"The Oldest Record Shop in the World" - Spillers Records! 1

“The Oldest Record Shop in the World” – Spillers Records!

Cardiff’s ‘oldest record shop in the world’ Spillers is a hub of local and national music releases, celebrated in song and by some of its famous customers(in particular The Manic Street Preachers) Spillers’ logo is emblazoned on the t-shirts of its customers across the world… In its Hayes location, it became an institution the quirky presentation of CD’s in cardboard sleeves, its band notice board, friendly knowledgeable staff and a selection of stock in its hallowed back room engendered an affection for this traditional record shop. As a teenager Spillers seemed like a treasure trove of musical discovery, I would spend literally hours each week flicking through the cardboard sleeves looking for the releases missing from my collection, and stuck to the latest release listening posts.

Perhaps controversially in 2010 due to higher rates, online competition and a new shopping centre development, Spillers decided to move, restyling itself as a quirky boutique store in the middle of Cardiff’s Morgan Arcade. To celebrate Record Store Day tomorrow, we spoke to shop owner Ashli Todd who took the helm of Spillers from her father, for a rummage around the history and present-day work of Spillers Records….

1. What do you have planned for record store day, anything particularly special?

This year, as always, we have DJ sets throughout the day. Our friends and regulars provide these. DJ Rascal will be upping energy levels with electronic floor fillers, Lesbian Horse promises sampled soundscapes while Liam Curtin veers towards classic indie and reggae and David Malys wins the prize for travelling the furthest to bring the hits! In between all of that we some fantastic live acts. Sweet Baboo is kicking off the day, which couldn’t be more appropriate to the true meaning of RSD. We’ve been selling Sweet Baboo’s music (& watching him live!) for years and years so it’s great to have him in to celebrate his own RSD release in store! Local skiffle legends, Rail Road Bill will be providing an injection of energy in to the day at lunchtime and to finish off we have our best recent find on the local scene, The Bones Of Saint James.

The Spillers Record Player also launches on RSD. Our vinyl sales have been on a steep increase for the past thirteen years and our most asked-for question is where to buy a deck. There’s no doubt RSD has played a big part in the growing popularity of vinyl so it seems the perfect time to release our extremely limited (and absolutely gorgeous!) deck.


2. How long have you been working in the store?
It’s sixteen years now.

3. What was the first record you sold?
I can no more answer that than I could tell you the first record I bought! I can however tell you that my first gig was a Bowie one, a few weeks old in ’83.

4. Was working in a record shop a dream job?
Not sure it’s everyone’s dream job, it’s challenging, fulfilling but most importantly, rewarding. It’s also nothing like how people who want to run / own / work in a record shop fantasize about it being.

5. Why do you think RSD is important?
The manifesto that RSD outlined when it was first conceived is very important to the potential success of independent record shops. People returning to support the shops and ideals involved is also integral.

6. How do you decide what to get in from the RSD list?
Each year the list of releases gets longer and longer (despite all shops I’ve come across actually feeding back to the distributors that this is an issue) so the selection process has gotten more agonizing with each year. In essence, our motto is that if you don’t see it in our shop on the other 364 days of the year, then don’t expect it to be there for RSD. By the same token (and this does apply to most releases), if we would stock it at any other time of year then rest assured that we’ll stock it for RSD. This year, with the list growing from 300 titles in 2012 to 500 (thereabouts) in 2013, I’ve had to really agonize over the list. All the stock is firm sale; we don’t get to return any “duds” so RSD is high risk for shops, more so with every additional title that’s added each year. I’ll never not agonize over the selection process of orders as doing so has worked well thus far.

7. How long has the store been open?
Spillers has existed since 1894. Back then we were in the Queen’s Arcade (now demolished), in the ‘40s we moved to The Hayes and in 2010 the shop found its third home around the corner in The Morgan Arcade.
8. How many staff work there?
Six of us keep the shop going.

9. What do you stock?
Everything has a fair shot at getting in the racks as long as it’s good. It’s probably easier to say that we don’t stock any (traditional) classical music (unless it’s Welsh!) and that some genres of Dance music are much better serviced by our friends in Cardiff’s local independent dance specialist Catapult Records.

10. Do you get to know the customers who come into the shop, and does sharing new releases with them make it worthwhile?

God, if it wasn’t for the sharing I think I’d stay in bed. It’s not just us sharing with customers, we get some good recommendations from them too mind.
spillers records
11. Do you think Record Stores can act as a hub for a musical community?
I think they always have and that if they were to demise further then the hole they would leave would be obvious.

13. What would you say is the store’s best-seller?
The most consistent seller of the last {CHECK M BAG OF THIS CD} has been Cardiff After Dark by The Hennesseys (a local group). This year’s big hitters have been from Nick Cave, Richard Thompson, Bowie, Yo La Tengo and Bring Me The Horizon.

14. What is your favourite moment from the store’s history?
How do you pick one! Every day provides its own nuggets of joy and entertainment in this place! From the look on your customer’s faces when they spot Robert Plant browsing the racks next to them to regular marriage proposals from a local “character” and then of course there are many tales involving (local bin-percussion master), Ninja!

18. What local bands would you like to tip/plug at the moment?

At the moment I’m head over heels with a band called The Bones Of Saint James. It started when the singer bought the CD in to sell here. It has a picture of a cat on the front (which pretty much guarantees to get my interest every time). Their catchy indie-anti-folk (charming love songs in the most pure and simple sense) got them a set at an all-dayer we chose bands for a local venue Gwdi Hw and then we invited them to celebrate RSD with us. Zinc Bukowski are another band we’re all digging here too (heavy and dirge-sludge sounds).

19. Which RSD releases are you looking forward to getting your hands on?
I can’t say I’m really excited about regular 7” releases with “exclusive RSD tracks” (otherwise known as a B side 51 other weeks of the year?!) buuuut there are some great releases in “the spirit” of RSD. Steve Malkmus covering Can’s Ege Bamyasi ticks a lot of boxes for me, as does Earache Label’s The World’s Shortest Album (clocking in at under 90 seconds). I think Joy Formidable’s A Minutes Silence 12” should do well, obviously, there’s the Welsh connection but the record also features a Bruce Springsteen cover.

20. What is it about Spillers that nurtures such devotion, I’ve seen people posting their Spillers Tshirt snaps from across the world?!
We had to start making a Spillers calendar as a way to collate these pictures as we were being sent so many of them! The centrepiece of the calendar is the “dysfunctional school photo” where we invite people to stand on the National Museum steps for a group Spillers T-shirt shot. We are never guaranteed good weather (but have had it) or for people to join us (but they do!). We are, put simply, providers of pleasure. People come in for a record and music is there to give joy to the listener. With the long history, Spillers has invariably been an interface to that experience for many folks, and those who still get something from the whole “real life” experience of music buying still hold us dear.

21. Why does Spillers display its CDs as cardboard sleeves, is it as I tell visitors a space thing or just a charming quirk?

The system we have is different but for starters we’ve never had issues with theft, no one gets a damaged case / dog-eared LP sleeve and we can always find our stock (because it’s behind the counter, not misfiled in the Jazz section). What I find weirder is that the old shop system was CDs displayed on 7” size sleeves (which took up even more space in the “old” shop wooden racks). Since making the CD size display sleeves we can fit even more stock in the racks (say 5 display sleeves for every ‘real’ CD case), so yes, maximising the space is a factor.

12. How has the recession affected your business?
15. What effect do you think the advent of digital files/ streaming etc has had on your store?
16. What effect do you think the closure of the big boys (HMV, Virgin etc) will have on independents like yours?
17. What do you see as the future of Record Stores?
22. How has the move to the Morgan Arcade affected Spillers both positively and negatively?
23. When Spillers was threatened with closure was it heartening that your customers rallied around?

It feels like the whole of the high street is suffering the same Ills that record shops faced with the birth of a certain online giant fifteen years ago. The effect of that was the loss of many independent record shops across the country as well as the loss of established chains like MVC, Boarders, Virgin etc. More and more since then, the high street has become the browsing catalogue of the internet and this is something that needs to be taken in to serious consideration (from landlords and those that set business rates) if the high street as we know it is to survive. In our own microcosm, the effects weren’t so clear to pinpoint as at the same time as aforementioned “online giant” was increasing its grip on consumers we were operating the shop on a building site, in a no-go zone (the four-year time period between David Morgan on the Hayes shutting its doors in 2005 and the opening of St David’s 2 in 2009). When people ask about the effect of moving the shop I can only look at it as a positive move and the only way we could continue the business as to stay on The Hayes would have meant a four-fold rent increase. The maths just didn’t add up so off we shuffled to a location surrounded by other independent shops in the Morgan Arcade. We’re not supposed to be rubbing shoulders with Jamie Oliver and H&M, that’s just not where you expect to find a shop like ours so there’s no love lost, it’s just how these things go!
24. What was your favourite instore performance in Spillers?!
The most poignant set we had was James Dean Bradfield playing at our shop when we were still on The Hayes. The future of Spillers was at that time very much up in the air and with that uncertainly hanging over us it was moving to have one of our biggest champions and heroes singing in the shop.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.