We’d like to introduce you to Bear Tree Records, our newest indie store of the month!
Sheffield’s newest vinyl-only record shop, owned & run by the ever affable Joe Blanchard, is currently undergoing expansion thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign to move the premises to a bigger space after less than a year of operation. Bear Tree is a fantastic shop for all genres, and a real treat for anyone looking for music outside the norm, stocking plenty of left-field electronica, indie film soundtracks & limited editions, black metal and even pop.
Joe has established a prime example of a contemporary store that holds traditional indie record shop values while embracing a forward thinking approach, and we’re excited to see where he takes the business with a new space.
“I opened the shop in Orchard Square in October 2015 in a tiny unit hidden in their ‘craft workshops’ area, which is basically just some smaller units inside a building just on the balcony overlooking the main Orchard Square area. For anyone that’s been to Sheffield, this is where the old Virgin Megastore used to be (now Virgin Money – lame). So it’s bang in the city centre, and a perfect to try make a small indie work.
The shop was working better than I imagined it would considering how small the stock was, but I tried to make it different to everywhere the city has. Info on every title in the racks, different stock, restocking different titles rather than ordering the same titles over and over. Keep it fresh and clean. We had to add more racks down the other side of the already narrow store, and by the time we did that you could get about 6-8 people in at a squeeze.
Hence, time to move to a bigger spot. The spot is literally next door, but the shop floor is probably three times the size, with a room off it bigger than the current shop which will be used as a store room for stock, mailorder supplies and maybe an office space. As the margins are so low, we have very little in the bank, so after careful consideration and discussions with some of my buddies who also have small new shops, I decided to ask my customers to help via crowdfunding. I worked it all out in about 6 hours on a Saturday and discussed with a few regulars who were pretty enthusiastic at the idea and the rewards we offered. £5 got you a random record, £20 got you a shirt in an exclusive colour, then we did subscriptions where you got a record a month for 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months, for a discounted rate. And the last reward was £100 gets you 10% off any purchases for a year.
We did £2000 in under 48 hours. The target was £4000, we did it under a week. It was insane. I didn’t even think we’d do it.”