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Just take my money already

July 8th, 2024 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Music · No Comments · Life, Music

A few weeks ago I was in a record shop, Wow & Flutter in Hastings. I was chatting to the owners, Tim and Susan and complaining about how we do not have anything similar in Crawley, or even close to Crawley. I said that there are absolutely no independent record shops or shops selling used vinyl in the area at all. Anybody round here who wants to browse has to travel, or wait for one of the local record fairs. Or pay £40 for Queen’s Greatest Hits in HMV.

They were a bit amazed by this, perhaps even a bit disbelieving. I have been bothered by this from a frustrated would-be buyer’s point of view, but Tim’s reaction was to sympathise with people wanting to sell. Obviously a shop-owner’s perspective will be a bit different, but it is a valid question. I know that there are always dealers you can find online, and if you go to a record fair you can find a dealer, but for many people they will just take a box of records to the local shop if there is one. When somebody inherits an unwanted collection and don’t know anything about the market (and why should they?) they might just end up chucking them or taking them to a charity shop or car boot sale, but people who do run shops find a lot of walk-ins with vinyl to sell.

Anyway, I did a bit of digging to make sure I wasn’t wrong about the lack of shops local to Crawley, and what I found was quite depressing.

First of all, my methodology was to do some searching on Google Maps and a couple of lists, plus a little bit of detective work. Some of the lists of shops are very out-of-date and list shops that have closed. I found a couple where you could look at a recent image on Street View and see that they are now a different business. The point is that I may have missed a couple so I would not call my list definitive but I don’t think I have missed anything from my area.

I have defined my area as Crawley, Horsham, Horley, and East Grinstead, and found not a single record shop for the 220,000 inhabitants. I cast the net a bit wider and found nothing in Redhill, Haywards Heath or Burgess Hill either. I did think I found one in Horley but it turned out to be online only, so it could have been anywhere. By the way, I am not counting HMV either!

The closest shop I could find is Spin Sounds in Dorking. That is only about 10 miles as the crow flies, but nearer to 14 miles by road. I haven’t actually been there yet. Dorking is not somewhere I tend to go and its a long way to go for just one shop, but I will probably take a look. The next closest is Tenpin Records in Purley/Croydon, 14 miles away. I did go there once, while my bike was being serviced in Coulsdon, but it was closed that day. Basically, if you draw a circle with a 15 mile radius, centred on Crawley, there are just those two shops.

By comparison, the South coast is absolutely chock-full of independent shops where you can buy new or used vinyl – the majority of them being used, some mixed and a couple new-only. If you draw a 15-mile circle centred on Worthing you would find (at least) 26 record shops! Do the same thing for Bexhill and you would find (at least) 16. Not bad considering that half the areas of those circles is covered by the English Channel, while the Crawley circle contains over 300,000 people.

So, Crawley (population 120,000) has no shops while Hastings (population 92,000) has 5. Even Arundel has one shop to serve it’s population of 3,500.

There is obviously a market here. Go to the record fairs in Crawley, Horsham, or East Grinstead and they are always pretty busy. I can feel an e-mail to the Crawley Town Centre BID coming on. I know rents are probably too high in the Queens Square/County Mall part of town, but maybe in the High Street/Ifield Rd or in Three Bridges or Southgate or even Broadfield Barton there is an opportunity for some entrepreneur?

Since I took the time to look all this up, here is a table of what I found. It doesn’t include HMVs (obviously) and will be missing some of the stalls in markets in Brighton, and all the population numbers are taken from the latest census figures on the Wikipedia pages for the towns. I may have understated Brighton anyway. For example, is Rarekind Records (a favourite of mine) one shop or does it count as two or three – do the other floors count as separate shops or not?

TownPopulation# of shopsPeople per shop
Brighton & Hove277,9651518,531
Hastings/St. Leonards92,855518,571
Bognor Regis68,435234,218
Royal Tunbridge Wells59,947229,974
Haywards Heath33,8450N/A
Burgess Hill30,6350N/A
East Grinstead26,3830N/A

Of course, it is probably good for me. I can, and do, walk into Crawley town centre quite often. If there was a record shop there I would probably buy something every time. As it is I am happy for an excuse to go for a ride and visit a coastal town, browse a few shops, have a coffee, and enjoy the sea air.

I’m wondering if it is just that, for some reason, that 60-mile stretch of the South coast is just a bit of a cluster?

If it looks like I may have missed something – is there a shop in Horsham I don’t know about, or a second shop in Arundel ? – then obviously let me know. I am always interested in new places to ride out to on sunny weekends.

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