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Sound Centre Newport

Dealer of the Month

Sound Centre, Newport (Monmouthshire), where Welshing on a deal has a different meaning.

Roger Jenkins

"One of the most important things, as far as a musical instrument shop is concerned, is personal contact with the customers. You've got to be aware of what they need." — Roger Jenkins, the man with his finger on the pulse of the South Wales music scene. Roger's story began twelve years ago when he decided to give up playing drums in a local group and open a music shop in Queens Street, Tredegar. Going under the name of The Sound Centre, the shop's trade flourished and, two years later, Roger opened a new Sound Centre in Taff Street, Pontypridd. Success followed success and, some three years later, yet another Sound Centre appeared in the capital city of Cardiff, in St. John's Square. This brings us up to date with the opening last month of the latest Sound Centre in Commercial Street, Newport, Monmouthshire.

It's a large, three-story building situated right in the centre of Newport and managed by Derek Morgan, himself an accomplished musician well-versed in brass and woodwind instruments. With plush carpeting and wood-panelled walls, the decor is, to say the least, impressive. "The ground floor is the showroom, the second floor will be for teaching, and the third will be our offices and administration, which is at present in Cardiff," explained Roger. The ground floor houses an impressive line-up of stock including Hayman, Slingerland, Olympic, Rogers and Pearl drum kits, Fender, Gibson and Rickenbacker guitars and no less than eight synthesizers. There is also an organ demonstration room at the rear of the ground floor, which boasts keyboards by Haven, Lowrey, Farfisa and Roland among others.

There is also an extensive range of sheet music in stock, ranging from Jim Reeves to Yes. "We do a good trade in sheet music," Roger mused, "Probably because there are a lot of cabaret and club acts around here. Actually, the heavy rock scene is pretty grim locally. It's mainly trios, dance bands and solo performers."

On the subject of live music, Roger feels that the emergence of D.J.'s caused a major disruption. "About five years ago, D.J.'s came along and hammered live entertainment. They got popular because they played what people wanted to hear, but I think the trend is turning back to live music now. The D.J.'s just didn't progress and expand along with the business. What you've got to remember is that the business is dictated by trends. Like the Hammond organ boom in the 'sixties: all of a sudden, everyone wanted a Hammond organ because the trend was there. But I think that live music is definitely on the up and up again now, which is good for everyone in the business."

Roger caters for everyone, from the beginner to the professional. "We try to cover what people want. You've got to realise that, in the business, people start off not being able to play, so we stock student guitars and Stylophones at one end of the scale, and Les Paul Signatures and maple-necked Strats at the other end. If you want to be in the business for any length of time, then you have to diversify. There's a lot more to music than six strings on a guitar.

"The floor space is the selling area, so we're prepared to collect a lot of stock," Roger continued. "It's no good looking at catalogues. You've got to have the stock to back it up. Customers need to see what they're getting. I don't think there are many people who shop from catalogues any more."

H/H amplification is very popular at the Sound Centre, and Roger has an extensive range. "They are probably our best selling line at the moment. It's another trend in a way. They came along at the right time with the right shape and specification, and were big enough to back it up financially. There's better stuff on the market, but at about three times the price." Roger formed an import company four years ago called Sound Imports to bring in specialised equipment from abroad, so if anyone wanted a one-off job like a left-handed Rickenbacker Stereo Bass, it could be obtained quite easily.

Customer contact is essential as far as Roger is concerned, and most of his staff are working, semi-pro musicians. His day doesn't end at five-thirty, as he often goes out to see various acts around the clubs. "I'm prepared to work if customers have a problem. Sometimes I go along and just basically give advice on different systems. I like keeping my eye on the acts. It's good policy — they like it and I like it. Sometimes, if a customer phones in to say he's travelling down to the shop, we will keep the shop open for him. That's what I mean about personal contact — we've got some customers who have been with us for ten years.

"You see, in relation to things like cigarette companies, airlines and things like that, the music business is very small. You have to keep an eye on what's going on. That's what people don't often realise. It's small and very specialised."

Although Roger deals with all types of musicians, his personal preferences are towards popular music as opposed to "pop" music. "I like people lik Simon and Garfunkel. Basically, just good music. I don't really go in for this heavy, funky stuff."

In keeping with Roger's policy of catering for everyone, the Cardiff shop has school instrument hire facilities. "That's doing particularly well," Roger explained. "They hire an instrument for thirteen weeks to decide whether they will stick with it or not. In fact, we did over 600 hires in September." The Cardiff Sound Centre also has a large workshop for repairs and instrument hire. "It's a very good workshop. We do a lot of club installation work from there, as well as repairs.

The thing is we don't discount like a lot of other shops. We concentrate on good service rather than offering all sorts of discounts, because you can't effectively do both. To us, service is of primary importance."

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International Musician - Dec 1975

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