Two Surviving Sydney Retail Giants

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These two retailers have a long history and are recognised by Sydneysiders as premier downtown shopping destinations. Now with an Omni-Channel presence their business is adapting to the changing environment and are even exporting home grown goods worldwide.

They are physically only a block away from each other, are located in one of Sydney’s premier shopping districts and are open 7 days a week. Although they each tend to attract a loyal set of followers, shoppers will cross over to the other should they be looking for something unique that one might not sell.

With so much negative energy being spent on bricks and mortar retail, these two giants provide enough in destination shopping and have created brand advocates in their customer base that they continue to hold their ground in an otherwise shrinking landscape. So, who are these retail stalwarts?

Red Eye Records & Utopia Records

Established in 1981, Red Eye Records is Sydney's largest independent music retailer. Along with the retail outlet their online business has been very successful, growing rapidly over the last ten years. In essence they help customers from all over the world find rare, out of print and unique Australian music related items. Located across from the QVB in downtown Sydney, Red Eye has been through a number of challenges including opening and closing (multiple) locations to adjust to market conditions. With an estimated 40% of books and music moving to downloaded digital format, it is astonishing that a single store retailer like Red Eye is still able to support a physical format.  What makes this retailer unique though is that it is truly a physically shopping destination, proving an experience that simply cannot be found online. Walking through the isles that contain thousands of CD’s, books and clothing is a kin to being on your own personal scavenger hunt to locate that one unique something. This might seem like a dying pastime, but this retailer manages to continue to foster it. Although Red Eye is considered an independent music retailer, their real unique characteristic is their alternative offering, making them the location to find anything that is not considered mainstream.   

Also if staff tenure is anything to be rewarded Red Eye would be a leader amongst any retailer. The staff are immensely knowledgeable, approachable yet trendy enough to provide an alternative insight into music. They continue to stock a range of Australian music that surpasses any retailer and are cutting edge enough to be a place to discover new music, if there is still such a term. Their used collection is massive and often you can find something that has been marked down for an excellent price.

Only a stones trow away is Utopia Records. Utopia Records is Australia’s premier heavy metal and hard rock specialty record store. The store has existed since 1978 supplying Sydney and Australia with all things metal, hard rock, punk, alternative and anything in between.

Located on the corner of Kent and Bathurst Streets this retailer of truly unique products is the gateway to a culture like no other. Walking into Utopia is a kin to a sonic blast in the face and like their heavy metal heritage, the music playing in store is loud and often fast. This instantly puts you into a mental state that is simply not something that can be experienced outside a physical footprint.

Like Red Eye the store has moved from location to location for the past few decades but has never changed their ethos. If anything they are working harder to provide a destination experience so unique that metal fans travel from other states just to visit. The staff are incredibly knowledge and if you’re looking for advice they are alternative enough to know how to expand your collection.

The moral of this post is simple, destination retailers are the ones that provide an experience beyond their physical products. In today’s digital tsunami it is still possible to go to a store and come out with more than simply a receipt.  I’ve spoken to both these retailer about their business and although they’ve been shaken by alternate purchasing methods they remain resilient and believe that there is still sustainability in providing the experience of physical retailing.

I have seen other examples with a bookstore and toy shop in our local shopping village. We should applaud and place our support where we can around these retailers. Do you know of other similar retailers that provide a unique destination experience, please share and….

Happy Retailing! 

Stephen Duncan

Stephen Duncan

Stephen Duncan is a Technology Retail Specialist.

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