Even though people have been able to purchase music online for years now (not to mention the bonanza of digital freebies available promotionally or illicitly), there remains a strong culture of supporting local merchants. At least in Madison, that is, where there are three independent record stores going strong in the heart of the city, as well as several other indies citywide featuring used tunes and more specialized genres of music.
The convenience of purchasing music online remains appealing, though, so Monroe Street's Strictly Discs will now provide a way to purchase music online -- locally.
Owner Ron Roloff had been considering such a website for a long time, but it's only recently that he could technically pull off what he was envisioning -- recreating the shopping experience people have in the brick-and-mortar home of Strictly Discs.
The new online home for Strictly Discs is an ambitious undertaking for the local record shop, one that moves beyond simple online purchases (from a database provided by All Media Guide). Persons who establish profiles on the site can also create wish-lists, an online registry through which others can purchase gifts. This isn't just limited to music either, as customers can purchase DVDs and video games, which are not regularly stocked in the shop, through the site.
Roloff also highlights his shipping policy, which features next-day in-store availability for orders made before 4 p.m. and next-day first-class mail for orders made within a radius of 200 miles. "We're not trying to compete with Amazon and some of the larger boys out there," he says, "but I provide next-day shipping on the majority of our stuff."
Something that's not operational yet but should be by the New Year is an online jukebox. Designed to look like an old radio, it will feature multiple stations as designed by the Strictly Discs staff, each with playlists of three dozen or so complete songs that will change regularly. In the future, Roloff and his staff will create "playlists of the week for which customers will be able to send in suggestions," with listeners ultimately able to rate the offerings.
That's not the only feature on the new site that approaches social networking capabilities. Four members of the shop's staff have posted their best-of lists for 2006 -- Ron, Spense, Ryan and Matt -- and it's easy to see that a similar feature could be implemented and embraced by online customers.
"This is like a brand new baby, and it's going to grow up," Roloffs says. And it's the potential for growth that makes this new online home for Strictly Discs interesting, particularly because of its reputation for providing deep selections for electronica and rare grooves.
One specialized local retailer has already had tremendous success using its online retail arm to build a national business. This is Bop, the women's apparel shop on Gorham Street just off State that specializes in high-end and high-profile casual labels for its youthful customer base. The store launched shopbop.com in 1999, and rapidly became a leading online retailer throughout the world for its fashion offerings, ultimately getting purchased by Amazon in March 2006.
Roloff says he is planning on speaking with the owners of Bop at some point, but for the time being his interest is in starting out small. "The last thing we want to do is create an expectation that we cannot follow through with," he says. "Bop had larger visions than I do. My goal is not to be a national entity, but if the site has more success than we anticipate, that's great."
Ultimately, Roloff's goal is provide an online option for Madison and the region surrounding it: "I would be happy to have 1% of online sales of music in this area. We think the timing is right on this, so we are putting our best foot forward to see what we can do."