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Customer Insight: Nervous Records

Gordon Hayes opened his record shop in Hinckley, Leicestershire, in 1978 at the age of 26, thinking it would be a pleasant way of avoiding getting a real job for a few months. Nearly 44 years later both he and the business are still going strong, with his vinyl records more popular than ever with customers of all ages. His shop has recently been named one of the top 10 independent record shops in the UK.

Can you tell us a bit about your business?

My shop sells second-hand vinyl records and CDs. It is situated in a row of terraced houses away from the high street and I run it on my own, opening six days a week from 11am to 4pm. I called it Nervous Records because it was meant to be a witty pun on the phrase nervous wreck – nervous wreck, nervous records. But I always have to explain that to people and even then instead of laughing, they just go Oh! I have been regretting choosing that name for most of these past 44 years but it is way too late to change it now.

Why did you decide to start it?

I used to live in the premises above the shop which sold something else back then. When the shop became empty I decided to run it myself. I was unemployed at the time and thought it could be an opportunity to fill in time until I could find a proper job. One of the few things I knew anything about was rock and pop music so I thought I would try selling second-hand records, with the idea of it hopefully lasting about six months. But it kept on going and I am grateful that it has gone this way for so long. In 1984 I bought the house next door and knocked a door though so I can walk from my living room straight into the shop. There are hardly ever more than 4 or 5 people in it at once because it is quite small and there are several thousand records in there, but it is cosy and that’s the way people like it.

How did you finance it?

I borrowed £350 off my dad and that set me up. I have not needed any financing from banks or anything like that.

How long have you been an XLN customer?

Nearly 20 years – I was one of XLN’s first customers.

What technology and communications do you use in your business?

I have a landline but I don’t have a mobile phone or website. I prefer dealing face to face with my customers and having a bit of a chat with them while they are browsing through the records. A lot of my customers say that I could do so much more business if I had a website, and I am sure that is very true, but I am perfectly content just plodding along as I have done. True record-buying enthusiasts much prefer coming to a place like my little shop than buying online and some people travel a considerable distance to come here.

What is the biggest challenge of running your business?

At the moment it is finding new stock. These days it is very easy for people to sell their records online whereas 15-20 years ago they would have just brought them into my shop. So it is more difficult now to obtain re-sellable record collections.

Back in late 1980s and 1990s the biggest challenge was when people swapped from wanting vinyl records to CD. It changed very quickly, almost overnight and there were some edgy times.

But now the whole thing is happening in reverse – hardly anybody buys CDs anymore and most people, including today’s teenagers, want vinyl records again. The last six or seven years have been the best in all those 44 years.

What key lessons have you learnt?

That politeness is very important when speaking to your customers. Everybody who walks through the door gets a ‘Good morning’ or a ‘Good afternoon’ from me.

What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business?

I was very sceptical about what it was going to be like post-lockdowns and thought there was not going to be much money about. But business came back pretty much straight away. People do seem to find the money to spend on vinyl records, which is a pleasant surprise.

What has been the secret of your success so far?

I think the longevity of the shop makes people think, well he has been doing this for so long that hopefully, he knows what he is doing and sells a trustworthy product. Also, I am doing something that I enjoy. I still love music and I will hopefully never lose that passion.

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