Maintaining a record store – and a thriving one at that — in an increasingly digital world may not seem like a feasible task. But for Zia Record Exchange, it is, and it’s even preparing for its 30th anniversary celebration with the opening of its ninth and largest Arizona location.
It all began with one record collection and a small storefront, and founder Brad Singer’s mission and vision for the business was simple: to showcase and connect with the local music scene, putting the community first. And this hasn’t changed, even after 30 years.
“What we sell is more personal in nature than other retailers,” says Brian Faber, vice president and general manager of Zia Record Exchange. “We’re actually in our communities; we do charitable things, and we test local bands. I think when we look over our history, we’ve been our best when we’ve connected with the local community.”
It’s this attitude and way of business that have kept Zia going – especially in a world where media formats change constantly and digital copies of music, movies and books have become increasingly popular.
“In the face of things we can’t control, you make sure that you find and have relationships with customers through real conversations with social media,” Faber says. “That’s the approach we’re always taking — making sure we listen to what our customers want from us so that down the road, if customers want to consume something different, I fully believe that we’ll be there to sell it new and used for them.”
Through surveying and listening to its customers, Zia has recently expanded its repertoire with a different form of media: a new-and-used books section, for which an overwhelming number of patrons have requested.
“If you’re changing with your customers, they’ll stay with you for a long time,” Faber says. “From a local business perspective, you can’t be afraid of change.”
Since day one, Zia has set itself apart from the rest by offering two services that have been the cornerstone of the company — used products and trades, with a “buy, sell, trade” mentality, of all media types.
“It’s been our ability to offer all forms of media that has given us our longevity,” Faber says. “It’s that ability to give people the opportunity to exchange their music that has been the core of our business.”
With Zia’s exchange program, customers can bring in items to trade for cash or credit, while also receiving points for future additional discounts – Zia’s way of thanking their customers.
“The key elements in our strategy is making sure there’s always value, the customers feel rewarded, we continue to offer products at a good price, and that they’ll keep coming back,” Faber says.
While digital copies of music, movies and books may seemingly be making physical media ownership obsolete, Faber says he believes that, in all of us, physical ownership is still important.
“Digital media is great; it’s convenient,” Faber says. “But it’s also a little more transitory; it’s not real ownership. We’ve always believed there’s always going to be a core, active, second society that still defines themselves through things they own, the things they do, experiences they have. And that’s where Zia can fit in.”
Zia Record Exchange is now Arizona and Nevada’s largest independent entertainment retailer with a total of 10 store locations — two in Las Vegas, four in Tucson, four in Phoenix, and one more on the way.