‘The vinyl boom is possibly being overstated’: We catch up with Twickenham’s Eel Pie Records

By Emily Garbutt
January 24 2020, 14.00

Last year saw a record number of vinyl sales in the UK.

4.3 million LPs were sold in 2019, the largest number of UK sales this century and a 4.1% increase on the previous year.

This was the twelfth consecutive year of vinyl sales growth, with vinyl sales accounting for one in every eight album sales in the UK across digital and physical formats.

Phil Penman, co-owner of Eel Pie Records in Church Street, Twickenham, said: “I think the vinyl boom is possibly being overstated to a degree.”

He added: “Our customer base continues to grow. More and more people are coming in every day, discovering us as a place to buy records.

“A lot of that is due to us being a new shop. In terms of the actual growth in sales, I think it’s much more marginal than that.”

Phil explained that the business has experienced a steady growth despite being suppressed by the current economic climate. 

He said: “Brexit isn’t great for for the high streets. Lots of stuff is depressing in retail and vinyl is kind of riding through that in a very steady state of affairs.”

Twickenham and the surrounding area have a rich musical heritage. Eel Pie Records takes its name from Eel Pie Island, an island in the Thames connected to Twickenham by a footbridge.

“Twickenham was absolutely right for a record shop,” said Phil.

The island’s Eel Pie Hotel started hosting jazz shows in the 1920s, before the Eelpiland dance club opened in 1956. 

The venue changed ownership in the 1960s and saw performances from The Who, David Bowie and Pink Floyd, while the Rolling Stones played there 15 times in the early stages of their career.

The venue fell into disrepair and was forced to close down in 1967.

Meanwhile, Rod Steward was discovered after busking in Twickenham Station and the Rolling Stones’ first residency was at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond.

This legacy is evident in Eel Pie Records’ sales: “We sell a lot of classic rock and pop from from all the years so our biggest sellers are everybody’s biggest sellers, if you like. The classic albums by Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones…these things sell week in week out.”

However, a younger customer base means the tides are starting to change: “What we’re getting our biggest growth in is selling new releases by up-and-coming acts.”

Indeed, Liam Gallagher’s ‘Why Me? Why Not’ was the UK’s bestselling album in 2019, selling a total of 29,000 copies, with Billie Eilish’s debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ in second place. 

Eel Pie Records is staying focused on their customer base and in tune with community.

Phil said: “As well as the shop, we do lots of live events and promotions and things locally, including a festival. It’s a community thing that goes with the live music. That’s important to us.”

He added: “Just last week, we’ve added a gallery in one of our two major rooms in and we’re exhibiting paintings by a local artist who lives on the island. It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while and we’re going to continue it. It’s part of being part of this community.”

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