Record shops revival plays on in city centre

Joe Blanchard who has opened Bear Tree Records in Orchard Square as vinyl makes a comeback'Picture Dean Atkins
Joe Blanchard who has opened Bear Tree Records in Orchard Square as vinyl makes a comeback'Picture Dean Atkins
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Vinyl’s resurgence is picking up pace in Sheffield as the latest new record shop opens in the city centre.

Bear Tree Records has made its home in one of the upstairs craft workshops in Orchard Square, and represents another sign of the format’s comeback, with sales of traditional vinyl LPs predicted to have risen again this year.

Owner Joe Blanchard is focusing on new and second-hand releases from a broad range of genres, and aims to offer a personal touch - all of the records will have a descriptive note attached written by Joe.

Last year, there were 1.2 million vinyl records sold in the UK, the highest number in over 20 years and a figure expected to be surpassed in 2015.

The trend is being partly driven by younger consumers drawn to collecting physical music rather than downloading or streaming tracks.

Joe said: “I think people have realised the experience of listening to a record is a great thing - having that sleeve in your hands, reading the liner notes, and spending time to properly listen to music and experience the record as a whole with its packaging.”

Joe learned his trade at record shops in Nottingham and Sheffield - including the now-closed Jacks Records off Division Street, his own short-lived store in The Forum and Record Collector in Broomhill - before setting up Bear Tree Records. He also founded the label Blackest Rainbow, which releases up to six LPs each year.

“I’ve spent a lot of time wanting to go back to having my own place again,” said Joe.

“It’s pretty tough finding affordable spaces in the city centre, but I finally came across the unit we are in now, which is perfect.”

Bear Tree is vinyl-only - plus the odd cassette - and nestled among the racks are albums by artists ranging from the Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles and John Coltrane, to Stevie Wonder, Max Richter and Electric Wizard.

Standard genres such as indie, classic rock, jazz and reggae are catered for, along with more leftfield fare including ambient, psychedelia, death metal and techno.

“We’re mainly focussed on new releases and reissues, but we do carry some secondhand. I’m pretty selective about what we take. The condition needs to be nice and it needs to be something interesting,” said Joe.

“The shop’s aim is to be simple, clean and an inviting area for people to come and discover something new and exciting - or old and exciting - that they’re not familiar with.

“Everything is graded or marked as new, and with some information about what the record is. This is something I like to see in shops, and a lot of people have really liked it.”

Joe said the response from customers so far has been ‘great’. “I think people want to see that someone cares about what they are trying to do, and I genuinely do. I want people in Sheffield to be able to come in, hang out, not feel pressured or have that classic ‘record shop guy’ attitude that I think puts people off. If it goes well perhaps we can look at expanding somehow.”

Bear Tree Records is holding a Black Friday event tomorrow in association with Record Store Day. Stock will include coloured vinyl reissues by Gang of Four, Buzzocks and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Visit for details.