The demise of Tower Records-Videos-Books was less the fault of Napster and other free online music services and more the result of excessive prices.
Tower Records announced last week it will close its doors for good May 6. The closing is due to a two-year sales slump that employees blame on the Internet, changing purchasing trends, the economy and Napster, an online file-sharing service that allows users to trade MP3 music files at no cost.
The California-based Tower owns and operates 183 stores worldwide, including 113 in the United States. The East Lansing store is the only location in Michigan until a new store is completed in Birmingham in the fall.
While its possible that Napster and similar services have resulted in a slight sales slump in the music industry, it is unlikely MP3s are a significant factor in Towers slowing sales. There are many factors, including the stores high prices, that contributed to the closing.
With its prime location on Grand River Avenue, Tower had the potential to be a very successful store. By offering a wide variety of music, including classical and jazz, a large selection of magazines and other miscellaneous items, the store was a perfect college-town business. Tower also offered Ticketmaster services and late hours on Monday nights to let music buyers get new releases as soon as they were released at midnight Tuesday.
But, all the genre variety, services, extra items and extended hours could do nothing to benefit the store where people cant afford to pay for anything. With a clientele of mostly college students, reasonable prices are a key part of keeping a business running.
It may be easy to blame factors like the economy and the Internet, but signs point toward high prices. Other music stores in the area are not going out of business and there are always people browsing the racks at Tower. It seems the store is suffering from the customers notion that if it can be purchased at another location, such as Target, Best Buy or Meijer - for a lower price - why buy music at Tower?
It is unfortunate the store is leaving. There are no other stores near campus that offer the selection of new music and merchandise Tower does. Its departure leaves East Lansing with no store offering a significant variety of new music or a Ticketmaster outlet.
This also raises concerns about what will move into the store. With a space that size in a location on Grand River Avenue, it is likely a large, national chain store could move in. A national store selling to a more generalized demographic could hurt the already changing college-town environment of East Lansing.
While there are many factors behind Towers slumping sales, it is most likely the stores high prices that contributed the most to its closing. Its unfortunate a business that offers so much for college students is leaving, but there is a limit to student spending regardless of convenience. Businesses must recognize this to stay alive.