Chris Hart says he founded Real Groovy to get back into the buzz of the music business. Photo / Supplied
For more than four decades, Chris Hart has brought a range of tracks and genres to audiophiles across Aotearoa. Hart moved the business from Queen St to Victoria St West this year ahead of Auckland’s
upcoming City Rail Link which he says will bring more growth and vibrancy to the city.
When did you start the business and why?
Real Groovy started on Queen’s Birthday weekend 1981. I’d sold my previous record store, and I really missed the buzz of being in the music business.
What sparked the move to Victoria St?
We could see that when the City Rail Link was operating and the ancillary streetscaping works were completed, this was going to be a really vibrant part of the city. It’s actually grown a lot busier just over the past six months.
Has moving locations impacted your profit margins?
It’s too early to say regarding profits, because we’ve had so many extraordinary expenses with the fit-out. But sales are up 20 per cent, and we expect a lot more growth in sales of K-pop, merchandise and apparel, audio hardware and of course vinyl records.
We’re hoping that the continued increase in foot traffic is going to offset any drop in spending that a recession might bring.
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How has music retail changed since you started Real Groovy? How do you expect the space to change in the next five years?
We started by selling LPs and cassettes. Then there was a significant transition to CDs, then back to vinyl – it feels like full circle. Five years is short in the overall scheme of things; I see five years of steady growth for LP records, but CDs are making a comeback as well.
Who are your best-selling artists?
There are always solid catalogue sellers such as Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Pink Floyd, and new artists coming through like Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, 1975, and the National, to name a few.
Have you been affected by supply chain issues?
In 2021 and 2022, it was more about production constraints than supply chain issues. An album could come back in stock with our suppliers and be unavailable for us to reorder as early as the following day. So while we might order ten copies of an LP for a couple of weeks’ worth of sales, we started ordering a hundred to ensure continuity of availability to our customers.
Almost all albums have been hard to get hold of at different times over the past few years, but it’s all settling down now. A huge amount has been invested in pressing plants. We’re actually getting things delivered this year that have been on backorder since 2021.
Who is your main audience/consumer base?
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We have about 18,000 regular customers from all walks of life who have paid to join our loyalty club. The main thing they have in common is that they’re all into music.
We do also get a lot of younger people who are discovering vinyl, and those who want to buy T-shirts and merchandise of their favourite bands. It hasn’t really changed much for us.
Who are the biggest artists you have had perform at or visit Real Groovy?
I served Kurt Cobain when Nirvana came through, but we’ve had lots of others, from Josh Homme to Eric Burdon, Tony Joe White – even Dame Edna.
What are your plans for NZ Music Month at Real Groovy?
We’ve got the relaunch of the Space Waltz album, with Ian Chapman’s book on May 20th. Otherwise, we’re just continuing to offer the biggest range of NZ artists on vinyl that we can.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had while in business?
The arrival of downloading had a significant effect. But prior to that people were burning CDs, and earlier, recording cassettes. It’s just a matter of staying flexible and adapting to change as quickly as possible.
What is your biggest achievement at Real Groovy?
I personally think the current store is one of the most amazing retail spaces in the country, with over 70 of Auckland’s historic neon signs, and I’m really proud of it.