I am a full time record dealer based in Reading in the UK. I am starting to wonder about the impact that COVID-19 is going to have on my second hand vinyl records business, but also on the wider Second hand vinyl market here in the UK. These are my thoughts. I’m no economist or an expert on this virus, but just a second hand record dealer living through these unprecedented times. I would love to get your thoughts on this and what impact this is having on your vinyl business. I will also try and update this as we progress through the Covid-19 outbreak.

At the time of writing we are only perhaps a few weeks into the outbreak, but things are changing rapidly. Record Store day 2020 has already been cancelled, all UK record fairs are cancelling and the worlds biggest fair in Utrecht Holland has also had to cancel. But what does this all mean to a second hand record dealer? Below I have taken a quick look at the impact on both online and offline sales demand and also the supply of Second hand records coming onto the market during this time.

Demand for Vinyl Records – Offline

I always see my offline sales in my second hand vinyl business here in the UK on a cyclical pattern around the Utrecht record fair. Utrecht occurs in April and November of each year. I should point out here that i don’t actually sell at the Utrecht fair and in fact have never been (I would love to!).

However in the month before and after Utrecht demand for vinyl here surges. I get a lot of calls from other record dealers wanting cheaper stock to fill boxes to take over to the fair. I also have “top end” dealers wanting to get their hands on expensive collectible vinyl again to take over to the fair. On top of this there are an influx of international dealers coming over to Utrecht that then come and visit the UK for vinyl. I have had over the years appointments with Japanese shops, Russian Collectors even dealers from as far away as Chile.

I’m sure I’m not the only one either, these “worldwide” dealers make appointments with a lot of UK based dealers and shops. They must be spending 10’s of thousands of pounds across the country, combine this surge in demand to every shop and dealer across the UK as well as the sales at Utrecht you are talking 100’s of thousands of pounds. As of writing this has all, or mostly all been wiped out.

I don’t own a record shop, but i’m pretty sure that footfall at shops will be falling fast. With possibly more stringent social distancing measures still to come it’s likely a lot will be forced to temporarily close.

It doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but perhaps the demand is all going to move to the online environment…

Demand for Vinyl Records – Online

Where as the impact on the offline demand is easier to see it’s less obvious what will happen in the online environment.

I sell a lot of records on ebay and so far haven’t seen much of an impact on demand and prices. Speaking with other dealers it also seems that the online demand is standing up well. From what I have read postal services here in the UK and across Europe are still operating well and although there are suggestions of some delays items are still getting through. The on-line environment is though almost totally reliant on the postal services. Not only do these need to keep operating, but they also need to keep operating well. Any loss in confidence in the postal system and I can see on-line sales crashing too.

There is a good argument that if postal systems remain strong that on-line sales could increase.Collectors around the world can’t get there off line fix at the local record shop or record fair may start buying more online. Also with a lot more people working from home, social distancing and self isolating perhaps vinyl is one form of entertainment that can continue to grow.

There is also a counter argument to this though. the economic impact on every country is looking like it’s going to be huge. A lot of job losses and possibly a lot less disposable income will likely impact the overall demand for perhaps what is deemed a luxury item of vinyl. I know a lot of collectors who are retired and possibly won’t be effected in this way, but what about the new wave of vinyl collectors in there 20’s and 30’s again this is all speculative, but perhaps there is more of an impact here.

At the time of writing there doesn’t seem to be a major impact on online sales and hopefully it stays this way.

Second Hand vinyl supply

The supply of second hand vinyl is critical to anyone running a second hand vinyl business, Since last weekend 14th March there has been a significant down turn in being able to get new supplies of second hand vinyl from the general public. In my business I travel the country buying record collections from the general public. Most those selling their records are aged 50+ and possibly 60-70% of the time they are planning to move house or have just moved. They have re-discovered their vinyl, realise they don’t play them and want to sell them. Since social distancing measures have come in my enquiries have shrunk dramatically maybe 90% and my existing appointments have all been cancelled.

The housing market is coming to a grinding halt and people quite understandably don’t want me in their house. I’m not sure where this goes from here. I imagine this is happening to all dealers that pick up vinyl from the public and at this point I can’t see this getting any better until we get over the top of the virus curve and social distancing measures are lifted. Is this 12 weeks, 6 months? At this point nobody knows.

The hope is that in the second hand vinyl market that the supply will become pent up and at some point release. The vinyl in peoples houses isn’t going anywhere and when we come out the other side it could see a large amount of vinyl “dumped” onto the market. On top of that there are arguments to be had that with so many people sat at home that clearing out will become commonplace. Again causing more vinyl to potentially come into the market. There is also the economic impacts to consider. There maybe people ‘forced’ into selling vinyl to ensure they have enough money coming in to pay for necessary everyday items.

What happens Next in the second hand vinyl market?

Well this really is anyones guess. I think offline sales will continue to decline and become increasingly difficult particularly during the next 3-6 months. With no record fairs, possibility of social distancing measures forcing shop closures or in the least lowering high street footfall it’s going to be a tough time. Obviously stressful, but perhaps also an interesting time, I’m sure they’ll be some real innovation coming. the obvious is to move more sales online, but perhaps there are other ways…home delivery!

I’m hoping that the online market place will stay buoyant and keep my fingers crossed that the postal systems can cope and keep operating. I think there will be a small decline in prices over the next three months and perhaps less demand for the bulk standard titles that have made a come back since the resurgence of vinyl (I’m thinking your Michael Jacksons, Police, common huge selling titles).

I believe the supply side of the market will be dry, but hopefully for only a few months and then will bounce back as quickly as it left.

To sum up we are in unprecedented times in any industry, but also in the second hand vinyl market. It’s going to be a struggle, i know my business will struggle, and is already seeing some profound changes. However i’m optimistic that we will all get through this. Some innovation will be required, some grit and determination, but lets face it vinyl has been around for over 60 years it’s just made a massive comeback it’s not going anywhere soon.

I would love to hear from any other record dealers, shops, collectors to see what impacts they are feeling at this point. Most importantly I wish everyone well and to stay safe during this time.