Island Music Up For Sale
Island Music is the last remaining instrument shop in the Channel Islands, located on the beautiful island of Jersey.
Business owner Jon Scriven has decided its time to hand over the business, and take a little more time for traveling and spending time with his family, so the business is now up for sale.
Jon spoke to Music Instrument News’s Andy Hughes about his decision to sell the thriving business, and his hopes for its future.
The end of an era for you Jon, saying goodbye to Island Music, your instrument retail business on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey.
It is, which is why I am really hopeful that someone will want to take it over as a thriving retail business. The shop was one of five musical instrument retailers in the Channel Islands, and now we’re the only one that’s left. We supply some business to Guernsey here in the Channel Islands, and we have a number of musicians who live on the island who keep us going. I was considering letting my daughter take over the business, but after some discussions, it turns out that it’s not something that she really wants to take on herself.
How did you get into the business?
I have always wanted to own a musical instrument shop. Some people grow up wanting to be vets, some want to be doctors, I wanted to own an instrument shop. My professional background is piano tuning, and I did a three-year apprenticeship with Kendall Pianos. Then I returned to the island, and I found that there wasn’t a shop selling pianos, so I bought a premises that was out of the town centre, and started there. I did want to move into the town centre, but it wasn’t viable to set up a town centre business exclusively selling pianos, because of the space involved. There was a well-established instrument shop in the town, that was Ray Kitchen Music, so I formed my own limited company, and we approached Roy about setting up a joint business together. We called the company Island Music, and when Roy retired a couple of years after we started, I took over the whole business, and I’ve been running it since then.
Are you a Channel Islands native?
Yes, I was born here and I knew I always wanted to come back to live here. I did three years training with Kendall Pianos, and they were affiliated with Yamaha, so I’ve remained a Yamaha stockist for pianos in the shop.
Pianos are obviously your specialism, what about the other instruments, do you have additional staff?
Yes, we have two full-time members of staff. We offer a service to set-up pianos before they are sold, and an on-going tuning service in the customer’s home. These days we sell a lot more digital pianos rather than the traditional acoustic instruments, but people still need the sort of guidance and advice that a good professional instrument retailer provides. As well as pianos, we carry a good range of other instruments, guitars and amplifiers, and we carry a range of acoustic and electric drums.
Is it difficult to recruit staff?
Not usually, no. There are always young people who are interested in instruments and want to learn about them, and some get into the retail side of their own chosen instruments, and then learn about additional instruments as well. We find keeping staff can be more of a challenge, people will typically stay for two or three years and the move on, but it’s not hard to teach people about instruments and selling, if they are keen to learn the business side of things. We do pride ourselves on our staff being good musicians, and most importantly, they can understand what customers need and offer good advice and a good after-sales service. That’s where independent instrument retailers like us still win over the Internet suppliers. You may get an instrument for less initial cost, but you don’t get the proper set-up and advice that we give to our customers.
What are the most popular instruments you sell?
Digital pianos and guitars. Guitars are consistently popular; guitar players always want more guitars! Digital keyboard instruments have come down considerably in price from the time when they first entered the market. In those days, people usually chose an acoustic piano, and that meant that the piano tuning side of the business was very very busy. When I first started the business, we had a full-time piano tuner as well as myself, and people did sell and upgrade their pianos, but those days are largely gone now. The main sales are in digital pianos, you can pick up a decent digital piano for around seven hundred pounds these days. But again, the advice and the set-up and after-sales aspects of the business are as vital as they ever were.
Do you plan to maintain a connection to the business when you sell?
I would still like to maintain my skills as a piano tuner, and I would certainly offer them to the new owner if they were interested. There are three professional piano tuners on the island, so the new owner is obviously not obliged to use my services if they wanted to choose elsewhere. However, in my favour, I do have a lot of contacts among the musicians on the island, and I do all the concert piano tunings, so I like to think that I would have something valuable to offer the new owner when they are taking over the business.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned in your career as a musical instrument retailer?
The importance of good customer service. It’s absolutely essential in a business like this. If you have a good personal approach, and a good level of attention to detail and you help the customer to make the best choice for them, they will come back to you, and recommend you. We have customers who have returned to the shop time and time again. Some guitar collectors who are customers have more guitars in their homes than we have in the shop! They love to order through us, and come in and try an instrument before they buy it. Musicians love that level of service. As I mentioned previously, that’s where we score over the Internet retailers, if our customers don’t like an instrument, they don’t have to keep it, we will take it back, subject to condition obviously. Sometimes people are not happy because they feel the instrument is not set up correctly for them, and we are always delighted to help people around those issues, and make sure they are happy with their choice. That customer satisfaction is the key to success.
When you decide to sell a thriving, and unique business like this one, how do you go about putting a value on it?
Fortunately, the accountants do that for us. They base the value of the business on its turnover and profit over a set period of time. They also include the value of the stock, and they assess a figure for the business goodwill. Anyone who is looking to enjoy the advantageous tax arrangements here in Jersey can enjoy a lower rate of tax as island residents. It could be an incentive for an existing business owner who wants to move into a profitable business with a lower tax level.
Do you have a potential type of person you’d like to sell to? Does it need to be someone who is an enthusiast as you are?
Ideally, I would want someone who has a love of music and musical instruments like I have. I wouldn’t like to think it went to someone who simply bought a business on Jersey for the tax breaks, and didn’t care too much about what that business was. I am not looking to make a fortune from the sale of the business, but of course, I would love to see it carry on as an instrument retailer, because I think that’s a valuable asset for the island.
Are you going to continue to live on the island?
Yes, I am very happy here. I just want some more time to relax and do some travelling, which I love. As a business owner I am limited to a week or ten days, because any longer than that and the paperwork starts to build up, and this is not the sort of business where you can be absent for too long. I am looking forward to being able to go on holiday for maybe three or four weeks at a time, that will be nice.
Will it be hard to let go of the business?
Not at all. When Ray retired, he had been in the musical instrument retail business for over thirty years, and it was time for him to go. I think you know when the time is right to move on and do something else with your time, and that’s the time I have reached. I always wanted to own a musical instrument shop, and I have, and now it’s time to do something different. I would hate to hang around too long, so that it stopped being a pleasure and became a burden. I have reached that time in my life where I want to do something else apart from running a musical instrument business. I have had a wonderful time, but it’s time for someone else to step in and take it over now, with my blessing.
MIN is happy to introduce any prospective buyers to Jon or they can be contacted directly through information on their website.
Andy Hughes – MIN
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