Canadian

My Year End Predictions For Retail

With the death of Sears Canada, had become obvious that retail is changing way quicker than anticipated by economists.

Back in the 90’s, I suspected something was going on in the industry because one of the stores I had expected to have a future went under a few years after I had left the company.

Consumers Distributing was a chain of stores in Canada and the United States that operated with catalogs like Sears but dedicated only a small portion of their retail space to displays at all of their stores. And most of their merchandise could be found stacked on shelves the back of their outlets, which were brought forward by associates to the consumer, who chose their products from catalogs located in the retail space.

Had they survived into the 2000’s, I suspect they would have progressed from their six-digit catalog system, where people physically presented order slips to an order desk or called an order in using their credit cards, to a touchscreen system that simply gave consumers an order number. And I suspect Amazon would have simply purchased the company, automating the warehouse space further.

Unfortunately, the 212 store chain went under because Sears Canada had a foothold in the catalog market and it just could not survive both the recession of the time and Walmart’s expansion into the Canadian market. But I suspect Amazon may have a limited number of retail outlets that closely resemble Consumer’s Distributing stores in the future, where people could place orders and pick up purchases 24/7 from coded lockers.

Amazon Pickup Point locations already exist in Canada and the United States. And I believe they will likely expand these to Whole Foods locations, a chain that was recently purchased by Amazon.com, creating one stop shop locations in the major cities.

I’m personally hoping they’re going to convert my local Sears Home store here in Western Ottawa to a Whole Foods/Amazon outlet. But I doubt they will consider taking over that many Sears retail stores because the large department store format is pretty much dead.

Consumers are previewing merchandise online so retailers will not need to provide as many displays as they did before. And with 3D technology, I suspect people will scroll through merchandise on virtual reality headsets with customized 3D imagery before 2020.

Optometrist retailer sites already offer services in which people can place frames on their faces and all one would need to do in the very near future is to provide their measurements for virtual models, who would wear clothing for consumers to preview.

Norstrom currently offers a service where clothing is set aside for people to try out and I suspect other stores will offer this convenience shortly through their website, with the aforementioned virtual modeling. And I wouldn’t be surprised some stores would offer perks like high-end coffee and/or liquor through these services as well.

In regards to drones and self-driving vehicles, I don’t know if drones would be the best choice for our weather.

Not only does it get quite cold in most of Canada’s major cities during the winter, it also gets quite windy.

Those who have tried to take digital photographs in the cold here can attest to issues related to draining batteries and I’m sure that drones would be constantly slammed on the side of buildings and into trees by the wind in my suburb. We even get the occasional microburst here.

Self-driving vehicles are currently being tested in my community and I’m expecting pizza/food delivery to be the first service in my area to take advantage of this new technology. But I doubt I’ll be seeing drones delivering goods in my area before 2020, especially fragile items.

The Transport Canada regulations to fly drones are quite tight and I believe we are more likely to get deliveries from our grocery stores and pharmacies in normal vehicles for quite some time. Several of my local grocery stores have only recently started offering click and collect services.

I personally don’t see many advances in music retail either.

As you may or may not know, I had originally wanted to have a career in music retailing. But when the MP3 came along I knew stores would likely go online.

Vinyl sales will continue to expand slightly until higher resolution recordings become the norm and offer the depth of vinyl. And High Definition radio will eventually become the norm, requiring consumers to purchase equipment to listen to the higher resolution recordings, although most stations will likely continue to broadcast in FM and simply include high definition recording data on the same signal.

I don’t believe Canada will follow Norway’s example and go all digital because we haven’t gone all digital when it comes to television in the minor markets. And the government will probably want as much access to Canadians as possible for emergency and weather-related broadcasts so I won’t personally be purchasing an HD radio compatible device for some time.

Even if I wanted to purchase a receiver now they’re over $100 at the moment and there are only three of four HD radio stations in my city. It just isn’t a priority for most and will not likely be until well past 2020, although virtual reality multi-cam live concerts could be a “thing” soon.

4k cameras are getting incredibly compact and can be placed in multiple discrete locations at venues, enabling broadcasts to fans via the internet now. Mostly static front row, mezzanine, and other multiple angle shots but we can just imagine what they’ll be able to do soon with VR headsets. 360-degree 4k live shots of entire performances from the front row or stage, perhaps?

I don’t expect everything to happen next year but it’ll be quite interesting after 2020.

Canada Post & Vinyl LPs

It appears that Canada Post may have decided to classify record LPs as fragile items, in essence removing their liability as per their section 12.1.2 (c) of their General Terms and Conditions :

“Canada Post shall have no liability for damage of shipments containing Fragile Items. Fragile Items include but are not limited to ceramic, glass, porcelain, mirrors, crystal, pottery, china, perishable items or items requiring refrigeration or temperature-controlled transportation.”

I have personally never received broken LPs by mail, having last received a rape LP in the summer. But this causes me to be a bit nervous, although i’m sure most retailers will do their best to package vinyl correctly.

I guess I would suggest that you choose a courier other than Canada Post/Xpresspost or Purolator when shipping rare items that are fragile. The later also has a policy removing liability on fragile items and “Collectors’ items”.

Federal Express will insure collectible items up to $100 according to their policies (pdf) and UPS will require prior approval on these items. But shipments originating from the United States may have better coverage through these services so you might want to investigate your options when you order vinyl records and collectibles from abroad.

The Best of French Canadian/Quebecois

This month a Universal Music compilation celebrating Canada’s 150th was released. But unfortunately, it didn’t include one French song and many complained that it should at least include a few. This Spotify playlist includes the songs I would have considered had I compiled this CD set :

I’m sure I forgot a few but I’ll add them to the playlist later. Enjoy.

Canada Day – Recommended Reading

It’s Canada’s 150th and Montreal 375th anniversary this year so I thought I’d recommend some of my favorite Canadian music history books:

– “Oh What A Feeling – The Next Generation” by Martin Melhuish

Originally released in conjunction with a four-CD compilation to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Juno Awards, “Oh What A Feeling – A Vital History of Canadian Music” featured a year by year chronological account of Canada’s music history as well as information on the Juno Awards from 1971 to 1996.

“The Next Generation” is an updated version that was released in 2014, with additional information relating to upcomming artists, notable births and deaths, Hall Of Fame inductees and Juno Award Winners. Available from Amazon.ca / Amazon.com / Chapters-Indigo

– “Music From Far and Wide” – by multiple authors

This official Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences book was released in 2010 to celebrate the Juno Award’s 40th Aniversary and provides an in-depth history of the organisation and creation of the Juno Awards, with a list of Juno Award winners up to 2010 as well as a listing of Board of Directors from 1975 to 2010.

This book can be found at some local book stores, at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

– “Is This Live?” by Christopher Ward

As the Nation’s music station, Much Music had been the epicenter for music in Canada from the mid-1980’s to mid-1990’s. And this book by VJ and songwriter Christopher Ward not only discusses the history of the station but makes notes of many events that occurred at the infamous 899 Queen Street West.

This is a must for Canadian fans of 80’s music. Available from Amazon.ca / Amazon.com / Chapters-Indigo

– “Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia” by Jaimie Vernon

Originally released as the “Encyclopedia of Canadian Rock Pop & Folk Music” in 2004 by Rick Jackson, this artist by artist account of Canadian music history has now become a multiple volume compilation, the first two listing artists alphabetically from “A Thru K” and “L thru Z“, respectively, and a recent celebration of the country’s “Vinyl Years“.

Published in 2011, the first two volumes include information on specific artists (brief history and discography) up to 2010 whilst the third volume concentrates on artists whose vinyl releases were popular up to 1996. All three volumes are available from Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

– “Top 40 Hits” / “Top Albums” by Nanda Lwin

These reference guides list the chart activity of domestic and international artists in Canada up to 1999 for singles and 2003 for albums. These are of course a must for people who are interested in Canadian music history and altough they are out of print, you can still find “Top 40 Hits” at Alibrisicon, Amazon.ca and Amazon.com. And other chart information can be obtained from the RMP database on Library and Archives Canada and from a blog simply entitled “Canadian Music Blog“, which also contains a wealth of chart information including the best selling singles and albums by year and decade.

Ebay Asks Canadian Users To Sign Petition

Ebay is asking Canadian users to support their petition to raise the de minimis threshold from $20 on postal importations for personal use.

Most postal shipments imported into Canada for personal use valued at less than $20 in Canadian funds are exempt from taxes and duties. And although this amount was acceptable when it was adopted in the 80’s, many nations have adopted higher de minimis thresholds since.

The current de minimis thresholds for American residents is US$800 and when European Union residents import merchandise for personal use their de minimis threshold is €150. Considerable amounts compared to the Canadian rate.

In late 2016, a petition had been submitted to the Parliament and the government responded by saying it is assessing their options :

“The Government is working to facilitate trade and streamline administrative burdens, and has undertaken concrete actions to facilitate low value shipments. In 2013, as part of the Beyond the Border Initiative, Canada and the U.S. harmonized processes to expedite the customs administration of low value shipments and waived the requirement for a certificate of origin for such shipments to benefit from preferential tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, in 2011, three generic tariff classifications were introduced in the Customs Tariff to facilitate the processing of low value non-commercial imports arriving by post or by courier.”

Please consider signing this new petition by clicking here. Thank you.

Tales From Much Music

From August 31st, 1984 to the late 1990’s, Much Music was truly Canada’s Music Station.

In its heyday this 24 hour television channel featured music videos from both major and independent labels, interviews with both popular and new artists, and live performances from multiple genres. And it introduced Canadians to both domestic and foreign performers and songwriters, causing the relatively new Canadian music industry to flourish and gain international notoriety.

Written by songwriter and former VJ Christopher Ward, “Is This Live ?” chronicles this network’s early history through excerpts of interviews with former Much Music staff members, on air personalities and popular recording artists from that period.

Christopher Ward had been one of the first VJs on Much Music and was a regular host on the channel until the late 80’s, occasionally hosting programs on the channel though-out the early 90’s, so i’d say this book qualifies as being the most definitive account of the stations early history.

As an avid watcher, I had always been curious about some of the finer details that were not included in the newspaper and magazine articles I had read on Much Music and Musique Plus’ history. And I believe this book pretty much covers it all, with a few extras about some of the station’s most popular Canadian music videos.

I highly recommend this book. And yes, it is available in hardcover and in digital format from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, chapters.indigo.ca and iTunes Canada.