In this world of music downloads and streaming, it seems the allure of the hard copy still endures. And one charity shop in the west end of Glasgow has proved there is life yet in the charitable giving of vinyl and CDs.
Oxfam’s music store on Byres Road last year raked in a cool £100,000 net profit from the sale of records, CDs, cassettes and instruments. That was more than any other shop in the charity’s chain of 550-plus outlets across the UK.
For Andrew McWhinnie, the shop manager at Byres Road, successful trading is all down to a sense of community. Such is the buzz about music in the store that a string of famous faces are regular customers.
“We’ve had a few people in who people might know – people like Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian,” he says. “We’ve had a few others – we had Jarvis [Cocker] in the shop. My wife nearly killed me because I never told her. A couple of months back Seasick Steve was in. Billy Connolly has been in.”
Gone are the days when charity shops were amateur affairs that gave away their treasures.
McWhinnie, who has been with Oxfam since 2002, employs a dedicated staff of around 30 volunteers to collate and market donations.
“We have tried to do what the independent shops do,” he says. “Instead of it being just a bargain shop, we have tried to categorise the music and try to make it as fun as we can for people to go through.”
But there is still a broad range of tastes and interests as you would imagine. Michael Jackson and Tom Waits happily brush shoulders with Duane Eddy and Showaddywaddy.
“We need to deal with the more bargain end of the market,” McWhinnie says.
“A lot of the other shops are not going to give you money for Rod Stewart or Meat Loaf – but we love Rod Stewart and Meat Loaf because people want it. Other record shops can’t afford to give money for it – maybe the mark-up is just not worth it for them – but it is for us.”
Oxfam are not alone in capitalising on people’s enduring love of owning physical copies of their music. Pete Jew, the manager of Shelter’s store in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, says the sales of media, both music and film, have increased massively over the last ten years.
“Now about a fifth of our turnover is thanks to the sale of music and film,” he says.