What should a shop sound like? Do you like to shop in silence, or do you prefer to have a soundtrack? Mrs. Shopkeeper is aware that her fondness for metal and trance is hardly concomitant with a soothing retail aural environment, and Mr. Shopkeeper’s choice of Ace of Base and the Bangles is beyond the pale, but is playing low-volume pan-pipes or Richard Clayderman muzack the answer?
All shops do of course play their own innate soundtrack, gurgling away twenty four hours a day, whether it be the swish of changing room curtains in the breeze, or the whir of fridge motors, or the clink and chunk of auto-spares being moved around. The sound of the door opening and closing, the jingle of the till, the beep of PDQ machines, the purr and whir of aircon or heating, the buzz of overhead lighting: these are noises with which all shopkeepers will be familiar. At the end of a long day, when the sound system goes off, this shop symphony is music to the ears of the trader, offering a moment of almost-quiet. And at the beginning of the day, as the shopkeeper turns the key in the lock, he will know immediately if there is something wrong with his establishment if its sounds are off-kilter of out of synch.
But unless stores are either farm shops, wherein it almost seems an afront to nature to pump up the volume, or very busy, wherein the hubba-buzz is all you need, this bumbling semi-silence is not a particularly conducive atmosphere in which to shop. So we need some music.
But should it be upbeat, tap-your-toe-while-you-browse stuff, or mellow, let’s-take-the-stress-out-of-shopping stuff? Should it be by an obscure artist, indicating that the shopkeeper is a man of the world with eclectic tastes, or by an number one best seller, indicating that Mr. S. is an approachable man of the people? Should it be real background noise, or an essential part of the shopping experience? See – it’s not as easy as you might think.
We don’t pretend to have the answers to this retail conundrum. A well-thought out compilation is probably the best solution, although if the same songs are played in the same order every day, the staff could become quite twitchy. Supermarket muzack is, let’s face it, diabolical. Small shops are less likely to generate trolley rage or trouble at t’check outs, and so they can be more adventurous with their soundtracks. You tell us: what do you want to hear more of in your corner shop? You’d better let us know, otherwise Mrs. S. will be at it again with her air guitar CD….