the-collins-cup-feb-20
the-collins-cup-feb-20
Feb 6, 2020

Under the counter - Music makes the goods go around

A sideways look at the world of independent retail

This young bloke came into the shop to see if we stocked high performance sports drink bottles with in-house custom moulding (we don’t) and said how quiet it was.

“Don’t you think you should have some music in here to liven things up a bit?” he asked. “The big sports shop in the shopping mall has Post Malone and Lizzo and Maroon 5 blasting out and the place is jammed full of punters really rocking and buying stuff as though there’s no tomorrow. Just a thought mate, no offence.”

“He’s right, you know,” my assistant Norman said when the chap had gone. “Most of the time the only noise in here is the airlock in the hot water pipe and you shuffling the final demand bills to decide who might get paid.”

Norman said there had been some stuff on the Daily Mail financial page claiming that the right tunes could increase small business sales by up to 20 per cent. It seemed that the right background music could make customers feel younger, happier and more likely to buy more than they had originally intended.

“I’ll think about it,” I said but I had the sinking feeling that Norman wouldn’t leave it there, and sure enough the next day he brought in his mate Trevelyan who runs a mobile disco from the back of his dad’s Skoda at weekends and nearly got an A-level in media studies.

“Trevelyan did the sound system in the chip shop,” Norman said. “Now he’s working on one for the tyre depot in Chapel Street.” “That’s right,” Trevelyan said.

“Music is now a major component of consumer marketing and has the potential to become an integral part of the retail atmosphere, innit?”

“What Trevelyan means is that the key to picking background music is what business psychologists call the rule of incongruous expectations,”

Norman said. “We know all about that in this shop,” I said. “I think I’ll put the kettle on.” I could see it was going to be a long morning.

“I think what Trevelyan will tell you is that as a general rule, faster music should be played in less busy environments and slower music at times of peak activity,” Norman said.

“What do you play when nobody’s been through the door for an hour and we’re thinking of closing early?” I said, but they didn’t seem to have an answer to that.

By now, Trevelyan had his flexible ruler out and was writing things on a clipboard.” We do find that multiple speakers help to even out the sound source,” he said. “Putting in speakers at ceiling height will create a surround-sound quality which will make the music distinct without being dominating, innit?

“I could do you a very good deal on half a dozen 50-watt twinvoice- coil treble-driver dome speakers with a 4.30mm clamping range which came from that pub by the canal that was closed down for having dog-fights,” Trevelyan said.

“The problem is that most of these showcases would have to go if you want any sort of decent impedance range.”

“I can see a snag there,” I said. “Because when your music brings punters into the shop, there will be nothing to buy. Also, I don’t know how long the ceiling would stay up with a hundredweight of gubbins hanging from it.”

“The latest longitudinal bracing should take care of that, squire,” Trevelyan said. “And research has shown that music largely featuring brass instruments tends to guide customers around the store.

By this time I felt we had pretty well exhausted the subject of music in consumer marketing, so I said I would give it some thought and Trevelyan could ring me at the end of the week

We never heard anything and Norman later reported that Trevelyan was helping the police with their inquiries regarding 14 stand-mounted audiophile speakers with articulate midbands, and would probably be away from his business for quite a while.

A funny thing happened this afternoon. A cove came in to look at some snooker cues and said: “What a relief to find a shop where you can talk to people and there’s not all that background racket going on. While I’m here, can you give me a price for a half-sized snooker table?”

Now that’s what I call music to a shopkeeper’s ears, innit?

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