Hello Tim. How are you?
Hello David. Fine thanks.
Can you tell us a bit about the background to what
We started in 1998.
It says something about starting earlier than that on
Yes, well I used to work for a chap who had the shop
in the eighties and he went to America. So I took over
the shop and carried on and he ended up as my
Youíve been established in the same premises for a
Yes, so the association with Stafford is probably
twenty or thirty years. I took it over properly in
í98, and I thought at that time things were changing
Ė things like videos and CDS were becoming popular.
The shop had closed down at one time because vinyl had
gone out of fashion and I opened it up when I could
see the potential of videos and CDs. And it did really
well with those. Iíve always had this liking for the
eighties and the shopís always had this slant
towards the eighties.
And why not?
Yes, I think that if you sell stuff itís so much
better if you have an interest in it.
Thatís so right.
Youíve got to know what youíre doing really and
know what other people like.
Youíve got to have a passion otherwise you wonít
give it 100% and also other people will pick up on the
fact you arenít bothered.
Yes. So I always had colourful eighties memorabilia
scattered around the shop .
Have you had many eighties celebrities in the store?
Not really, only Stafford-based ones Ė thereís a
band called Bizarre Inc. and they buy stuff from here.
Thereís sort of people on the edge, and if you were
into dance music youíd know these people, who are
big producers who work with Robbie Williams. They come
in and get vinyl for sampling and things like that and
people who are serious about their music. But
Staffordís a bit of a quiet and strange town and
nothing much really happens in Stafford. (Digger
laughs) We donít get many celebrities here.
Even where I am weíve got two at the moment Ė Alan
Carr and Matt Smith are both locals in Northampton.
Weíve got Dave Gorman Ė thatís about all I can
think of. In the eighties, Stafford was on the map
because of lots of acid and dance music.
There havenít been enough good music maps of the UK
There was that programme about the musical map of
Yes and also the Rock Family Trees . I can remember
the one you mean where they looked at it from a
birdís eye view. It was okay.
Yes, they never really got into it deeply.
No it was all a bit general. Iíd like a detailed map
of where ideas were born, where bands formed, where
important music-related events happened and so on.
Yes. So I took over in í98 and focused on this
eighties thing and very quicklyÖ you see, David,
Iíve always had an interest in doing mail order
since I was a teenager and Iím fifty now. And I was
always intending doing it in the traditional way where
you advertise in Record Collector and send a catalogue
or a list out Ė the old-fashioned way. And it was
about the time that The Internet was becoming popular
in í99. I donít know about you, but Iím not a
technical person Ė Iíll find out how something
works if I have to.
But youíre not drawn to technology unless you have
to? Iím a bit similar.
Computer people seem to blind you with science so that
youíre going to need them, or at least need their
I think things have changed a lot since í99. Back
then I was in IT and we were always accused of using
jargon and being a bit elitist. But all of the jargon
I used to use has now become part of everyday language
and the technologies have become fully absorbed into
I knew a lecturer at Stafford University and he was an
ELO fan. He used to blind me with science when I asked
him how I got onto The Internet. What sort of computer
would I need to buy? I hadnít got a clue about it.
And then I just happened to read an advert in a record
magazine Ė Record Mart it was called and some
computer shop had put an ad in there and said all you
needed was a basic computer. That was like an
eye-opener to me Ė a £200 or £300 computer. I got
on straight away and built the site using Publisher
Ď98 and it was just finding out how to use something
and just getting on with it.
Well done you. So you didnít need to learn HTML?
No, thatís what I thought but I think I was lucky
that Publisher came out at the time and the website is
still basically the same now. But it does direct
people to the shop.
It doesnít matter. So long as it does the job.
So I was on The Internet early in í98 and I could
see it moving towards that. Thereís eBay now, but in
those days there were two other sites called Gem and
Netsounds and I noticed they were in these magazines.
So I started selling on Gem and Netsounds and got off
to a great start because I was one of the few people
in at the start. Everything I was listing was getting
top money and went really quickly.
(Laughs) It gave you a false sense of how easy it was
all going to be!
My girlfriend would list them for me Ė Iíd give
her boxes of records and sheíd list singles at £5
and LPs at £10.
How did you describe them?
Just basic descriptions, because theyíre not as good
as eBay for listings.
Do you describe items as VGC?
I still do this now David. I only list stuff thatís
in excellent condition.
I think youíre just messing about if you try to
describe the other lesser stuff. Marks on the corner
or whatever. So all that stuff thatís not perfect
goes in the shop so people can see what theyíre
You donít want any comeback when dealing with people
in far flung places.
No, in fact theyíre better than excellent, theyíre
nearly mint. So thatís how I got going, by giving my
girlfriend 1,000 records and sheíd
list them and weíd upload. And they got going
And what did she get for that?
(Laughs) I donít
know, about £40 a thousand.
(Laughs) Oh, you did pay her then? I thought youíd
say ďA nice warm feeling.Ē Doing uploading to
databases is horrible Ė Iíve had to do that to a
virtual shop and itís mind-numbingly boring loading
images and text and so on, because theyíre so
Another thing Ė having a shop was the first
proper business where Iíd faced the public and had
to make decisions.
And do you enjoy meeting them?
Yes, Iíve learned a lot about people and how to deal
Everybodyís got an angle and like all of us weíre
all there to do the best for us. So I think I let
stuff go too cheaply early on but the business got off
to a good start selling on The Internet. Then I came
up with the idea of getting a bit of local free
advertising Ė I think thatís one of the best ways
to promote, via local papers with a little story and
theyíll publish it. Thatís what I did and people
will always read stories rather and ads Ė theyíll
flick past ads, wonít they?
Thatís what I find with these Features Ė because
theyíre not ads but usually interviews about a
business people find them more interesting than an ad.
The expertise makes it more of a read for people.
Yes, they probably would pick up on me and other
people through reading them.
Definitely. So have things changed an awful lot? What
about the impact digital has had on you?
Yes, when I started it wasnít easy but I got off to
a flying time at the right time with DVDs and videos
Ė it was always called Collectable Records. But
records were just bubbling under and it was a good
name to have.
CDs and memorabilia as well?
Yes, and all the kids, everyone in fact, would come
down for videos and if it had been deleted you had to
come to a shop like mine. The shop was always packed
out and HMV and Smiths would send people down to our
shop if they were out of something. It was really
good. eBay wasnít really established Ė a chap used
to come into the shop and tell me how good eBay was.
They were encouraging you on there and letting you
list for free. But I couldnít see any need to move
away from the music sales sites like Gem because I was
doing so well on those. It seemed very fiddly to me to
take a photograph and describe each item.
But since I have learned how to do it and simplify the
process. And eBay get the customers, donít they? In
those days people didnít have any idea.
No, I was on eBay early in around about í98 and
nobody knew about it, or understood the jargon of
computers but now everyone is fluent in it all.
These companies like Amazon and eBay are really
clever people, arenít they? Theyíll do product
placement in films so youíll get the characters in
films using eBay or searching on Google and it gets
into peopleís consciousness.
The Internet is a fantastic resource but actually if
you asked most people, and Iím the same, how many
websites they really use on a regular basis it would
just be a handful. I use the BBC for the weather and
the news, I use the iPlayer if I want to watch
something and Iíll probably go to eBay if I want to
sell something. If I want music or books I go to
Amazon or iTunes first of all. And thatís what
people do. If you want to do a search then the engine
of choice for most people is Google.
Yes, I was reading an article in a magazine and a
celebrity said his favourite website was Google
How weird. I suppose there is some content on there in
terms of sponsored sites and so on. But in
the same way as we need to discourage people
from using the same few supermarkets and turning
it all into one bland nothingness with no
choice, I think we also need to encourage people to
use all these different specialist sites.
Weíve got to be careful that it isnít all sucked
up by eBay and Google I suppose which is the big
danger. Iím surprised Google havenít come up with
an eBay-type thing like a Google shop.
Google has so much power because they can make or
break a business based on whether they can be found
and they can ban or demote sites if they want
Yes, and I wonder if Facebook are going to move
towards having buying and selling on their site
because theyíre powerful as well, arenít they?
They have a lot of ads on there and get revenue from
that. One of my clients wanted to target clients in
the north east of England and joined the Ďnorth east
group on Facebook. It was that simple.
Yes. I need to get around to doing a Facebook thing.
Facebook and Twitter are useful as a business tool but
I havenít exploited them properly because
Retrosellers takes up so much of my time thereís
little left for social networking
sites. In an idea; world we should be promoting
on there because itís free.
Did you find that eBay was free when you started?
I donít remember paying, but then most of the time I
was a buyer and not a seller. I think I only paid when
my items sold and not for listings Ė at least
nowhere near as much as they charge now which is for
every little thing. And it all adds up.
They wanted to get sellers on there but there probably
were completion fees. I noticed eBay started having a
big stand at the record fairs come 2000/2001, which
was strange because although they were paying the
organiser of the record fair they were basically
taking his business away from him, werenít they?
Do you go
to the VIP and Premier Record Fairs and events?
Yes, I do. Local ones as well.
Youíve got wants lists on your site Ė youíve got
your own wants list. Whatís the story behind that?
In about 2000 Amazon rang up everyone on the record
sales website like Gem and sent a confidentiality
contract out about their new shop and they were
bending over backwards to get us on there. They had
also seen what eBay were doing and wanted to do their
version of it, called Zshops, where you just listed
vinyl on there and when somebody searched on say, Abba
Ė all products, then it would come up with books,
CDs, programmes, vinyl and so on.
Itís clever when they provide suggestion lists of
what they think youíre going to like and they also
have their own Power Sellers a bit like eBay.
Yes, can you do that? Can you link products to a
particular page, for example Sandie Shaw.
No, Iíd really like to but thatís for the next
version of my site.
Is it true that Facebook and Google, and I suppose
itís true with your site as well, that they try to
keep people on them for as long as possible?
Yes, they donít want a big Ė they call it the
bounce rate, and thereís no point in somebody coming
into your site if they go straight out again.
I find I could probably go on your site for at least
an hour Ė I donít do it because I always go from
one thing to another.
Thatís the point and itís music to my ears.
Thatís good if it floats your boat. There are lots
of people who tell me theyí hate meí because they
were on there for three hours. I stand back from it
occasionally and am surprised at how much there is on
the site and I enjoy it almost as a newcomer. Maybe
something that I did about three years ago, maybe an
interview, and I think ďWerenít they
interesting?Ē Itís almost like me reading it for
the first time and so I can imagine what itís like
for people coming in for the first time.
How do you go about not blinding people with too much
information in one go?
Well, itís very difficult, isnít it? And thatís
probably the weakness of the site.
Where do I start?
Yes. There are some people who are a bit overwhelmed
by the content. Itís a difficult one, but if you go
to the BBC site, for example, thereís a lot on there
and you just have to navigate your way around. I try
to keep it simple Ė interviews to start, then the
Special Features section where youíre going to go
into. And there are a number of nostalgia or
retro-related business that people coming into my site
might be interested in. At some stage in the future I
will revamp it, rewrite it, reorganise it and it will
have lots of extra bells and whistles, like some you
have mentioned. In the meantime I will ask you what
Star Interviews youíd like to go into and put your
ad in any of those. Then youíll show up in those.
Great. So the reason why my site mentions the
Ďwantsí, and is a little out-of-date, is because
Amazon came along and I used to use it to sell. I was competing
with Esprit, which then became
991.com. But they were
the big boys.
Theyíre on my site.
So my wants were basically the kind of stock weíd be
after Ėyou could probably buy and sell almost
anything. Maybe not Max Bygraves, but a woman bought
ten Johnny Mathis LPs from me at £9 each. So you can
sell anything/ Thereís no need to be just
specialising in only rarities. I donít think a lot
of dealers think like that Ė they go through the
record collector price guide and they want the £1,000
albums. I donít think itís very clever, either,
because itís telling you what to buy. Youíve got
to have a feel for something as I was saying in the
beginning Ė if you like something then someone else
is going to like it as well, arenít they? The
Osmonds, David Cassidy, Howard Jones Ė whoever it
Thereís also the stack Ďem high and sell
Ďem cheap mentality too which can apply Ė if
youíve got all the more popular and less valuable
items rather than the pricey rare items then youíre
going to shift a lot more product than the guy who has
a couple of rarities.
Yes. Itís nice because other dealers like the rarity
deals Ė the Elvis, Beatles and prog obvious rock
rarities. They donít think of the Johnny Mathis fan
Ė I can buy that stock and fill the gaps that
theyíre not bothering with. I can get a lot of my
stuff from 50p boxes or just cheap collections that
people are bringing in. And the eighties stuff is
sneered at a little bit, donít you think?
Yes, there is a little bit of snobbery around the
Well I donít mind that. I like that era and Iíll
fill the gaps that theyíre not bothering with. You
might find stuff in their boxes relatively cheap but if Iím
stocking it permanently it should be a fair price,
really, so £7 or £8 for an album. If you sell an
album on eBay at £7.99 youíre lucky you come out of
that with £4 or £5. I donít sell anything off
cheaply. I will do a big chunk of Johnny Mathis
listings and cater for specific fans.
So there isnít anybody who you wouldnít sell?
No. I donít like snobbery in music either. Whoís
to say anybodyís music is better than anybody
elseís? You couldnít say Max Bygraves was
brilliant to listen to but it would make somebody
happy in the same way that decent music would make
another person happy.
Iíve applied the Ďno snobberyí rule to my site
and thereís interviews with one or two groups that I
didnít personally favour myself but I know that they
were very popular with other people.
Thatís what I like about your site. Itís my kind
of site because itís not the obvious and just Paul
McCartney and so on. Itís the people on the fringe
and the cult people and the ones you donít read
anywhere else. So youíre filling the gaps as well
arenít you really? Iíd like to see you do an
article on Jenny Hanley. You wouldnít find that
Thereís a number of people I am planning on or
trying to include on the site and Jenny would be one
who would be interesting with her connections with
childrenís TV and with the Bond movies. Sometimes
itís hard to get hold of these people.
I suppose the angle is if they are currently trying to
push something they are doing at the momentĖ a new
book or a tour?
Thatís exactly right. And if theyíre not bored
with what they did before.
Yes, because I donít think they want to keep talking
about some things. Jenny Hanley has done loads in her
Iím always trying for people like that and fortunately
a lot of them say yes.
The people who attend the Birmingham Memorabilia
Fairs. Man About The House?
Funnily enough I was looking at contacting
Paula Wilcox the other day. Sheíd be great.
Theyíre putting a book together at the moment about
it and I think Brian Murphy has been involved in that.
He was on Cash In The Attic the other day and I think
he mentioned something about it.
Heís an elder statesman these days.
Heís married to the Hi-Di-Hi actress.
Yes, Linda Regan.
So are you going to update and make some
changes to your website Tim?
When I find a program to do it properly because I do
it all myself. Probably I need to pay somebody to do a
website properly at some point. Iíve got pictures on
the opening page of the site with very ordinary things
like Blondie and Parallel Lines so people know we
donít just do rare stuff.
Yes, I noticed that. I didnít realise until the
other day that they had several UK hits before they
had a hit in the UK.
So you cover all the decades as well as your focus on
Oh yes. I do everything because Iíve got a wide
knowledge of records as Iíve been collecting since
1972 maybe. And selling since í78. I just naturally
pick up information about records.
You have one of those brains where you remember it all
because youíre interested.
If someone comes into the shop about the fifties music
I can reel off information but it doesnít really get
me excited. The sixties is not too bad but by the
eighties I think pop music had got really good and
they had it sussed.
Yes. The seventies was good as well but I just love
the eighties because it was so colourful and
everything had just reached its peak, including the
TV. And then the nineties was a bit of a
disappointment. Today, they are looking back on Sonic
The Hedgehog and Super Mario and things like that for
nineties retro rather than music.
Weíll soon have the nineties on our site. Thatís
the thing about retro, itís slowly moving forward.
What are your top sellers?
The obvious ones are The Beatles. The eighties stuff
Ė Joy Division, Happy Mondays and the Indie stuff
are all probably the best sellers. But things like
Grandmaster Flash, they sell really well. All the
eighties dance stuff. Blondie and Abba. I donít know
if youíve noticed but you now get people in Croatia
and Russia who loves our seventies and eighties stuff
and Iím glad Iíve got in on this.
One of my vinyl clients said itís a shame because he
is selling to eastern Europe and Greece, Turkey and so
on and making hay, but in the long run itís going to
mean that we donít have a supply of this stuff
because itís all gone abroad.
Say Abba, for instance, Iíve probably got fifteen
copies of Arrival and I had a couple of orders today.
When you start dismissing the ones that are a bit
rough around the edges youíve probably got two or
three really nice copies. And although they used to
come in a lot in the past they are not these days. So
Iím going to have to be a bit careful and not allow
stuff to go too cheaply.
No. And itís all going east. Can I ask you what are
your plans for the future?
just focusing towards The Internet. Itís a
bit sad, because I like having a shop, but Iíve got
to think about money and the shop doesnít bring in a
lot compared to the online business. People are getting a bit lazy now and prefer searching
on The Internet.
Itís a shame because thereís nothing like the
experience of rummaging around in a record shop. Even
the smell of an old record shop.
Tim: So if anybodyís got any eighties stuff
they want to get rid of and theyíre finding that
other dealers are turning their noses up at it then
Iíll definitely be interested.
Thatís good Tim. Thatís your USP.
They may find it easy to sell The Beatles, The Who and
The Rolling Stones to other dealers but those dealers
turn their nose up at the Blondie, Spandau Ballet and
So you want these in mint condition. And any
music memorabilia as well?
Yes, mint. And any scarves, programmes, ticket stubs
from the seventies but mainly the eighties. Thatís
the area I want to concentrate on.
Tim, thanks very much for letting us know about
Thank you David.