Reckless Records RIP - Part 10: Expansions

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 29 August 2007

(or "Everything I know about second-hand record retail I learnt by being rude to customers at Reckless Records" by someone a bit like that bloke in 'High Fidelity')

I've been writing over the last couple of weeks about my experiences working for Reckless Records in their 79 Upper Street and 30 Berwick Street branches during the 1990s. In the previous part of this series I was looking at the sometimes difficult relationship between staff and customers.

In 1998 Reckless expanded to open a second branch on Berwick Street.

The company obtained the lease on a jewellery wholesalers 2 doors down from the existing shop, and during the summer I set about the task of setting it up as a new retail outlet.

Not only did the shop need refitting, but suitable computer networking needed to be put it.

Well, I say suitable, but some elements of it were a bit hit and miss.

The shop already had a dedicated ISDN line linking the 30 Berwick Street branch with the Upper Street Branch. We didn't really want to pay out for a second one to link the two side-by-side branches. Instead, we slung a regular ethernet cable out of the back of one branch, tacked it along the side of the building in between, and then drilled a hole and popped it into number 30.

Wallace Haines, who provided the software that Reckless used to manage their stock inventory, sent an engineer over from the States to help with installing a new server.

In all it took about four months to get the store ready to open, as the counter area and custom racking were built from scratch. Because Reckless sold second-hand CDs, they were not displayed in their cases like most other shops, so we couldn't use pre-configured CD racking like that offered by Lift for example.

A couple of my wilder ideas didn't get used however. Because the walls had been painted in a ragged light blue colour, it gave the shop a watery feel. It also had a very high ceiling, which made it seem a bit unfriendly. I wanted to put lots of shipping memorabilia around the place, and hang fishing nets from the ceiling to make it seem like the shop was an underwater record shop where you could find sunken vinyl treasures. With a fish tank set into the front of the counter. Thankfully, I was over-ruled!

Reckless at 30 Berwick Street

The branch opened on the 10th October 1998. I can always pinpoint the date because in the afternoon a few of the staff sloped off to the pub to watch a lacklustre 0-0 qualifyer for Euro2000 between England and Bulgaria. I even wore a suit to work for the occasion.

The launch didn't go flawlessly, of course.

BT had conspired to make a right mess of issuing new phone lines into the building, and so on the day of opening we didn't have a dedicated phoneline for the VISA machine. This meant it had to share a line with the shops regular telephone line, and be placed on a workdesk behind the counter rather than on the shop counter itself.

On the day of opening, one of us finally snapped when the umpteenth customer wondered aloud whether it wouldn't be easier to have the VISA machine nearer to the counter.

The new shop had two sources of stock.

For months we had been processing 'ghost' stock for the shop. This was being purchased and priced up in both Islington and the existing Soho store, and then put straight onto the racks in the new store waiting for opening day.

In 30 Berwick Street, there was also the not inconsiderable matter of matching up all of the sleeves to the respective CD and vinyl of the non-dance and soul music, so they could be transferred to the new branch. They didn't just have to be physically transferred - their barcodes also had to be put through the computerised inventory system to transfer them from 'Store 2' to 'Store 9'.

I had to put in some long shifts to get everything ready for opening.

In the week before the doors opened to the public I even had to do an all-nighter - working from 10am until 7pm running the show at number 30, then spending all night flitting between the two shops processing and racking stock, making new dividers, and getting the place ready, then, without stopping, working 10am to 7pm the next day in number 30 again.

I got paid plenty of overtime, but the working time directive people would have had a fit if they had seen my timesheet at the end of that month!

Eventually the basement was refitted too, and the rarities and mail order department that I had previously worked in moved from Islington to Soho.

30 Berwick Street basement

Next, in the final part of this series, I'll be looking at what has happened to the branches on Berwick Street now that Reckless Records has ceased trading.

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