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A Real Cultural Hub- Rough Trade in Brooklyn

November 25, 2013

While the media seems convinced that everything we know will be digitally disrupted out of existence, it’s interesting when you come across something that counters this argument.

This week, Rough Trade will do the unspeakable and open a record store in New York. Some of us are old enough to remember when Tower Records was a presence in the city, but those days and Tower have long gone, 7 years ago to be exact and the idea of opening a record store now seems counter-intuitive in an era when everything has switched over to digital.

While digital music has thrived, there’s been something of a well documented resurgence in vinyl (US sales up 18% in 2012 to $177m), with many bands releasing multiple formats including vinyl and the rise of a generation eager to seek out not only the classic bands of their parent’s youth, but also the vinyl experience.

Rough Trade are placing a bet that there’s an experience gap that exists in digital music that can be filled by a ¬†physical store; that there’s room for the tactile experience, talking to people in the know and the opportunity for serendipity to strike. The kind of things that Nick Hornby explored in his book “High Fidelity”.

It’s certainly not the only vinyl record store in Brooklyn, but Rough Trade’s new store will go beyond simply re-creating the record store experience and has the ambition of being a true cultural hub within its 15,000 sqft space, by adding a 250 seat performance space, a bar and a cafe to its Williamsburg store. The desire is to make this place a “hang out” for the Millennial crowd. Another interesting addition to the space is “The Room”, which will be open to record labels to create branded experiences for their artists, giving people a reason to visit or come back.

The choice of Williamsburg makes sense, it’s close enough to Manhattan to get to, it has artistic credibility and it’s attracting the pedestrian traffic of local and out-of-town Millennials, who want their dose of real experiences and interactions.

This new store is a good example of the potential direction retail needs to take in order to distance itself from digital and to attract shoppers to spend their time and money. Obviously, not every category can create the cultural experience that surrounds a record store, but categories like; sporting goods, consumer electronics, books and even department stores have the opportunity to go beyond the classic retail experience.







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