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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 2, 1999)
Homer’s survives storm of corporate retailing
MUSIC from page 9
stores, too,” Fratt said
But as the 1990s wore on, most addi
tions to the Homer’s chain started disap
pearing in Lincoln at an alarming rate:
Locations at 17th and P, 70™ and O
and 56th and Highway 2 all closed their
doors as the decade progressed Add in
four Omaha locations who have turned
their lights out for good, and Homer’s
now has only seven outlets.
However, Fratt claims his company
knew at the time of purchase that a sig
nificant number of the new stores would
eventually close. Some of the shops were
located too close together for them all to
succeed, he said. At one time, they had
two downtown Lincoln stores within
four blocks of one another'
So why would they buy stores they
believed would go under?
“We felt we had to increase our
account to compete with everyone else,”
Fratt said. “And we couldn’t just select a
few stores, we had to buy the whole fran
Fratt said the ’90s have been tough
on independent music retailers. Like a
veteran of bookkeeping wars, he spoke
of past in-state casualties of competition
with a sense of camaraderie and respect.
“A good example of what was hap
pening during 1993 to 1997 was our
beloved Dusty’s out in western
Nebraska,” he said. “He used to have
stores in Kearney, Grand Island and
Hastings and now they are all gone. It’s
too bad because those stores were impor
tant to the college kids out there.”
Fratt said the arrival of Hastings
Video and Music in Kearney, for
instance, helped drive the staple location
of the western Nebraska chain out of
His tone on the topic of new corpo
rate competition is predictably less affec
tionate. His feelings are all business and
understandable for someone with high
interest in the independent market
Fratt said that before 1997, depart
ment-store music retailers such as Best
Buy were selling tapes and compact
discs at prices lower than actual cost.
“It was looking rough - really
rough,” he said.
Such seemingly unfair economic
competition rarely corrects itself without
the intervention of government.
But then Homer’s, along with inde
pendent retailers nationwide, received a
little policy assistance from the nation’s
leading music distributors: Warner
Brothers-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA), Sony,
EMI, Polygram, BMG and Universal.
(Polygram distribution is now owned by
die Universal company.) These five mul
timedia conglomerate entities are known
in th&independent music biz as the “5
Wicked Stepsisters,” Fratt said.
Fratt said in late 1996 the companies
created a policy called M.A.P., short for
minimum advertising price.
M. A.P keeps big chains from adver
tising prices that are below actual cost.
This baiting tactic is normally devised by
corporate retailers to lure customers into
their stores to buy a cheap compact disc
with hopes that the shopper will move
about the other departments and spend
bigger cash. Conveniently, this method .
has also been known to drive the local
music-shop competition off the scene.
Surprisingly, the effort by the afore
mentioned distribution giants to make
more money with its minimum advertis
ing price policy is also helping the little
Fratt said the new policy helps
Homer’s prices compete with those of
corporate outlets. *
“They had to come the rescue of
independent retailers or see a cannibal
ization of the industry,” Fratt said. “By ,
the time they did something, most of the
smaller retailers were already gone.”
However, he believes there are rea
sons other than M. A.P. that explain why
Homer’s has recently flourished. Fratt
said his business has been doing better
since October 1997 because of its
improved music selection.
“People are starting to come back to
our stores because they can’t find what
they want elsewhere,” he said. “Bottom
line: Either you have it or you don’t”
Best Buy merchandise manager
Greg Gaines wouldn’t comment on
whether he believes Fratt’s statements
Gaines, in a phone interview
Monday, did say that he recognizes
Homer’s as a force in the market.
“We take all competition seriously,”
Fratt also said his store has “the best
customer service,” which will help his
stores “stay in business for years and
Janet Froscheiser, manager at
Homer’s at 48th and Van Dorn streets,
said the corporate competition has made
her store focus more on customer ser
“I think the competition has been
good,” she said. “We’ve had to re-recog
nize what we’re good at, and that’s
knowledgeable, friendly service.”
Froscheiser, who has managed
record stores in Lincoln for more than
nine years, said her store’sstyleof friend
ly service sometimes becomes its enemy.
“I think initially a lot of people tend
to see record stores like ours as threaten
ing places,” she said. “They are immedi
ately approached by people they kind of
see as druggy, funny-colored hair types.
But sooner or later, they figure out that
the people we hire are pretty normal and
easy to talk to.”
Maybe it’s M.A.P, maybe it’s the
funny hair colors. Whatever the case,
something has been working better
recently. Without giving bank-account
statistics, Fratt went on record that
Homer’s is back in the black.
And really, any level of independent
success is impressive in this market: One
that, according to Fratt, has 80 percent of
its national music retail industry owned
by only seven companies.
Froscheiser said the resiliency of
Homer’s, which is owned by Tom and
Sue Weidner of Omaha, may be because
of its independent roots.
“I think people look at Homer’s as
this big chain, but really we’re just a
bunch of mom and pops stores,” she
said. “And we’re actually owned by a real
mom and dad.”
Used music stores add rare items,
collectibles to Lincoln retail scene
USED from page 1
“There’s no way in hell
Best Buy will buy back used
CDs,” Mills said. “There will
always be a market, always
be a niche.”
Kolnick says he provides
a service the big stores don’t,
and he welcomes the compe
tition. He says the more
record stores there are in a
city, the better. And with
Backtrack Records now only
on the Internet, his store is
one of the last places left sell
“I sell a lot of vinyl,” he
said. “DJs are buying old
records to mix into dance
tracks, metal people are buy
ing old metal hard to find on
CD and collectors are buying
12-inches, Led Zep, Pink
Floyd, blues and jazz.”
Records, long since
obsolete to the average con
sumer, are big money for col
Kolnick says some hard-core
collectors travel around the
country and frequently stop
in at his store.
Both stores also sell
hard-to-fmd posters, T-shirts
and music videocassettes.
“I pretty much make the
same money off these,” Mills
“Sometimes I think more
STUART KOLNICK, owner of Recycled Sounds, offers bargain hunters and col
lectors an outlet for their obsessions. The store contains CDs, tapes! rare
posters and T-shirts.
about posters and paper
goods than the music,” he said. “I have 3-4,000 posters.”
Both Kolnick and Mills predict big changes in the
music industry will trickle down to their stores in the
future. But while Mills is concerned with the computer
revolution, Kolnick is interested in major-label consolida
tion and its effects on the independent music scene.
“Tapes are virtually eliminated,” Mills said. “Now you
can download CDs off the computer and bum them to
another CD. We’ll have to grow with the technology.”
With corporate mergers reducing the number of major
labels from six to five, Kolnick wonders how this will
affect the little guy.
“Lots of bands won’t have labels now with the
changes,” he said. “There will be lots of new, smaller
labels starting up now. I’m interested in seeing what kind
of distribution and networks they will have, and seeing it
here in the store.”
Mills may not wait around for the changes. He says he
will probably get out of the record store business in the
Kolnick intends to hang around for a while, and he
says Lincoln is a good place to do it
He said the specific nature of radio in Lincoln helps
his business out Omaha radio is mainly Top 40, he said,
but Lincoln has a college station, community radio and a
hard-rock station. These stations’ target audiences are
among Kolnick’s best customers, he said.
Moving his store from the Haymarket to downtown O
I have 100,000 different
items. I couldn't tell
you 1 percent
of what I have.”
owner of Recycled Sounds
Street has increased his business, he says. Benefits fgpm
this move include better traffic flow, more crowds and
more room to put out his product, of which there is plenty.
“I have 100,000 different items,” he said. “I couldn’t
tell you 1 percent of what I have .”
Kolnick and Mills say their stores provide an original
service for music buyers. Mills says Disc Go Round has
most of the same titles as the big chains for less money.
“We do what we do well,” Mills said. “People find
good titles, and save more cash than anywhere in town.”
Kolnick aims his store at die-hard collectors.
“We have lots of goodies if you’re looking for some
thing you can’t find,” Kolnick said. “You don’t need to
order it by mail. We’re here, you can pick it up and take it
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