Cob Records 1967 - a back-room side-line! 

Cob Records today - an institution!

The rise to international fame of Cob Records, Porthmadog began very inauspiciously in 1967 by selling ex-juke box singles at 1/6d. (7p) each as a back-room side-line in conjunction with an existing Cob business. It soon became apparent that there was a demand for current LPs and Singles as there was no record shop in the area. Accounts were then opened with all the record companies and the whole basement of the existing business was fitted out as a record shop. Although LPs were only 32/6d. (1.62) in those days they were still not affordable to many, so we offered a service of "any 3 of your old LPs for any 1 new of ours" and before long we had a large selection of used LPs along with our new stocks. We still operate a similar service, but in today's more complex market we now offer a part exchange price against the new items required; alternatively, we buy unwanted items for cash.

It was then decided to advertise internationally offering new LPs at discount prices and also our part-exchange service. This proved to be such a success that we closed down the other business and concentrated solely on the record business, moving up from the basement to acquire more space, to where we still are now all these years later. By 1971 business was booming - we were mailing on average about 7,500 LPs per week to some 25,000 customers (many of whom are still dealing with us) in over 50 countries world-wide employing about 25 staff members. Shortage of space again became a problem, so we bought and custom fitted out a warehouse directly opposite and moved in the whole mail-order operation separating it from the shop sales. The bulk of mail-order sales were, and still are, to private individuals. Some exceptions we can remember, in particular, sending three orders of 1,000's worth each of cassettes to a store in Port Stanley for the troops during the Falklands War.

The fact that such a relatively small record shop in a small town like Porthmadog was exporting in such volume to countries world-wide attracted so much media attention that many documentaries featuring the business were made for local and national television and radio.

In the 70s and 80s the bulk of our trade was done by mail-order. We were probably very fortunate in establishing the mail -order business - especially the export side - at the right time, when we could supply LPs to most countries weeks and sometimes months before they were released abroad; nowadays there is a near enough universal release date. The prices, quality and availability of U.K. product was also an advantage - today, this is not all necessarily the case especially with the disadvantage of having a strong pound. We also lost a great deal of business in the former Yugoslavia, where we had some 5,000 customers, with the events leading up to the conflict and the conflict itself. We were also adversely affected by new European customs regulations when the U.K. joined the E.C. Mail-order sales inland are also more difficult nowadays, with so many multiples and record clubs, most of them not being in existence when we were in our heyday; neither do food store multiples selling CDs do ourselves nor indeed other bone fide record shops any favours. But through thick and thin our mail-order trade is still operational, albeit on a smaller scale. Gone are the days when we were placing orders for 500 copies of the latest LP by Led Zeppelin, Stones, Moody Blues, Santana and the likes - but we are fortunate to have memories of the good old days of the mail-order era. Our main direct mail-order sales today are for items not necessarily "in the charts" which many stores do not stock and have no desire to order for customers. We also put more emphasis on our part-exchange service and the purchasing of unwanted CDs, LPs, Tapes and Videos from the public. We are very particular with the quality of unwanted items we accept, but we can sell our second hand items with confidence and our customers can buy with the confidence that the product is in pristine condition.

Our retail outlet caters for the more mature customer; although we stock all top selling new releases and quality back catalogue material, the larger proportion of our sales is for second-hand titles on CD, LP and Tape with particular demand for 60s, 70's and early 80s material. We always have in stock about 15,000 quality guaranteed second hand titles to suit most tastes and stock from rock through to classical, but not giving too much prominence to dance orientated material. Although we do not stock chart singles, we have a large second hand selection of 7" oldies.

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Videos, Tapes and Classical LPs

Our regular customers travel from near and far to visit us - we often have visits from continental specialist buyers who make the long journey to purchase LPs -mainly rarities in the 25 - 50 bracket. Due to our large volume of stocks we are very dependant on the tourist trade, since Porthmadog has only a small population. We constantly have holiday makers calling in telling us that they can remember the first LP they ever bought from us by mail-order some 25 years ago, which then leads on to reminiscing about the good old days! Regular tourists to the area always make their annual pilgrimage and normally leave with a bag-full or two of purchases - some predicting the usual grief from their partners for spending too much money and holiday time with us!

First time callers are often aghast at seeing such a large selection of stock on display - the usual comments are "there's nothing like this where we come from" or "where do you get all these LPs from?". Customers who come on recommendation will say "I've been told that if you can't get it for me nobody can"; normally we can walk to a rack and to their complete amazement quite nonchalantly produce this elusive item which they have been searching for for years all over the place. If a CD item is not in stock, we offer to order it - even on import if not available in the U.K., and mail it on if inconvenient to call - going by their reactions a service which appears to have been non-existent where-ever else they've enquired. Elusive LPs or deleted CDs (within reason) not in the racks can be logged on our wants file - we manage to get most of them sooner or later.

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With the advent of the new millennium we decided to mark the occasion by installing a couple of computers. New to us, having been a no-frills operation for some 35 years, websites and e-mails were a leap into the unknown - but we got used to it!

To be recognised as a good record shop, the main ingredient has to be knowledgeable staff, followed by carrying quality stocks and without the former you don't have the latter; we assume that we have them both. None of our staff are allowed on the sales counters before they have gained sufficient experience of stocks by opening parcels, checking product, shelf stacking etc. We have a varying age group of staff - 20, 30, 40, and 50 years olds - between us all we have a wealth of knowledge. 40 and 50 year olds may not be the norm in usual record shops, but we are not your usual record shop - we are Cob Records - we are an institution!

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Do you have any interesting memories of trading with Cob in the past? - tell us about it!