The Wal-Mart $15 Vinyl Bonanza

by David Turner

The vinyl community here in the Carolinas and across the country has had quite a weekend with the universe’s biggest big box retailer Wal-Mart offering every single vinyl album in stock at their stores for $15 starting early on Saturday morning (Nov. 14th) as part of a set of Black Friday deals (because in 2020, Black Friday is a month). At their online site the deals began just before Midnight at the same price point.

As word spread Saturday morning, we started seeing a flood of posts in our Facebook Group as well as other vinyl online communities such as on Reddit and from accounts on IG, YouTube, etc. By early afternoon, many stores were already completely emptied! By Saturday evening and Sunday morning it was just about all we saw in our feed was posts of what folks had snatched up. We even got into the action, buying 3 online and 3 at the Belmont, NC location (which had only about 10 vinyl records left at 2pm Saturday).

With all of the elation over some great deals and folks getting ahold of some faves and exclusive color variants, there was also a chorus of posts raising various points about Wal-Mart vs. local stores etc. On YouTube user “TooManyRecords” questioned the quality of pressings you would get from the retail giant, and claimed you could all of those for “The same or even less” from Discogs. Posters in vinyl community groups lamented how Wal-Mart was basically “Evil” and people flocking there would kill all the local stores off as they had other retail store categories over the years.

Wal-Mart isn’t the first or only big box retailer to have big vinyl sales. Target has been running a “Buy 2 get 1 free” deal online for months, and last year it was Barnes & Noble who took a huge chunk of their vinyl inventory and slashed it to half price.

Here’s our take: First, it shouldn’t have to be said but we obviously support local stores above all else. Otherwise why would we have this website with a full directory of ONLY locally-owned record stores and related sellers? But here are some reasons why you shouldn’t let anyone guilt trip you if you spent some cash at the “evil empire” this weekend..

  • A good deal is a good deal!
    In a perfect world, we’d always only support the “Davids” of the world against the “Goliaths”. But sometimes the combination of naked capitalism and one’s bank account balance means you get that new AC/DC “PWR UP” on opaque red variant for $15 instead of $35-40 in local stores (Or even for the $32.99 it currently is priced on Amazon). Or you get that common classic rock reissue that you just would never buy from a local store. Or any number of other reasons that saves you some money.
  • For almost everyone who collects, buying up items during these big sales is “Extra” buying, not replacement buying.
    No one is leaving their favorite local shop to become exclusive Wal-Mart vinyl enthusiasts, travelling each week from scenic location to scenic location to walk past the groceries, lawn and garden, knick knacks, Cuisinart kitchen goods and whatcha-doodles to make all of their record buying purchases. Did independent record stores take a hit this weekend? most probably. We didn’t see a single sell in our online Discogs store for the first weekend in months as well. But, they’ll all be coming back very soon because as we all know; there really is no replacement for everything we love about our local shops.
  • Wal-Mart and other big box retailers are a Gateway Drug into vinyl collecting!
    You need to take a minute to think about all those folks who aren’t audiophiles or currently “into” vinyl, that are going to be getting their first real taste of the resurgence of the format next month at Christmas. ALL those Billie Eilish albums, and Frozen Soundtracks…and all those Crosley Cruiser turntables sitting under thousands and thousands of trees Christmas morning! As so often happens, it’s not going to take those folks long at all to want something more and better after getting that ever so sweet taste of the addiction that we are all currently well down the path of.
    So where do you think they are going to eventually end up? They are going to be craving those first pressings and used grails and vintage gear before you can say “WTF is WAP”?

So yes, Wal-Mart is Goliath, and yes they can loss leader themselves silly in ways that the corner shop guys can’t even begin to match. And yes, make sure when the sales are over, you make your next shopping destination be that corner shop and be part of everything we love about them!

Back in the 80s, you could buy vinyl at Harris-Teeter, and at Food Lion, and Belk’s, K-mart and the like. It’s a constant battle between the little guys and the behemoths but it’s not new and it’s not going to end anytime soon. With Wal-Mart, it’s like any other vice…best in moderation. Keep Spinning, no matter where you got it from!

David E. Turner

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