The ailing Free Record Shop is trying hard to woo customers who have stopped buying cds. With a new pilot store inAntwerp and a revamped slogan of â€œAll entertainment is yours,â€ the company hopes to be able to attract more buyers into their shops. Marc Maes
Such a proactive approach to court buyers was necessary, particularly since music sales have dropped in
Belgium as a result of the increasing popularity and convenience of legal and illegal downloading. With 72 stores in Belgium â€“ 50 of them in Flanders â€“ and over 200 in the Netherlands , the Free Record Shop company opted to evaluate the future of the entertainment industry as part of its â€œFree Futureâ€ plan.
The company carried out a market research survey to gauge the position and profile of the shops, the consumerâ€™s perception, and the overall image of the brand. â€œ How to attract consumers to our shops and keep them as clients â€“ that was our key message,â€ says Dominique Frantzen, commercial manager at Free Record Shop. â€œOur name has a solid historic backbone and brand recognition is close to 100%, so there was no need to change that. What we did was adapt the experience inside the store and make it more focused and open. The new concept has been implemented in our new shop, which is located inside the Metropolis multiplex cinema (with approximately 3.5 million visitors a year). Itâ€™s the first record shop with this concept in the Benelux region.â€
Frantzen emphasises that the Free Record Shop goes well beyond the traditional perception of a music store. Catering to all tastes, the stores boast a diverse selection of cds, games and dvds stored in differently coloured racks and displays. But the core business is still music. â€œOver one third of our turnover is generated by music sales and we remain one of the main retailers in Belgium for cd singles,â€ he says.
The nucleus of the new shop is â€œthe sourceâ€ â€“ the companyâ€™s in-house â€œnarrowcastingâ€ system (which broadcasting music within the shop). The system features eleven bowl-shaped screens displaying images and music. â€œItâ€™s the simultaneity that plays a crucial role here; people see what they hear,â€ Frantzen explains. â€œThe â€œsourceâ€ also became the basis for a new word â€“ itâ€™s your source, itâ€™s â€˜YOURCE.â€™ In addition to our own products, we can use the screens to advertise candy bars or concerts.â€
The shop is also equipped with seven scan/listen/preview posts, which give direct access to the Free Record Shopâ€™s stock of over 300.000 titles. This allows the customers to browse trailers, previews and other information.
Each post has a â€œsound showerâ€ hanging over it, which spreads the sound over the customer. He or she can browse the inventory and order music, a game or movie, with a guaranteed delivery within 48 hours, either at home or in the shop. â€œThe bulk of our catalogue remains music â€“ with some 270.000 titles available â€“ but we also offer some 6,500 games and 22,000 dvds,â€ says Frantzen.
â€œWe strongly believe in physical product sales,â€ adds Erik Lejeune, managing director of Free Record Shop
Belgium . â€œAbout 94% of our music is sold as a physical product, while music sales account for 36% of our turnover. This is not the case with many of our retail counterparts, both in Belgium and abroad, but we remain specialised in music.â€
Lejeune highlights the fact that this first â€œYourceâ€ store is a joint project by the Dutch and Belgian Free Record Shop divisions. â€œThe idea was developed in the
Netherlands , and we were given this unique opportunity to launch the concept in Belgium : a see-through store where you can walk in and hum your favourite song â€“ and the shop assistant will be able to finds that exact track for you.â€