The Rise and Fall of the Sam Empire

The Rise and Fall of the Sam Empire

Sam Sneiderman and Son’s created one of the most successful and memorable Record chains in history. The loss of this iconic record shop had such an impact on its surrounding community that its closing was referred to as The Loss of An Era (Refer to video “Sam the Record Man Closes Doors”). In the 1960’s when Sam’s was built the purchase price of the lot was approximately 140 000 and over the years that value increased to an estimated 20 million by 2007. This value increase can be viewed as a parallel to the growing popularity of Sam’s which thrived in the Yonge and Dundas area for many years and for many reasons. One main contributing factor to its popularity was its immaculate selection and the way it connected the surrounding community to its need for great music at great prices (Refer to video “Sam the Record Man 1987″).

Sam’s in its prime was the place to be and people valued it for numerous reasons including a knowledgeable staff that could help “name that tune” and a music selection that ranged from mainstream to the rarest esoteric music around. Sam’s had many roles in the community that increased its value and later its nostalgic effect on the baby boomers generation. Some of these memorable roles played by Sam’s included being the number one “hang out” spot for music fans, a popular drop in location for many celebrities of the era, a place to buy popular concert tickets, and a widely valued source of promotion for the Canadian Music Industry. Sam’s contribution to the Canadian Music Industry has been described as an equal loss to the store closure itself.

At its peak in the 1980’s and 1990’s there were approximately 137 Sam’s stores in operation which at that time accounted for an estimated 15-20% of the National Retail record business. It was a loss of C.D sales that finally led to the closing of Sam’s, but there were other contributing factors. First of all we must consider the fact that a changing society means consumer trends in turn change, and this change leads to the loss of customers willing to spend money on material that is either obsolete or available elsewhere for free. This change in consumer trends was a large contributor to Sam’s and these changing trends can be attributed to several factors.  The top six contributors to Sam’s closure are as follows:  down-loadable material (readily available for cheap), Music Industry and Artists (not making enough good music worth spending more on), Increasing Technology (more options for entertainment), Irregular distribution margins (large corporate profits aren’t worth the money for consumers), Big Corporations (bigger stores with more options and lower prices), and finally its location (with growth came too much competition in close frequency). Another main contribution to the downfall of Sam’s empire was a lack of listening stations which allow consumers to test the product before purchase, which of course was a component of the majority of its competition. For example its main competitor HMV would allow its customers, alothough frowned upon by traditional record stores, to open a record and test it before actaully purchasing the product which pulled customers away from Sam’s traditional methhods.

Over its many years in business Sam the Record Man created more than just a record store where people came to buy music. What he created was a legend that will live on the hearts of loyal customers who associate Sam’s with fond memories of a time that has come and gone. Selling records was a big part of it because without valuable consumers Sam’s decades would never have come to be, thus there cannot be one without the other.

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About Ryerson On Yonge

A course in the Faculty of Arts, we have been studying the history of the neighbourhood around Yonge and Dundas, and Ryerson campus, in order to consider the social context and cultural importance of the new Student Learning Centre, which will occupy 341 through 355 Yonge Street. This blog is not an official Ryerson publication, and is a student-composed analysis of campus and its neighbourhood.
This entry was posted in Nostalgic for Sam: The Circulation of Consumption and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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