I’ve had nearly 20 years at PMT and I’ve enjoyed every minute, from day one of PMT Brum becoming the 4th store right through to today with 15 sites and an ever growing e-commerce site. But now I have the chance to do something for myself and be involved right through the heart of a business.”

Raj has given me an opportunity to get back into the nitty gritty of music retail, buying, selling, marketing, making decisions, deciding direction and hopefully making the difference!”

“Raj now wants to take a back seat, but will certainly still be involved and wants the business to carry on through his family, so has offered me a partnership and I can say even though I haven’t started yet, I already feel part of that family.”

In this interview, we talk to Garry about his new challenge, and ask him to reflect on 2020.

A: After 44 years, were you not just a bit tempted to ‘call it a day’?

G: There are times when we all may feel a bit like that, but I feel I’ve got far too much energy to call it a day and I still love the industry, so I’m definitely not ready yet.

A: How do you keep ‘Garry Chapman’ relevant and in-touch with the frenetic pace of change in retail?

G: I just love retail, whenever I go shopping in store or online, I still find myself dissecting other retailers. Whether its displays, lighting, staff or customer service, I look for anything that could help improve our business. It’s a never ending case of raising the bar and never actually getting to touch it, but that’s what keeps you motivated and (I hope) relevant.

A: Why did you feel the opportunity to join Fair Deal Music represented such a new challenge for you?

G: Raj has built a very successful business here and I’ve been given the opportunity to build on that. Getting back into the nitty gritty of MI retail, buying, selling, marketing, making decisions on the direction of the company and building on its successes. This is what makes me tick, I already feel reborn and excited to come to work again, stuck in the deep end chasing the biz! We have a new state of the art epos system and a new website that will work seamlessly together launching in Jan, which will give us a much bigger presence online which will also help increase footfall as so many visitors use websites to check before they travel.

A: Is there still a future for bricks and mortar retail?

G: Look, the pandemic has certainly had an impact. The media is so negative about bricks and mortar, it frustrates the hell out of me, but the numbers still show bricks and mortar as the major part of retail.

Oct 2018 in the UK around 18% of retail was online, Oct 2019 it had climbed to 19% and we all new that over the coming years online would increase but the pandemic has probably pushed online forward 5 years.

Oct 2020 online has increased to 28% but I believe once we get back to anything like a normal life that will drop to around 24 or 25%, and that will mean that bricks and mortar is still responsible for 75% of retail sales.

There are many differing retail genres and each face different challenges, but MI retail is more tactile than many of our retail counterparts which gives us a much better chance of retention to in store purchasing. We have to remember we are not usually ‘High St’ businesses, we are destination stores.

The MIA posted an article in January 2019 titled ‘Physical retail is not dead, boring retail is’ – call me a romantic but I still believe buying a guitar, piano, drum kit etc is an event, and its up to us MI retailers to make sure the customers get the right experience and remember that purchase. I liken it to buying a take away or going out to a restaurant, how many take away’s do you remember?

A: To say 2020 was a difficult year in Retail would be an understatement, what was the one single challenge that stands out the most?

G: Communication with the customers was key, so many buying online or click and collect it was about keeping them informed about their order status. But also keeping staff and customers safe…and also employed!

A: Of the ways you changed how you run your business, which one has been the most fundamental?

G: Ah, I don’t think I have changed the way I would run a store, people say retail has changed, well I don’t actually believe its changed its just different.

The loyalty has declined and customers expectations have gone through the roof. But all this means is that the retailer has to again raise the bar and be the best they can to have any chance of retention and meet todays customer expectations, whether online or bricks and mortar.

Every month of every year I try to raise my bar in every aspect of the business, displays, ambience, stock, customer service, purchasing, events and everything that contributes to being a successful retailer .

A: Taking into account your experiences of the last year, what single piece of advice would you give other retailers?

Omnichannel. I’ve spent a big part of this talking about bricks and mortar but the only way to succeed today is an omnichannel business, you need a strong website, a great store and offer as many services as you can to keep footfall coming into your store.

www.fairdealmusic.co.uk