Dear Harrow Audio Customers and Hi-fi fans,
So, we are just over 4 weeks into the #coronavirus lockdown and I thought I would take this opportunity to update, inform and reach out to you all.
It's been an odd month to say the least. Being in retail for over 20 years, I personally have never not seen and talked to people face to face for so long. Sure, I am comfortable on the phone and writing emails in the same way I would talk to people, but to not have that face to face contact when you are enthusiastic about products feels odd.
We are usually a team of 4 across 2 stores, but at the moment we are just me (Mark!) running the website and mail order behind closed doors at Harrow. To be totally honest, I have been lazy and the stock room has migrated into the front of the shop as we have stocked up on Rega turntables, Project turntables, Dali speakers and Marantz amps, for the countless Turntable systems we have supplied in lockdown.
One thing I have noticed over the last week is the amount of conversations I have had where the customer has said "I have been meaning to get my Vinyl out and play it again for (insert, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years etc.) and now I am at home I’m going to do it and enjoy it!"
We have a choice of simple, turntable starter systems that have everything you need to get up and running and these have been mega popular. Far from wallet bashing, unless you want it to be, but all offer great solutions to get you back to listening to your records at a level you can enjoy for hours.
Office systems have been popular as well and when I say "Office" I really mean 2nd systems for the new work from home area. Sonos, Bluesound and Bluetooth speakers all offer a way of getting music into your workspace without the need for lots of equipment.
Strangely, Headphones have not been as popular as I would have guessed. My assumption was if households are experiencing having to learn to work from home together, that Headphones would be a way of keeping the music going without annoying other people. Maybe we are starting to see a shift in enjoying music as a family, rather than isolation and, in fact, isolation is doing the opposite to its name and people are actually doing things together.
We have started to experience some delivery issues and delays. Not with DPD, who we use to ship items out, they have been top class and still getting parcels to people on next day services. But other couriers delivering into us are starting to show the strain. It isn't nationwide, but certainly the North West London depot of a couple of companies are starting to struggle and parcels are getting delayed or returned. We have tried to combat this by getting parcels shipped from Manufacturers direct, to skip out our local depots, and if we can’t do that, I have had deliveries shipped to my home address which again, miss out the local delivery depots. As I am driving in everyday, rather than the train, it is easy enough to bring in. The Van has never been so useful!
Everyone is adapting in these trying times, small business are offering services that they wouldn't usually do, slimmed down take away food, local deliveries, the Cheese and Wine shop in Wendover are even offering a special cheese delivery service (complete with Cheddar, the owners dog) These are all avenues that businesses were not doing before the lockdown, but I will bet a fair few will continue. I have personally delivered in Harrow and various places back to Wendover over the last week and the response has been amazing. People appreciate the personal touch, from a hand delivery the same day as ordering, to a free Vinyl with a system because you had a conversation about Led Zeppelin when you ordered.
The stand out music release for me is the new Strokes album - The New Abnormal. If that was an album name chosen a while ago, it seems very relevant for life today. Either way, for me, it’s a band that defined my 20s and finds them back at their best. Touches of 80s influence but in a typical starchy, Strokes kinda way. The opening track drives along through the bass line and drums but "Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus” is a stand out anthem. It has taken me back to some of their older, less listened albums and I have a new appreciation for a band I once loved. The Vinyl has been ordered!
Another new discovery and possibly down to the extended Van time, is the Sea Girls. An Indie 4 piece that formed in London in 2015. They have an EP out at the moment but expect to hear more of them this year. Also, The Magic Gang have been about for a few years too, and vary in style a little, which keeps them fresh. Their current single "Think" has a Northern Soul feel mixed up with The Jam!
On a darker note, I have just cleaned out the coffee machine and it was horrid. But it has made my Americano taste better!
Stay safe and positive. Make sure you look after your loved ones and they look after you. We will all come through this and get back to the new Abnormal as the Strokes have declared.