For those with a burning passion for music, there is nothing quite like the joy of poring over old vinyl in a back street record shop.

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But the industry is struggling.

While even the biggest outlets like HMV, now in administration, have found the going tough, the number of independent traders has plummeted faster than an X Factor winner’s career.

There were 900 independents across the UK six years ago but by 2009 only 269 existed, a figure which increased slightly in 2011 for the first time in a generation.

In Suffolk the outlook is even more bleak. According to Chris Mortimer, shop manager of Out of Time Records in Fore Street, his is one of the last remaining independent record stores in the whole of Suffolk.

But, despite the collapse of many of his competitors, he says business is booming, thanks largely to the specialist nature of his wares.

“We are mainly a second-hand shop and have a lot of back catalogue stuff, rather than everyday releases,” said Mr Mortimer.

“I sell more CDs now – generally to people over 35. And a lot more youngsters are buying vinyls.

“It will be a sad day if HMV goes. It would knock the high street, but it won’t really affect us.”

It seems the success of Out of Time Records could have been fuelled by the resurgence in interest in vinyl.

According to figures released by the Entertainment Retailers Association, the amount spent on vinyl albums in the UK has jumped from £1.1million in 2008 to £5.7m in 2012.

Chris Girling, 40, of Ipswich, has frequented Out of Time Records for many years.

He said: “You find interesting little obscurities that you wouldn’t find in mainstream record shops.

“HMV focuses on the charts and what’s new but I’m more interested in the things I’ve been listening to for years rather than modern music.”

Out of Time Records has been trading for 25 years.

And though tough competition from online retailers such as Amazon has put the shop under more strain in recent years, its loyal customers, as well as passing trade, has managed to keep it afloat.

Mr Mortimer added: “We have got regular customers but there are new people discovering us all the time.

“A lot of people see us just by walking past as we are in a good position on the way to the Waterfront. Also because of where we are, it is a bit cheaper than being in the town centre. Overall things are looking okay for the future I think.”

1 comment

  • Inevitably this kind of business will increasingly succumb to the competition of the internet retailers as the number of closures in the report shows. However on a positive note those establishments which have welcoming and knowledgeable staff and can provide just that personal touch will continue for some time just as a handful of traditional hardware stores survive in the face of B&Q and Homebase etc. Good luck to Mr. Mortimer and may his shop still be there in a decade's time.

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Friday, January 25, 2013

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