Behind the Counter: Kingbee Records (Manchester, UK)

Kingbee Records in Manchester, England has been around since 1987 and is now one of the last remaining independent record shops in northwest England.

The shop attracts a diverse clientele, and its ability to draw business from collectors and dealers around the world has fueled its success. Though its strengths are numerous, Kingbee is unparalleled in its selection of Northern soul vinyl. We spoke with Les Hare, Kingbee’s owner, and got the lowdown on this music mecca.

Mike holds Kid Canaveral's Shouting At Wildlife
Mike holds Kid Canaveral's Shouting At Wildlife

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

Always was a big record collector, then [I] started doing record fairs with my spares, and it kinda carried on from there. I have also deejayed off and on since 1971.

How has Kingbee survived the digital boom?

By having a loyal customer base both locally and across the country. We also get record dealers from Japan regularly visiting to replenish their shop stock. Sales from our website help, but mostly it’s the large amount of stock that we turn over in the shop.

Does Kingbee have a specific area of expertise? What draws people from far and wide?

If we had to say one genre in particular, it would be Northern soul, as we have thousands of 7-inch singles and a great selection of compilation CDs. We also sell a lot of reggae on vinyl and alternative, jazz, blues, soul, dance, and classic artists like The Beatles, [Bob] Dylan and Tom Waits.

Les holds Stone Roses' 20th anniversary reissue
Les holds Stone Roses' 20th anniversary reissue

Which albums has your store sold the most over the past month?

Belle and Sebastian: Write About Love
Arcade Fire:  The Suburbs
The xx: X
Bob Dylan: Bootleg Series Vol.9
Sufjan Stevens: The Age Of Adz

What is the weirdest special order request you’ve ever received?

Well, we’re next to a chemist (pharmacist) and a news agent, so we always get asked for things like nail clippers and scratch cards by mistake, but the weirdest music request I can think of is [when] the purple woman who only liked purple things bought a copy of Purple Rain on purple vinyl from the shop. She had absolutely no interest in the music at all.

How would you describe the Manchester music scene today?

Healthy, as always. We are primarily a secondhand store, so we don’t sell a lot of local artist CDs. We have been blessed as a city over the years with some of the best-ever bands.

Any big future plans for the shop?

To increase online sales, but not at the expense of having less stock in the shop.

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