My name is Mark Poppen, originally from The Netherlands and immigrated to Canada in 2007. I’m a web designer by trade and have a strong background in retail/sales (see where this is going?)
After we were settled and I built my web design company “PoppenWorks” for a few years, I started missing selling physical products. Web design is a great business to be in, but you’re not selling products. You’re selling a service. Air, so to speak.
I always had a little voice in my head that told me I should start an online store.
After moving, I started my record collection from scratch. Kijiji, Facebook garage sale pages, thrift stores etc. were my goto and I bought a turntable from a thrift store to get back into it.
I was looking for online retailers that sold new records, because in my area, vinyl was (and still is in 2017) not really a thing. There were only 1 or 2 online options in Canada and they were on opposite sides of the country, so my first Canadian purchase was from Amazon. After receiving the package, and having a few used records that came in a package deal, gathering dust, a metaphoric fluorescent light switched on over my head. “I can do this!”.
I started looking for distributors in Canada and the first call I made was to the distributor I’m still in business with. They’ve been very helpful in helping me figuring out what to buy and when to buy it.
This lead to “Oh, now I have to build a site”. There were a few options in the open source market, but I knew from experience that those can become quite the headache and I want to focus on the business side of things, rather than dealing with hacking and phishing attempts. Shopify was the only hosted platform on my radar.
I had previous experience with building themes for Shopify from my web design company (we launched a few Shopify stores for clients), so whipping up an initial draft for the store was done fairly quickly. I’ve been evolving the site ever since opening.
Cashflow is probably the biggest factor. In order to compete with the big online retailers and the competition, margins are pretty slim. The only drawback of Shopify Payments is that there’s a 7-day hold on funds, which means I have to front at least 7 days of cash for new orders. If they are big orders, that can get challenging, especially if most of the profits are going back into advertising.
Keeping stock is also challenging. Although space is not really an issue (I can store about 2000 products in 3 record bins, which take up about 10 or 11ft²), music trends are ever evolving. Sinking a lot of money in inventory can end up with you liquidating stock, because 10 people might like and buy a copy of Flying Lotus’s EP, but after that it might become irrelevant.
I use a lot of apps that do a lot of little things to improve the Shopify experience. Currently, I have 35 apps active, but I’ll highlight my top-3:
I’d like to keep the exact numbers under wraps, but I can say that the initial thoughts of “this could be a fun hobby” and “if I have one or 2 orders per month, I’d be happy” turned into something that exceeded those expectations by about 20 times. And the growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down. If anything, I’m gaining more and more momentum week over week.
I’d like my store to be a one-stop shop for vinyl lovers, so I recently became a dealer of a speaker brand that integrate with existing turntables. Representing a brand of turntables is next on my list.
Maybe in the future, I will open a brick and mortar store, using Shopify as my POS, but for now, online is my way to go.
You can read more about Mark's journey at the Funky Moose Records blog