Belfast Telegraph

Warning note is sounded after city music store shuts up shop

By Amanda Poole

One of Belfast’s longest established music shops has been forced to close in a move seen as another blow for a “threatened species”.

Marcus Music, based in Royal Avenue, closed down after more than 30 years in the business supplying instruments and other items to musicians.

A lack of trade and being unable to compete with internet sales is being blamed for the demise of the shop, whose owner realised it was facing tough times last year.

The Tughan Crane Music store in Fountain Street suffered a similar fate a few years ago and there are now just a handful of music stores in the city.

Marcus Music owner John McKernan said: “I’m a chartered accountant, not a musician, so it’s been great to be so heavily immersed in the musical community. It’s always been a very exciting type of environment to be in.

“The retail business has changed so much and last October was our first real indication of the tough times ahead. I’m disappointed for the customers, as an awful lot of musicians have supported us over the years. It’s a real loss to the Cathedral Quarter’s bohemian vibe.”

Oh Yeah music centre chief executive Stuart Bailie said: “Marcus going is another sign of the precarious times we are in. Music shops are a threatened species, as are venues, unfortunately.

“Another part of the Belfast music story is gone. News of the closure is very sad. Marcus were very good to us, donating sound systems and equipment to help us out.

“Lots of music businesses seem to have gone online, but I still love the idea of people buying their first guitar or other instruments from a music shop. To take that away is a real loss. There needs to be more investment in the art and music scene.”

Grammy award nominee Joe Echo, real name Ciaran Gribbin, said: “I’m very sad to hear about Marcus closing as I’ve been a customer for years. It was a real hub for musicians to hang out and I would always bump into other musicians when I was in.

“It was staffed by a lot of professional musicians, such as Gordon McAllister, who you could ask questions of and they really know their stuff.

“Marcus always supported up-and-coming bands and when I first started out as a songwriter they were of great support to me.”

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: “Belfast city centre needs to have a mixture of niche, independent and multiple retailers. We’ve lost a genuine strong independent who offered something different from the big chains.”

Donald McFetridge, retail expert from the University of Ulster, said: “The closure is symptomatic of the times. This autumn and winter will herald a spate of closures of small businesses which have been struggling to keep their doors open for a long time.

“There's a lesson here for consumers too I feel: shop local, support local and remember you can trust local. It's no good complaining when the shutters are up and the chips are down.”

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