Innovative Retailer: Music Magpie

Brought to you by Retail Insider and PCMS Group

Name: Music Magpie

The Place: Up North. Founded in Stockport, with warehouses located in Macclesfield, but basically it’s a digital story through and through.

The Story: Cast your mind back into the mists of time.

Yes: Back to the financial crash of 2007/8.

Yes: Back to when mortgage defaults were beginning to bite.

Yes. Back when austerity was…

Music Magpie: sorting out the nation’s entertainment clutter

Yes Yes. Yes: OK – well in that spirit of belt tightening and runs on Northern banks one man thought ‘blimey there must be a lot of CDs sitting in people’s cupboards that they don’t listen to’ and do you know what?

He was bang on? Yes. There’s definitely brass in muck. Now guess what the first one sold was according to media reports?

Oh for goodness sake. One from Pink Floyd? Not a totally ridiculous guess but it was in fact Abba Gold: Greatest Hits. And now guess what the current top seller is?

This is just pointless. OK, something by Lady Gaga? Nope. It’s Abba Gold: Greatest Hits…How funny is that!

Just stay on track. Fine. It’s run, then and now, by two music industry veterans Steve Oliver and Walter Gleeson who originally started selling CDs online in Oliver’s garage in Stockport.

It’s not glamorous is it? No, but do you know what – hardly anyone else noted that there was a lot of money to be made in the very small margins on sales done on an industrial scale.

How industrial? Every month two million pre-owned items in and two million pre-owned items out. In 2017/18 Music Magpie sold £125 million worth of stock – that was up nearly a quarter on the previous year.

Blimey: Exactly. They sit on a constantly shifting catalogue of around 700,000 pre-loved computer games, DVDs, CDs and books along with collectibles.

And all based on the fickleness of the consumer: Or their houses are just too small to hold every iteration of every game they like, or they like recycling, or they need a bit of ready cash. And 10,000 books a day are received. Guess what…

No more guessing! It’s Fifty Shades of Grey.

Get away! But it’s a very fast-moving world they are working in – what happens in the future… more books, more CDs for ever and ever: Their innovation is also part of their weakness. Having used eBay and Amazon to great effect to tap into a wider customer base people don’t really know who Music Magpie is and selling on their own platform raises only a fraction of the amount that the two giant marketplaces generate. They have to wean people off those and fast.

How? Easier said than done. Even though it is undoubtedly a trusted brand it is the online facilitators who get the brand recognition from consumers not the actual sellers.

Not sure I follow: When you buy a second hand book via eBay and someone asks you where you got it from – you say ‘eBay’, not ‘actually it was a tiny bookshop in Kettering that is merely using eBay as its window to the digital world’ and that’s the same with Music Magpie.

Yeah, s’pose: Further not helped by the fact that until very recently they had different trading names on those two platforms (eStocks on eBay and ZoverStocks on Amazon). And that’s not the only area where they are going to have to use those innovative minds of theirs.

Oh? Physical media – not the future is it? CD shelves are a scarcity now as people don’t listen to music in that way anymore. It’s all downloaded. Any business mainly running on this will be running into a brick wall in a few years’ time.

Crikey: But don’t you fret because until that day comes they are making HUGE mark-ups on every item sold. Buying for pence and selling for pounds. Times that by the sheer amount of stock they are shifting and you have a market stall of monumental proportions.

I have a question and I’m quietly confident it’s a good one. Why don’t people just sell on eBay or Amazon and be their own middleman? Because they can’t be bothered. If you sell your stuff to Music Magpie you get together a whole load of your old stuff, package it up into one box, send it on and yes, you will get 10p for a CD rather than £4 but it’s a helluva lot easier on your time and they accept everything.

Everything? Everything. Steve Oliver is on record as saying that 10% of all their purchases have to go straight into the recycling bin. They are literally buying up some dross to get at the good bits. And they don’t charge for customers to send them stuff either. All free.

The world is so weird: But to go back to your original point that I didn’t answer – one theory is that the future for Music Magpie is going to be all about phones. Something they moved into several years ago which shows that they do know the whole CD thing is going to go belly up at some point.

Do you know, I’ve just realised something terribly exciting. I actually do have a copy of Abba Gold: Greatest Hits. Wow. Dig it out.

Retail Insider’s copy of pop classic Abba Gold

 But it’s a tape cassette. So now you’re just being silly.

PCMS is a global provider of IT software and services for the retail industry. PCMS offers a full-range of integrated commerce solutions across selling touch points and also provides turnkey managed services and cloud hosting. Its client list includes John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Whole Foods, as well as Walgreens in the US and fashion brands including Prada and Ferragamo across Europe