All in due time: Dinkytown CD shops earn loyalty

by Kane Loukas

Like the retail saying goes — it’s not the size of your selection that matters, it’s how you use it.
Dinkytown’s Disc-Go-Round, might be considered poorly endowed as far as CD shops go. Leaving all licentious thoughts aside, it’s the CD selection that’s wanting. Or is it?
Despite stocking a fraction of the CDs as the neighboring Cheapo records, the small Disc-Go-Round storefront ranks as one of the franchisor’s better of nine stores. Meanwhile, the cavernous Cheapo struggles for a foothold with sales well below expectations.
There’s a warehouse, or a stadium feeling about the Cheapo on Fourth Street Southeast in Dinkytown. It’s huge. Large enough that customers pause for a second when they walk in and think, “Geez, where are the grandstands?”
Long aisles and wall racks fill the space, housing CD upon neatly stacked CD. It’s something like a Library of Congress for CD fanatics but without the call numbers and cool domed ceiling.
Glitzy high-dollar box sets stretch across the front wall, sophisticated listening stations separate the new CD wall racks, and customers can test drive their CD picks in an area equipped with headphones and stereos.
Still, the store lacks one crucial element: customers.
“Nowhere in the metro area are there so many people arriving in who have never heard of Cheapo,” said co-manager Stuart Lysne.
Since its grand opening in June, sales at the Dinkytown Cheapo have been “dead at Christmas and Thanksgiving,” and 200 percent below sales at the top performing St. Paul and Minneapolis locations, Lysne said.
The store needs name recognition, said Lysne, which takes time.
Lysne might have picked the tip up from Mike Ward, manager at the Dinkytown Disc-Go-Round.
The store’s five years on 14th Street Southeast — Dinkytown’s main artery for foot traffic — has helped give it name recognition free of charge.
But, more than just sitting back and waiting for people to find out about Disc-Go-Round, Ward keeps sales up by getting a grip on the likes and dislikes of his customers.
To prove himself, Ward rattles off the customer favorites: Dave Matthews, Ani DiFranco, Bjork and Bob Marley. The old Beatles and Rolling Stones albums, he added, are always hot items, while albums from the ’70s and ’80s have only so-so sales.
“You have to focus in on your customer base and not worry about the nearby Cheapo,” said Ward, which he admits “has us beat” on selection.
To get people into the store to check out the selection, Ward runs a frequent buyer card program, sends out coupons and holds midnight new release sales every Monday. Cheapo, on the other hand, has no promotions.
Ward’s work has yielded loyal customers, enough of them that Disc-Go-Round makes it through Christmas and Thanksgiving without a sales slump, despite vacationing students.
Cheapo, remember, is still a young business with only about seven months under its belt. Store managers said that any decision to relocate or close a store would likely be made after at least two years at one location.