Store Owner interview with Jeff Anderson of Angry Young And Poor
Store Name: Angry Young And Poor
QRD – Why did you start your store?
Jeff – It was basically started out of frustration that we didn’t have anywhere to buy the music we loved. There was a store in Lancaster called Web Of Sound that we went to all the time to get records, when that went out of business there was a void.
QRD – How does your store particularly appeal to your city?
Jeff – Lancaster is in the heart of Amish country, so most people find it strange that we’re here. Lancaster city is a pretty cool area that has a pretty liberal artsy feel to it, the rest of the county is ultra conservative with lots of farmland.
QRD – What’s a mistake you’ve made with your store that you’d warn others against?
Jeff – We’ve been really lucky & are pretty successful, so we haven’t made any colossal blunders I’d warn others away from. I’ve seen others mess up, so we learned from them what not to do. I’d say the most important thing to remember is that it is a business, not just a fun hobby, so it must be treated as a business. When you start a business, be prepared to see almost no money for the first few years. When we started, I was making minimum wage & my 2 partners made nothing at all. I was absolutely living in poverty for a long time. We put all the money back into the store to help it grow & it took a while before we started seeing profits at all.
QRD – What do you think indie record labels could do to best help both themselves & indie stores?
Jeff – Keep the prices down & either deal direct with stores or use independent distros.
QRD – How was the representation of indie storeowners & customers in the movie High Fidelity accurate & inaccurate to your experience?
Jeff – God, it’s been so long since I’ve seen that movie that this is a tough one. It’s accurate in the fact that there are a lot of oddball characters you get to know & love coming into the store. It’s inaccurate for us because my partner & I are both married so we aren’t dealing with the dating hijinx that John Cusack was dealing with. & most of the oddball characters aren’t as funny as Jack Black.
QRD – What type of research do you do to decide what to put on the shelves?
Jeff – I buy all the music, so I pretty much look at the lists & think, “Will this sell?” If I think it will, I buy it, if not I pass. Does that count as research?
QRD – Is it ever difficult to find the right distributors to get something you want to stock?
Jeff – Sometimes it can be, especially if it’s a small foreign label. Most of the domestic releases are pretty easy to get. With the internet every label has a website now, so if you can’t find it through a distro all you have to do is email.
QRD – What do you wish labels or bands or distributors did more of to work with you?
Jeff – We’re not high maintenance, as long as they put out good music at a good price we’ll buy it. I really don’t care if I have a personal relationship with them. It’s all done via email now, so the human interaction is kept at a minimum.
QRD – What do you think is your store’s all time best seller?
Jeff – The band that always sold the fastest for us was Aus Rotten, a political punk band from Pittsburgh. I think it was because it was hard to get, I’d order in boatloads at a time & blow out of it. That’s the strange thing with us, albums like that sell like crazy while other albums you’d think would sell will do terrible for us. The new Anti Flag CD came out last month, we had it on the front page of the site for a while & we have only sold 2 copies so far. I think it was overpriced, it’s on a major, but they should have had more control over that since they’re a punk band. $18.98 list price is just ridiculous, even though we were selling it for $15, I think it was just too pricey & it alienated their fans.
QRD – What do you think most leads to a particular record being a good seller in your store?
Jeff – Availability, if I can score a record that most stores don’t have it usually sells pretty well. The more mainstream punk label CDs usually don’t do that well for us because kids can get them anywhere.
QRD – How does one get an independent release into your store such that it’s recommended to the clientele instead of just sitting on the shelf?
Jeff – It’s gotta be good enough that it comes to mind when people ask us for a recommendation. We won’t recommend CDs if it’s not something we’re really excited about. It’s not a corporate mindset here, just guys that love the music.
QRD – How do you feel about so many stores closing & how does it affect you if at all?
Jeff – It sucks that kids don’t have as many music stores to check out now, but I don’t think it affects us too much. We’re selling a lot more clothing, T-Shirts, & accessories now so even if music sales slow down, we should be OK.
QRD – What type of competition do you get from the big box stores (Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.) & is it difficult to compete price-wise - i.e., do you find that potential customers will shop at the chain because they can afford to charge less for the same discs or do they support you if the disc is a dollar higher in price?
Jeff – We tend to beat the big box stores on prices for indie releases. For the major releases, we usually beat them & if we can’t I try to match them. I think customers will tell you that they’ll support indie stores even if their prices are a little higher; but when it comes down to it, if the CD is a few bucks cheaper at Wal-Mart they’ll go there. Loyalty only goes so far.
QRD – With portable MP3 players & iTunes, is the concept of the album (in any form) dying?
Jeff – Yes. Its death began with CDs; the digital age sped up the process even further. When we were kids, we’d throw on an LP & listen to the whole album. I remember sitting by the stereo, listening to a record & just studying the front & back covers. We always knew every band member & every song. Now it seems like the consumer is more removed from the artist & album in every way.
QRD – How has the downloading scene impacted your sales - do you find that people buy less CDs now because they can download them for less or do you or do you think illegal downloads are more of a culprit?
Jeff – It’s killed sales on music. We would have closed down years ago if we only relied on music sales, that’s why we branched out to all the other areas years ago. I don’t even know if it’s as much downloading, I think the fact that a kid can get a CD, copy it on his computer in a minute & end up with a product that sounds exactly as good as the original is really stopping sales. One kid gets a CD & that day every one of his friends has it as well. With LPs, if you wanted the record you bought it, the only other option was a cassette tape, which sounded like crap. My friends & I all had almost the same collection of records, if one of us bought an album that was good, everybody else went out & bought that same record. Now, if a kid gets an album that is really good, all his friends will just ask him to burn it for them.
QRD – Record & CD buyers tend to be of a certain age (21-34), as the upcoming people who will be of that age group are mostly download-buyers, would you like stores to eventually have “iPod filling stations” hooked up to an indie network that stores can be part of?
Jeff – I guess that’s coming, it only makes sense. We might have to start looking at selling downloads on our website; but that’s pretty daunting to me, so for now I’m just sticking with CDs & LPs.
QRD – With the increase in digital downloads, low prices in mega-chains, & so many online specialty stores; what is the job of the local indie shop now compared to in the 1990s?
Jeff – Just stay alive. There is a charm to going to an indie record store that can’t be replicated with shopping online, so as long as you can keep up with what customers want you have a chance.
QRD – What are the biggest misconceptions people have of record stores in general & yours in particular?
Jeff – In general I think people assume you’re making a lot of money on the CDs - most CDs we only make about 30% profit on. The standard retail markup for most non-music stores is 100%, so you need to sell a lot of CDs to make a profit when you only make about $3 profit per CD. For us, I’m not really sure. Some people email us & assume we’re some corporate entity pretending to be punk rock to turn a profit & that’s absolutely not the case at all.
QRD – What is the most frustrating &/or frequent question you get from customers?
Jeff – “Why do you charge so much?” We try to have the cheapest prices online for everything we sell. We are always checking around to see what other sites are charging so we can have competitive prices. Most of the complaints come in regards to the clothing or shoes, but the kids who bitch about that don’t understand what we have to pay wholesale & they most likely haven’t checked other sites to see that we actually sell those items for the best price around.
QRD – How do you decide who to hire as an employee & when you need one?
Jeff – It’s mostly a personality issue. My partner & I work almost every day at the store so when we hire somebody we have to be around them a lot, we need to be sure we can get along with them. The other issue is obviously trust, we need to be sure we can leave our employees alone & they’ll do a good job without us there.
QRD – If you weren’t in the music business, what would you do?
Jeff – I went to school to be a high school English teacher, although after student teaching I realized that wasn’t the job for me. I was kind of aimless for a few years; I worked in factories & a bookstore & had no idea what I was going to do with my life. If it wasn’t for the store I really don’t know what I’d be doing.
QRD – How did your schooling & previous work experience prepare (or not prepare) you for your store?
Jeff – Both my partner & I were English majors so we had no business education or experience going into this. We also both had crap jobs with no management responsibilities, so that didn’t really help us, either. I think the biggest impact our jobs had on us were that we both realized how much it sucked to work for somebody else, so it inspired us to work harder to succeed.
QRD – Have you ever refused to sell something purely because you disliked the music, even if it was popular & would sell?
Jeff – Absolutely, all the time. We don’t carry a lot of what some people consider punk because it’s just really, really crap. We also had numerous requests when we opened to sell White Power music, which we also refused to do.
QRD – What is your personal “holy grail”? (i.e. the one rarity you’ve been looking for forever.)
Jeff – That’s the one good thing about CDs & the availability of music in this modern age. So much music I was always dying to get my hands on gets re-issued on CD, so the music is more out there than ever. If I had to come up with the one slab of vinyl I’d love to get, it would be the original Avengers LP.
QRD – What makes you feel like you had a good day at the store?
Jeff – When a customer emails to say thanks & that they love the store. Or when I’m running my ass off all day filling orders, there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that we’re reaching out to that many customers.
QRD – Anything else?
Jeff – Check out www.AngryYoungAndPoor.com & if you have any questions feel free to email. My partner & I answer all the emails so you won’t get some form email back.