SelfMade Retailer Of The Month: February: Gordon Gibson, Action Records, Preston
George Pickering spoke to the owner of the store, Gordon Gibson, about how he has built the business from scratch.
On the corner of a side street just outside of the town centre, there is Preston’s largest independent record shop. The subject of a short documentary, ‘The Action Records Story: Chased by Nuns’, the store has a lot of history and interest for vinyl fans.
Last year, the UK’s trade association for recorded music, BPI (British Phonographic Industry) reported that vinyl record sales were at a “25 year high”, with a total of 3.2 million LPs sold. This proclamation signals a great future ahead for sales of music outside of Internet downloads, which the music industry has always kept an extra eye on.
Action Records itself was once a record label, putting out albums from bands such as The Fall and The Boo Radleys. Though this part of its identity has since been retired, the location still attracts many regular and new customers which ensure it is a thriving business.
Beginnings of Action Records
GG: It was an exciting time when I first began selling. I started out with a stall in Blackpool before coming here [to Preston]. When I opened the shop up in the early 1980s, I filled it out with my own record collection and the people just kept coming in! We attract all sorts of customers, young and old. The records on our shelves range across all genres…except for classical. We’re not that type of business!
GG: The label itself came around the same time, since some bands wanted to put their music out but had no way of doing it in the old days. The Fall was our biggest success story, and I’m proud to have given them the opportunity back when they were smaller to share their music. Nowadays, though, it is quite difficult to manage a record label, with the internet and all that – so we shut it down a few years ago, and concentrated on the shop.
GG: The major record companies have only just started making vinyl records again – for years, there were hardly any records available. The record companies were not making any of this, simply because CDs were already popular and so much cheaper to make.
Over the past two to three years, vinyl records have been heavily re-distributed – until then, they were very hard to get. Even the new releases are being produced on vinyl as well, simply to provide an alternative to music downloads. It is the same story with jazz –at one time, nobody ever asked us for jazz, and now it has become popular again with all ages. Young people don’t buy CDs anymore, it’s either vinyl or online for them.
The battle against digital music
GG: We’ve never done downloads or anything digital ourselves. It’s far more hassle than it’s worth. A vinyl record is far easier to sell than a downloadable track over the internet, since records carry that extra amount of quality. There are loads of vinyl records nowadays, and we are doing quite well to bring them in for the younger generation as well as for the oldies.
There has been a big change in the past few years throughout the music business. Downloads and the internet are killing a load of the music industry – all the music is for free now, which is very popular. But the record companies still want to make money, and they’ve found that vinyl has become very popular, so they have capitalised on this and have made a real effort to distribute their music via vinyl. For years, there was a time when new vinyl records were very hard to get. We have seen it all and experienced it all – when the shop first opened, CDs did not exist! There were only vinyl and cassette.
All the other music shops are getting record decks and other equipment. It is not just the record – everything to play it on has become massively popular again. It has all come back into fashion, which is fantastic for the music industry and fantastic for the independent record store.
Record Store Day
Record Store Day is an annual event, taking place on one Saturday every April across the world, which celebrates the “culture of the independently owned record store”.
GG: The biggest queues we get are on Record Store Day, which is always a blessing. We ourselves start the day before, from Friday afternoon! There are loads of limited-edition vinyl records on sale.
Check out one of writers videos with the owner of the Record Store:
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