ONE YEAR ON: How a Wigan music store backed local musicians during lockdown

Michelle and David Bamford were determined to help their loyal customers even before the first lockdown was announced.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 10:17 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 10:49 am

Michelle and David Bamford were determined to help their loyal customers even before the first lockdown was announced.

Their business, Market Street’s Symphony Music, was one of the many “non-essential” outlets forced to close as part of the government’s first set of lockdown measures last March.

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Michelle and David Bamford owners of Symphony Music, Market Street, Wigan

Although, by the time the Prime Minister announced the nationwide restrictions on the evening of March 23, the couple had already taken it upon themselves to shut up shop.

But while they were lucky enough to qualify for Government support, they knew a lot of their loyal customers - among them scores of self-employed musicians - had been left to fend for themselves when pubs, clubs and performance venues were shuttered days before the full lockdown came about.

So the couple hatched a plan to support local performers, a scheme which generated such positive word of mouth that it helped their customer base grow during one of the toughest periods ever faced by small businesses.

Michelle said: “On the Monday morning, we’d opened as normal as we always did, with our customers coming in and out of the shop. We actually announced that day that it would be our last day of open door trading. We decided that, for our own peace of mind, we would only operate from behind closed doors from the Tuesday onwards.

Michelle and David Bamford owners of Symphony Music, Market Street, Wigan

"As it happened, we never did that because the lockdown was announced that evening. We’d taken the decision to support musicians ahead of that announcement.

“Everyone knew the lockdown was coming, so we took it upon ourselves, that this was what we were going to do.

"We didn’t know whether lockdown was going to be two weeks, a month, but we knew all the venues were shutting. No pubs were open, all the venues had shut. That was the catalyst for us, because our bread and butter customers were out of a job.”

Michelle and David pooled £1,000 of their own cash, and announced an initiative that would pay 20 artists £50 each to take to the web and perform gigs live from their homes, keeping the quarantined masses entertained.

The response from musicians was nothing short of overwhelming.

“We initially assumed we’d get around 20 people from around Wigan But it went crazy,” Michelle said.

“We had entertainers from London, from Wales. The first 10 that we spoke to, we put them straight in. But then we got so inundated that we had to draw names out of a hat.

"We probably could have done it five times over, if we could afford to!”

The Symphony team have managed to welcome customers back through their doors from time to time when non-essential shops were allowed to reopen under the Tier system. They have also adapted to trading online in the year since last March though it has not been without its difficulties.

Michelle explained: “We’ve been working online and doing click & collect. We’ve had a good website for quite a while. The biggest problem we’ve faced is stock. There was nothing in the market. So once we’d gone through our stock here, there was nothing else we could then easily get our hands on from manufacturers. It’s going to be a problem for everyone well into the summer.”

She went on: “We’ve weathered it. We’ve got some great, loyal customers. The music community is quite a nice group of people. They are the first ones to wave the flag for us, and after we announced those first 20 gigs, there were lots of people who made contact with us and said they’d tell everyone all about Symphony. You can’t buy that kind of word of mouth.”

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