The old joke goes like this, “How do you make a small fortune in the record business? Start with a large one…” Rimshot, please. According to an article in The Digital Music News, Atlanta/s Criminal Records will be closing up shop on November 1st.
Rather than a reaction to macro economic events, Criminal’s closing is more a result of moving from a 2500 sq. foot space to a 6000 sq. foot one in 2008. Also Criminal has spent money on in-store appearances and other “events” to increase sales. Aggressive expansion without a solid and well thought out plan as to where new growth to support that expansion will come from is usually doomed to failure. In a recent interview in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, owner Eric Levin said, “We’ve been on a rescue mission for three years. I’m done paying for it by myself.”
At the end of the article the author of the Digital Music News asks the following questions, “… how does Record Store Day react, reshape, and continue to make the case for key exclusives? And, is there even room for a niche here?”
While it’s a bit extreme to jump from reporting on one local record store’s failure to questioning why any record store can exist as a solid business model. But it’s hard to see how any record store can survive from only walk-in business. Like any other specialist retailer, a record store must have solid national and international customer base merely to stay afloat, let alone grow. Chad Kassam’s Acoustic Sounds is an example of a retailer with a plan.
Perhaps some angel with a couple of spare $100,000 lines of credit will materialize with the resources to save Criminal Records, but without a blueprint of how to expand their customer base it will all be merely another holding action against the inevitable…