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This was the same shop that once housed booksellers Marks & Co who were made famous in the book 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Covent Garden Records closed sometime in the early to mid 1990's
I bought a Marantz CD 75 from here but I really wanted a CD 94 but was far too expensive , after a while I spoke to the owner and they upgraded my CD 75 to as close as it could be to the CD 94 .which I still use today with my Quad 405/44 and KEF 104/2 speakers.
Very interesting History. Comment:Christopher Avery.

(Oct 13, 2013) Anonymous said:I used to work here!

(July 11, 2012) David Wharton said:Covent Garden Records closed on March 23rd 1995 having started life in Covent Garden (selling classical vinyl) by it's owner Howard Woo who was the owner until it's close. Specialists in Classical music CD's although sold/bought second hand CD's of every genre. Also sold audio and video equipement in the basement and championed Compact Disc, DAT, DCC, Minisisc and also LaserDisc. I worked in the Charing Cross Road shop from 1988 until it's close.

(September 2, 2015) I worked at Covent Garden Records towards the end on the 80s. There is a contemporaneous article about it here below.
I still have (and use) the CD player and Arcam Alpha amp that I bought there, plus a load of Classical CDs, of course. A lot of interesting people came into the shop, both famous and not so famous, plus, of course, the obligatory American tourists on a Helene Hanff pilgrimage - either that or wanting to know where Lays Mizz-er-abbles was. (It had just opened, I think, opposite.)
Comment: Rachel Firth

Only' Shop Is A Hit In London
March 29, 1986|ROBERT HILBUrn
LONDON — From the commotion outside the record shop at 84 Charing Cross Road last Saturday morning, you'd have thought some hot pop attraction was making a guest appearance.

Couples with cameras posed in front of the door, while other people waited impatiently to get inside. The people, mostly in their 30s, appeared too conservative to be waiting for Sigue Sigue Sputnick, the latest rock (out)rage here--but you could imagine them shrieking at the sight of, say, Sade.

In truth, the couples with cameras were tourists, attracted more by the building itself than its contents. The address for years was the home of Marks & Co., a secondhand book shop celebrated in a work by Helene Hanff, an American who has written several children's books and contributed articles to such magazines as the New Yorker and Harper's.
Her book, "84 Charing Cross Road," is what led the tourists here. It's a collection of letters between Hanff and the Marks staff--a correspondence that began in 1949 with Hanff's inquiries about rare books but expanded over the course of two decades into a series of warm, even loving exchanges. It has been made into a play--now running at the Broadway Playhouse in San Gabriel, Calif.--and is scheduled to be turned into a film.

However, most of the non-tourists waiting to get into the store knew or cared little about the history of the building. In fact, they wondered why all these crazy tourists were taking pictures of it when Piccadilly Circus was within walking distance.
This crowd consisted of compact disc fans, and the store--Covent Garden Records--was tailor-made for them. Despite the revolution compact discs have triggered in the record business, record stores partition off CDs from regular albums, cassettes or videos. This usually means a limited selection and uninformed sales personnel.

At Covent Garden Records, however, CDs are literally everything. In addition to more than 5,000 pop and classical titles, the split-level shop offers CD players, used CDs and a listening area so you can sample any CD in the store. There are no traditional vinyl LPs or cassettes. Simon Hosein, the store's general manager, sees the "compact disc only" concept as an idea whose time has come. He predicts a rash of imitators in large cities in such major record markets as the United States, Germany and Japan.

The Charing Cross shop, he explained, is the offshoot of a classical record store in London's Covent Garden area. As soon as CDs were introduced here in the spring of 1983, shop owner Howard Woo saw a revolution in the making and felt the need for a shop that specialized in the new discs. To hedge his bet, Woo also stocked a few vinyl albums, but he soon did away with them.

"We found an immediate audience," said Hosein. "And it was a more discriminating and demanding audience. The CD audience is definitely a breed apart, and we began to design special features to meet their needs. "There seems to be a far greater degree of discrimination among the CD buyers than anything we experienced in the old record shop," he continued. "They'll say things like, 'The orchestra is too far back (in the sound) or the placement of the mikes is wrong.'

"Because the cost of a CD is much greater than a regular album (about twice the price), they want to hear what they are getting. Instead of just picking up a Beethoven record, for instance, classical buyers will go through several performances of the selection and find the one that sounds best. They may listen to six versions.

"Pop fans (use the listening area) for different reasons. They may come in because of a hit single and they want to hear the rest of the album to see how the other tracks sound, which is something they would have done with records if they had the chance.

"The problem is, stores were reluctant to play the records for customers because it was so easy to damage them. With CDs, we don't have to worry about the damage. The CDs are virtually indestructible." Because of the durability of CDs, one of the most popular sections of the Covent Garden shop is the "used" bins. With the discs discounted almost 40%, demand for the used CDs is so great that there is a line around the block when groups of them are put on sale.

Hosein, whose CD stock includes German, Japanese and U.S. imports, said word of the store has spread so fast through the compact disc fraternity that the shop now does large mail-order business. So, the tradition of the building is still alive. Maybe, Hosein speculated good-naturedly, there'll even be enough correspondence for a second, pop-oriented volume of "84 Charing Cross Road."

I was a loyal customer. Loved the ability to listen on headphones with no obligation to buy; the second-hand racks were a source of great bargains; the staff were knowledgeable and friendly. Was sorry it closed down.
Graham Buchan

I used to work at Covent garden records in the old days Mr Woo bought me 2 suits and remember there was a sound booth downstairs that the customers could listen to the new cd players happy times.

I happened upon this post. I'm the Simon Hosein mentioned in the Los Angeles Times article. The shop was quite revolutionary at the time, selling only CDs, with listening facilities, and hi-fi under the same roof. Unique then and since, it was for many years a huge success, with many devoted clients and few rivals. It's owner and creator was Howard Woo, a charismatic American student who settled in London. Passionate about classical music he opened a small record shop. He was the first record dealer to spot the potential of CDs. His vision was vindicated by it's success and by spotting that the improved clarity of CDs would encourage people to upgrade their hi-fi systems and they'd shop with us. In our niche market we had a stream of famous clients. Our own fame was advanced by the film of 84 Charing Cross, Helene Hanff even visited us. In time the major retailers entered the CD market and eroded our specialist appeal. Howard moved on to be a very successful consultant to the electronics industry, sadly dying in 2008. I'm delighted to remember him here, as a friend and the creator of Covent Garden Records. They were good times.

Simon Hosein


29 Jun 2023 at 12:50
I worked there in 86. Simon, you were a gent and one of the nicest managers I ever had.
Dave Harwood
03 Apr 2024 at 11:14
I found this piece in the 'Marylebone Mercury' dated 3rd August 1984: “Covent Garden Records is a fast expanding operation. They already have an important shop just beside the tube station and the Royal Opera House and this expansion to number 84 represents a significant move for this go-ahead organisation.”



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