Millers Music has remodelled its retail profile because it bids to supply an improved service to clients each on-line and in individual.
The strategic overhaul has seen a brand new warehouse opening on Barnwell Enterprise Park, enabling the Sussex Road-based premises to proceed promoting and renting inventory that may’t simply be offered on-line – that’s pianos, orchestral devices and classical guitars.
Combining a extra modest retail presence with a warehouse holding inventory for on-line clients is the brainchild of Simon Pollard, who took over the famed Cambridge musical instrument retailer – established in 1856 – in 2012.
At the moment it was owned by Barry Robinson, great-grandson of founder Albert Miller. The Miller household had acquired Ken Stevens in 1980 and fashioned a brand new related firm to accommodate the brand new arrival – Ken Stevens being a relative latecomer to the musical half, having been arrange within the Sixties.
“In every other metropolis, 1856 could be the oldest surviving enterprise, however by Cambridge requirements it’s not all that old,” says Simon, whose success has been to develop the corporate from a musical devices enterprise to a retail leisure group.
“In 2012 I used to be working for an additional music firm primarily based in London with a warehouse in Bury St Edmunds,” he says. “After a deal to purchase Millers fell by way of, Barry approached me and I purchased the enterprise. It was a profitable enterprise, and now it’s not simply Millers, it’s a part of a gaggle which incorporates Cookes Pianos in Norwich – based in 1887 – which we purchased in 2016, and Foulds Music in Derby, which was established in 1893.”
Foulds was acquired in December final yr. A few years in the past Millers Music group had moved past being solely a purveyor of musical devices with the acquisition of Open Air – an out of doors clothes and tools store buying and selling since 1990 – on Inexperienced Road.
“I purchased that in August 2018,” notes Simon, proprietor and managing director of the Millers Music group, “so we’ve gone from being a standard piano enterprise to a leisure group using 58 folks on our books.”
The beginning of lockdown final yr accelerated a course of that had already been set in movement with the increase in on-line buying and selling.
“An increasing number of guitars are offered on-line,” Simon explains, “rather more so than pianos, and guitar margins – even high manufacturers – are very tight. It’s unhappy as a result of we had an awesome guitar division – David Gilmour of Pink Floyd apparently purchased one among his first guitars from Millers – nevertheless it wasn’t our core enterprise, although we did nicely with iconic manufacturers reminiscent of Fender, Marshall and Martin.
“Plenty of that enterprise has moved on-line – pedals and amps for example. The identical has occurred with outside clothes. Relating to shopping for a piano, it’s not simple to purchase pianos and orchestral devices just about.”
Simon has repositioned the group – the Millers new web site goes dwell on March 10 – to benefit from this new buying and selling setting.
“We’re seeing increasingly gross sales on-line,” he says. “You’d be amazed at what’s offered, it’s 1,000 per cent up, 2,000 per cent at one level. Extra individuals are enjoying devices now than at any time within the final 20 or 30 years, however gross sales have moved on-line.
“It doesn’t imply showrooms don’t have worth however the expertise wants to alter and we’re now progressing to having a web-based presence and a showroom.
“It’s a part of our built-in operation, and I consider our relationship with our clients will likely be stronger consequently.”
The brand new preparations will imply that Open Air stays at 28 Inexperienced Road, promoting a variety of footwear, rucksacks, together with becoming providers, in addition to seasonal equipment. Open Air “may have a a lot bigger choice obtainable on-line together with our knowledgeable workforce on the telephones, LiveChat, social media, and even providing digital fittings and consultations on a nationwide foundation.”
Millers Music retains the positioning on Sussex Road, with floorspace diminished by 20 per cent by vacating the nook spot. The inventory for the group will likely be held on the new premises on Barnwell Enterprise Park simply off the Newmarket Highway. Each retailers will have the ability to provide the market nationally from their on-line platforms.
“We moved out of 11/12 Inexperienced Road final weekend, we’d been packing up for six weeks,” says Simon. “Millers Music may have the showroom and the warehouse, which will likely be moved out of city as the web facet grows additional. We’ll nonetheless be in Inexperienced Road, although, at quantity 28.
“The Barnwell website might be 3,500 sq ft in complete; the plan is to maneuver to a a lot bigger facility later this yr or in 2022. The acoustic and electrical guitars will likely be in Barnwell – the store may have classical guitars and likewise folks devices, like mandolins.”
Simon raises considerations about what’s going to occur to retail within the territories he has pursuits in. Although he’s in a position to adapt, he understands the pressures on those that aren’t so simply transportable.
“We pay £130,000 a yr to be in Cambridge as a gaggle now,” he remarks of the charges within the premises. “With rents, charges and repair expenses, it’s £400,000 a yr in complete. That’s 60 per cent to the landlords, Trinity, then £130,000 in property tax.
“The universities have been fairly understanding by way of hire holidays, hire credit and so forth.
“We’re a part of the Music Industries Affiliation which is related to the British Retail Council, who’re lobbying for charges reform as a result of we’re successfully being subsidised to maneuver out of metropolis centres. It’s a large drawback.
“Enterprise charges are successfully a disincentive to enhance what you are promoting as a result of they’re primarily based on the worth of the property, not earnings – it’s an archaic tax and it wants to alter. The charges have been such a money cow.
“Cambridge will succeed as a result of the biopharma industry is right here, and the cluster, however retail will change and it’ll take just a few years to work by way of.
“The empty models in Cambridge will likely be stuffed as Cambridge is a really profitable metropolis, however in Derby having so many empty models is inflicting all types of issues.
“The power to offer a web-based possibility for individuals who don’t need to go to the town centre is crucial. Covid has accelerated so much change in such a short while. Our metropolis centres will change. The transfer has concerned funding in know-how, we’ve actually invested in a contact administration system for on-line – that’s actually essential for us. The inventory goes straight from the order on the web site to the courier. The know-how is enabling our groups to do extra, understanding our clients and delivering higher service.”
You possibly can’t assist however really feel optimistic for Millers Music because the mannequin for a next-generation musical retailer is rolled out.
“We recognise we’d like contact with our clients,” Simon concludes. “There’s been document will increase in house recording, even saxophones.
“Hopefully folks will proceed to research and luxuriate in music; it has nice psychological and well being advantages. We’ve all skilled a loss in our social contact however with the ability to play a musical instrument can actually assist.”