We Spoke To Some Independent Record Store Bosses About Sainsbury’s Being The UK’s Biggest Seller Of Vinyl

Big-ass supermarket chain Sainsbury’s started to sell vinyl back in March, and this week claimed to have already become the UK’s biggest seller of the format. They cited a 70 percent growth and reckon to have an eight percent market share. We spoke to some independent record store bosses about how that makes them feel.

Ian De-Whytell, manager at Crash Records in Leeds

Hi Ian, how do you feel about Sainsbury’s –

[Cutting in] Honestly, how can they have eight percent of the market share of vinyl? It’s nonsense. I can’t see on the limited range of stock that they carry that that can possibly be correct. I find it very strange that they’ve gone from zero involvement in vinyl to then stocking vinyl and cornering eight percent of market, all within a matter of months. How could they get and verify those figure in that amount of time?

Let’s assume it is true. How does it make you feel?

The broader point for me is that there are independent record shops all around the country who’ve been stocking vinyl for years and years when everybody else had given up on the format. My message is loud and clear: support your local independent record store. Support the places that were stocking vinyl for years when Sainsbury’s were ignoring it.

Has the supermarkets’ recent involvement in vinyl affected your business at all?

It’s difficult to tell. The problem with supermarkets – and it’s always been this way in the music industry – is that they cream off the top selling titles. They don’t go beyond that, so they don’t do anything for the music business other than cash in on the popularity that has been created by other people. The supermarkets just come stamping in and create these problems when they do absolutely nothing for the music industry.

Can you take any positives from this?

We don’t want vinyl to be a completely niche market with only a handful of people stocking it. It’s fantastic that there’s been a revival and that we’ve got these big sales figures and that people are talking about vinyl again. There are good points; I’m not completely against vinyl being more widely available. I just don’t like the way powerful supermarkets muscle in on it and dictate terms to the suppliers, rather than the other way around.

Tom Butchart, manager at Sound It Out in Stockton-On-Tees

Hey Tom, what were your first thoughts on the news about Sainsbury’s?

They’re a multi-billion pound company, so of course they’re the biggest shop selling vinyl. But they’ve only got a small selection. They’re never gonna sell the new Fall album, are they? They’re going for the Dad market. They won’t get any new people. You’re not gonna say, ‘I wanna start buying records, I’ll go to Sainsbury’s’. That will never happen. It’s for the casual browser. My customers have been laughing about it, saying that they’d never go to Sainsbury’s to buy a record.

Why not?

It’s not the same experience is it, really? You got to Sainsbury’s to buy your potatoes.

Is Sainsbury’s success threatening to you?

I don’t think so. Because there’s been so much press recently on the vinyl resurgence, someone at Sainsbury’s has gone, ”Ooh – there’s a market in vinyl.” They’ll be interested in vinyl for a little while and then they’ll move on to something else. I can’t see it lasting more than a couple of years. They’ll lose interest. It’s a fad.

Are there any positives in this for you?

Yeah, we’ve already seen that. People have spotted a vinyl record in the supermarket and it’s got their interest, so they’ve Googled records shops in the local area, found me and become a customer. We’re busier now than we were 10 years ago and we see a lot more teenagers coming in.

Dep Downie, owner of Monrorail in Glasgow

Hi Dep. Did you see that Sainsbury’s is now the biggest seller of vinyl in the UK?

No, but I did see a thing that Tesco were punching holes in records for security tags. It’s completely bananas. We don’t really understand it. It’s wild. If we get deliveries that are bashed, we send them back. We don’t even keep them in stock.

What’s your first reaction to hearing the news about Sainsbury’s?

I have no real issue with it. It’s just commerce; it’s gonna happen. A lot of independent stores never gave up on records, but I remember a time when I could buy stock from Woolworths cheaper than I could from the major labels because [Woolworths] were getting such discounts. So it doesn’t really surprise me. And it’s not really our world – you’re not gonna get new music in Sainsbury’s that’s not already broken through to the mainstream. You’re not gonna find the next Radiohead, because that will come through the internet and independent shops.

Is there a danger that the vinyl bubble will burst?

It’s the best time in the last 25 years to sell records – there’s some amazing stuff coming out – but I really worry it’s a fashionable blip. It’s so crazy just now; it’s totally flipped from 10 years ago. There was time when our customers were growing old with us; there weren’t really any kids coming in the shop. But now we have teenagers buying classic records like Nirvana as well as Parquet Courts and whatever else, so that’s the nice side of it.

Do you feel threatened by Sainsbury’s?

I would be worried if you’re in a small town where you’ve got one independent record shop whose main trade is Oasis and The Stone Roses and now they can’t compete because Sainsbury’s have got greater discounts. That would be really sad. But I can’t see any of my customers buying a punched-out record. People complain about a small crease in a sleeve!