Local music retailer Gramophone folds up

The facade of the Gramophone store at The Cathay, which was closed for stock taking. Gramophone, which had as many as nine outlets four years ago but recently ran a single store at The Cathay, yesterday announced its closure in statements to the
The facade of the Gramophone store at The Cathay, which was closed for stock taking. Gramophone, which had as many as nine outlets four years ago but recently ran a single store at The Cathay, yesterday announced its closure in statements to the media and the company's suppliers. -- ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Gramophone to close after years of declining sales, difficult market conditions

The music has stopped playing at Gramophone as the local music retailer becomes the latest casualty of a market that has seen declining sales for years.

Gramophone, which had as many as nine outlets four years ago but recently ran a single store at The Cathay, yesterday announced its closure in statements to the media and the company's suppliers.

It is the third big name to fold here after Tower Records and home-grown retail chain Sembawang Music Centre, which closed in 2006 and 2009 respectively. Gramophone was selling mostly CDs and DVDs but also had vinyls in its inventory.

The company's administrative manager, Mr Edward Abille, provided few details in his response to queries from The Straits Times on the effective closing date, as well as actions to be taken for current holders of Gramophone gift cards and vouchers.

"The board of Gramophone has decided to close its business due to the difficult trading conditions and other challenges faced by the industry for some years now. We thank customers for their past support and express deep regret for not being able to continue business," read Mr Abille's statement.

In a separate letter to its suppliers, Gramophone stated that its main asset was its inventory, "which given present market conditions, will not fetch enough to pay off 100 per cent of the sums due to suppliers and other creditors".

The only remaining major local retailer is That CD Shop, which has also felt the strains of a rapidly digitising and increasingly competitive music industry, with players such as Amazon offering cheaper alternatives. That CD Shop now operates four outlets, after closing two in February. HMV, which used to operate Singapore's biggest music store, vacated its 25,000 sq ft of space in The Heeren for a smaller space in 313@Somerset in 2009.

Figures released by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in April show that revenue for physical-music sales in Singapore fell from US$12.8 million in 2011 to US$8 million (S$10.1 million) last year. Digital-music sales were relatively stagnant, dipping from US$5.3 million to US$5.2 million over the same period.

From its humble beginnings with its first outlet at Raffles MRT in 1991 - then known as The CD Shop - Gramophone had been a popular haunt of music lovers here. Its demise spells a worrying trend for some music lovers, who fret that local music retailers may soon disappear from the scene.

"It's possibly the end of an era," said Mr Timothy Tan, 45, a licensing manager whose collection of 6,000 CDs and vinyl records started when he visited a local CD shop in the 1980s. He added that Gramophone was "one of the better retailers" for its wide range of music.

"The margins you make from CDs aren't that much any more, so I understand it's a tough business. But it's still sad; there's something very exciting about discovering music in a store, which the online experience can't duplicate."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg