Vinyl spindown: the record craze is fading, at least at Best Buy

3 weeks ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Facts, News, Trends

It's no secret that vinyl had its renaissance in the 21st century. According to Nielsen Music, 14.32 million vinyl albums were sold in 2017 — up from 13.1 million in 2016 — marking 12 years of growth in vinyl sales. Right now, consumers can buy records at Urban Outfitters, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, hundreds of independent record stores, and consumer electronics leader Best Buy.

According to sales rank data at Best Buy ($NYSE:BBY), however, vinyl albums appear to be steadily fading out over time. We took the average sales-rank of 22,888 individual record UPCs at Best Buy over time, and, despite the occasional jump in rank (we'll get to that), vinyl sales are slipping overall.

Christmas surge

Last holiday season, vinyl saw a large surge in average Best Buy sales rank, jumping from a rank of 81.5K in November 2017 to 57.1K among all Best Buy UPCs on Christmas Day. It's pretty easy to guess where this sales spike came from: vinyl aficionados being gifted records. Because Best Buy is a popular shopping destination during the holidays, it makes a lot of sense that people would grab a record for their vinyl-loving loved ones.

On that day, the top-ranking record sold at Best Buy was The Beatle's Abbey Road followed by the movie soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy:

Name

Category Rank

Price

Abbey Road [LP] - VINYL

5438

20.99

Guardians of the Galaxy [Songs and Original Score] [LP] - VINYL

5695

23.99

Legend [180 Gram Vinyl] [LP] - VINYL

5977

23.99

Dark Side of the Moon [LP] - VINYL

6034

29.99

Purple Rain [Paisley Park Remaster] [LP] - VINYL

6232

23.99

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 2 [LP] - VINYL

6914

26.99

DAMN. [2 LP] [LP] - VINYL

7200

29.99

Journey's Greatest Hits [Bonus LP Version] [LP] - VINYL

7229

33.99

21 [LP] - VINYL

7231

18.99

Chronicle, Vol. 1 [LP] - VINYL

7247

23.99

But after the holidays of 2017, average sales ranks for vinyl slipped to levels even lower than all of 2016.

Deconstructing the slowdown

Are vinyl bandwagoners over the novelty of the physical record? Are they turning back to superconvenient and economical Spotify ($NYSE: SPOT)? It's certainly possible, as numbers at those digital streaming services continue to soar.

Numerous factors could be at play here: first, these numbers are only for Best Buy, a consumer-electronics retailer that isn't exactly known as a source for vinyl. The store's stock is often limited to mainstream artists, and many record buyers prefer to do their shopping either at independent record shops, via used-record swaps, or via Amazon where they can buy in bulk and often get discounts on various releases. In other words, Best Buy is a relatively thin slice of the record-buying pie, but there's clearly a sales-rank slide at play here.

Such a slip could be due to available inventory over time. It would be hard to sell a lot of records if there were none available, for instance. Likewise, it would be more likely that people would buy various records if a healthy selection was on hand.

Indeed, Best Buy saw a massive jump in the number of records charting in its sales ranks right around when they saw their average sales rank rise. After the holidays, the number of records on hand remained relatively even, and even up a bit in the past month. Given that flat path, it's hard to explain the apparent slide in sales rank data as inventory appears to remain healthy.

What we do see here, at least based on the data, is a holiday-season-focused approach to record sales and marketing at Best Buy. As the holiday season approaches, it seems the consumer electronics giant doubles down on vinyl inventory and promotion and then lets it linger the rest of the year.

It's also possible that this could all be due to the very nature of Best Buy itself as a more consumer-level store. As vinyl enthusiasts get their feet wet, it's likely that they graduate to other stores with deeper selections. Indeed, Best Buy's top-10 ranking records of all time reads a lot like a vinyl starter kit:

Name

Category Rank (Average)

Greatest Hits [2 LP] [LP] - VINYL

9,935.14

Legend [180 Gram Vinyl] [LP] - VINYL

10,097.88

A Celebration of Guilt [LP] [7inch Vinyl Disc] - VINYL

10,124.00

Guardians of the Galaxy: Deluxe [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] [LP] - VINYL

10,824.18

Popestar (EP) - VINYL

11,163.50

Dark Side of the Moon [LP] - VINYL

11,318.97

DAMN. [2 LP] [LP] - VINYL

11,523.12

Abbey Road [LP] - VINYL

12,484.82

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 2 [Deluxe Edition] [2 LP] [LP] - VINYL

12,607.31

Dale Crover [LP] - VINYL

12,672.00

Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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