December 3, 2007
The same old song: Music store closing
Ferndale's Record Time to consolidate into Roseville location
BY GRETA GUEST
Record Time in Ferndale will wind down operations after the holidays with a clearance sale before its owner consolidates operations at his flagship Roseville store.
The Roseville store opened in 1983, with Ferndale following in 2000. Owner Mike Himes said his business will focus on the Roseville and eBay stores, Amazon.com and his e-commerce site.
"We have lasted longer than anyone else has, so we must be doing something right," Himes said. "I love the vibe here in Ferndale. There just aren't enough people coming in."
Ferndale's main shopping area on Nine Mile has declined along with Michigan's economy. Empty storefronts are becoming more common, particularly since the Old Navy store at Woodward and Nine Mile closed in the summer.
But news of the impending closure of another independent music store feels like Harmony House all over again. Harmony House went out of business in 2002.
"It's kind of a sad thing," said Jonny Victor, 32, who was shopping at Record Time in Ferndale last week. "I much prefer to shop at an independent music store. I like to get the actual CDs instead of downloading them."
The Farmington Hills resident said he had been going to a music store in Novi until it closed. Then he found Record Time.
A trend winds down
About 1,200 independent music stores have closed since January 2003, said Joel Oberstein, president of Studio City, Calif.-based Almighty Institute of Music Retail, which offers marketing and other services to independent record stores.
There are still about 2,500 left, Oberstein said. In Michigan, 42 independent music stores have closed, leaving 63 stores, according to the institute's figures.
Harmony House closed its remaining 20 stores in 2002. The local chain was founded in 1947, but the mix of competition from Internet downloads and mass-market retailers did it in. The chain had 38 stores at its peak in 1999.
"What you are finding now is there is a survival of the fittest mentality in many of the stores," Oberstein said.
The stores that make it amid double-digit percentage declines in CD sales and other economic pressures are the ones that diversify by selling other items in the store, such as T-shirts, and selling online, Oberstein said.
"You have to do a little bit of everything, I guess," said Mike Rome, co-owner of Street Corner Music in Beverly Hills.
Putting items online
Rome said he sells records and 45s on eBay and puts CDs that don't sell in the store on Amazon.
Himes said he expects to start the clearance sale Dec. 29, and it will continue until he can sublet the 4,400-square-foot store to another business. He's hoping to close in February.
Sales at the Ferndale store are down 10% to 30% most weeks, Himes said, while the Roseville store has been holding its own.
"We sell music physically. The east side, being more blue-collar, is less affected by techology. The west side is more affected by technology and the iPod age," Himes said. "It feels like I'm selling typewriters or pay phones; you don't see those anymore."
Himes also feels frustrated by an industry where all the marketing dollars are moving toward the digital delivery of music.
Also, exclusive content is first going to venues like iTunes, and the independents can't get it for 60 days. Big box retailers are also getting exclusives the little guys can't.
"We're looked at as a last stop, even though we are the people who get bands started," Himes said. "They say they appreciate what we do, but sometimes we've got to wonder."
Himes said he will let go about five employees in Ferndale when he transfers all operations to Roseville.
He has 15 employees at the 9,000-square-foot Roseville store on Gratiot near I-696.
"We are leaving Ferndale, but we want to make Roseville bigger and better," Himes said.
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