Turning the tables on the internet age

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 19/01/19 - Press - Vinyl Record Fayre, Elizabethan House, Wakefield,  England - Jason Firth with vinyl collectors at the fayre.
Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 19/01/19 - Press - Vinyl Record Fayre, Elizabethan House, Wakefield, England - Jason Firth with vinyl collectors at the fayre.

“Without a website, you won’t last six months”.

It was hardly the morale-boosting comment Alan Nutton needed when he announced the opening of his new record shop.

Feature on Wah Wah Records on Brooke St in Wakefield and owner Alan Nutton. Picture Scott Merrylees

Feature on Wah Wah Records on Brooke St in Wakefield and owner Alan Nutton. Picture Scott Merrylees

That was almost five years ago, he still doesn’t have a website and more to the point, his business is still going strong.

Businesses are repeatedly warned not to be left behind, with online sales blamed for the painful demise of our staple high street stores.

When it comes to selling music, the likes of Our Price and Virgin cut their losses years ago while HMV was recently dropped into administration for a second time.

Music shops may appear to be heading for extinction, but if you sift through the debris of this digital age, there are independent record shops in West Yorkshire that are not just surviving, but bucking the trend.

Feature on Wah Wah Records on Brooke St in Wakefield and owner Alan Nutton. Picture Scott Merrylees

Feature on Wah Wah Records on Brooke St in Wakefield and owner Alan Nutton. Picture Scott Merrylees

The well-documented ‘vinyl revival’ has seen a surge in interest in records since 2007, perhaps not at the rate seen before the advent of CDs, but enough to take a defiant stand against dot.com domination.

Wah Wah Records in Wakefield and Loafers at Halifax’s Piece Hall have both gone back to basics with their approach.

Wah Wah owner Alan Nutton opened his Brook Street shop in March 2014, and despite the negativity he faced online, he sticks by his decision to keep trading offline.

The 37-year-old music fanatic, who buys and sells vinyl and was named one of the UK’s best record shop last year, said: “I put out the statement when we first opened that we were not selling online, that’s when someone said we’d be closed in six months.

Mark Richardson, at Loafers Vinyl and Coffee, Piece Hall, Halifax

Mark Richardson, at Loafers Vinyl and Coffee, Piece Hall, Halifax

“I don’t have the skills to do a website anyway, but I wanted to speak with customers face to face. I want people to come in and talk about music.

“We use social media to spread the word, but if people want to buy the records they have to come in.

“It’s going back to how people used to find music. I call it digging - it’s about flicking through records and seeing what they can find. You can’t do that online.

“There’s definitely a fashion aspect to it, but records are a very tactile thing, it’s better to find it for yourself, you appreciate it more.”

At Halifax, Loafers has been open since August 2017.

Unlike Wah Wah, owner Mark Richardson does offer an online opportunity for vinyl shoppers, but all of his trade comes through the door.

The 39-year-old, who worked in insurance for 20 years before fulfilling a dream of opening a record shop, said: “When we set the shop up, we thought we needed an online presence, but in the 16 months we’ve been open we’ve sold one record online.

“The simple fact is we can’t compete with the likes of Amazon, but it’s not what people are wanting these days, they want the experience.

“They come to the shop, have a coffee, listen to music and talk about music. It’s a nostalgia thing, they go digging through every box of records we have.

“It’ becomes a tangible thing and it’s so much more than just spending £20 on a website. People are starting to realise now there are independent shops out there like ours.”

But why are such businesses continuing to blossom when the internet has ravaged other high street big hitters?

Vinyl records are, by their very nature, anti digital according to record enthusiast, Jason Firth.

He has staged two successful record fairs in Wakefield, and is planning on bringing the same to Halifax.

He said: “It’s the exact opposite to digital music, and that’s the appeal.

“With records you get the sleeve and the artwork and it’s really striking. It’s what people are wanting these days.”

More than 600 of vinyl hunters turned out at record fair in Wakefield on Saturday.

Held at Wakefield’s Elizabethan Gallery, Jason said the event demonstrated the growing appetite for records.

He said: “It was an epic day, it was busy all day.

“We had 614 people come through the door.

“That’s right up there with some of the other big fairs you get.

“We had two traders battling it out and they made well over a grand each. It’s great that people backed it.”

The next fair will be held at Halifax Borough Market on February 23.