Two weeks can be an eternity in which the fate of your favourite music retailer can be decided for good or ill.
It was exactly two weeks ago that I last wandered around and bought vinyl and CDs from Belfast’s ‘best independent’ (1) record outlet ‘Head Record’s’ and other than a ‘New Year’s’ sale being under way there was nothing to indicate what I saw on their window today, those words music fans like myself dread to read ‘Closing Down Sale.’
After speaking to a member of staff and expressing my regret and disappointment at this occurrence, very much echoed by the staff member, I was told it was not down to ‘poor Christmas trading’ (also mentioned on their twitter page  )but in fact ‘ down to Victoria Square deciding to not allow Head to renew their lease where their shop is currently located. Victoria Square has decided to give the lease to a larger retailer for a five year period.
I can understand that business decision, especially if Head had not wanted to renew their lease option for that length of time, quite an undertaking in today’s very difficult trading environment but this decision will rob Belfast of its only real record shop. Sadly HMV’s poor, much reduced music department is no longer of much value to music enthusiasts like myself, as their stock profile is very poor compared to what it once was and as good as Dragon Records is, it can’t match the broad stock Head offered.
The member of staff I spoke with told me that they ‘were looking for new premises, but if they were unable to do so; Head in Belfast would be gone.’ This really would be a tragedy for Belfast, if this comes to pass.
In the last few years Belfast has lost most of its independent record shops and larger music retailers, such as Good Vibrations who closed last year and Hector’s House a few years before that.
Historically Belfast had a lot of music shops at one time but as the years have gone buy a lot have been lost including: The Gramaphone Shop, Golden Discs, Vinyl Villains, Smyth’s Records, Caroline Music, Dr Roberts, Sun Records, Knight’s Record Library, Harrison’s Musique, Virgin, Our Price and no doubt others I can’t recall. Signs of the times, the decline in people buying music preferring instead to steal it via illegal downloads, file sharing, buying from the super markets or just on line from Amazon and the like, regardless of the reasons the high street in most cities, including Belfast is now a desert for music retailers.
I pride myself on buying from bricks and mortar retailers when I can and since Head opened Christmas 2010 I have made many purchases from them and I will be particularly sad if they can’t find a new store to trade from in Belfast city centre.
I wish Head Records Belfast every success in finding a new home and I want to thank Kenny Hutchinson the store manger and the staff personally for the last year of trading in Belfast, the great shop they had, and I hope will have again, and for all the help I received from them as a customer; which was first rate.
Saturday the 14th of Jan 2012 will be their last day trading in the Victoria Square site.
Sadly with no last minute reprieve Head has now closed its doors and so far there is no sign of it reopening. I wait with bated breath in hope it does.
(1) Head Records won the ‘Best Independent Record shop’ award for Ireland in 2011. You can read more here http://www.recordstoreday.co.uk/news/best-indie.aspx
(2) Head Records Belfast Twitter feed http://twitter.com/HeadBelfast
More about Head Records here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_Entertainment
© Text Copyright 2011 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio. Logo Head Records Copyright.
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