Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

‘The business rates are ridiculous’: The ONE change Sound and Vision would make after 40 years of business in Elgin

Vic and Graham Flett also discuss concerns about illegal parking, how they've capitalised in the rise of online shopping and why the town centre is still the place to be.

Vic and Graham Flett looking down guitar at camera.
Vic and Graham Flett believe business rates make it unaffordable for many to trade in Elgin town centre. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Music shop Sound and Vision has been a South Street mainstay in Elgin town centre for more 40 years.

Generations of musicians bought their first instruments inside, queued for gig tickets outside and stepped through the door to pick up accessories.

Shopping in Elgin and across the world has changed beyond recognition since 1980 though.

The Press and Journal spoke to father and son Vic and Graham Flett, who own Sound and Vision together, to learn about the challenges and opportunities in Elgin town centre today, including:

  • Why a town centre presence continues to be important, despite extra costs.
  • The opportunities online shopping has brought for specialist retailers.
  • Why “selfish” illegal parking is a big concern for traders.
  • Worries continuing construction work on South Street is affecting till takings.
  • The one big change Vic and Graham would make if starting Sound and Vision from scratch.

‘We wanted to be on Elgin High Street but couldn’t afford it’

Sound and Vision originally wasn’t in the town centre at all. It started life in 1980 selling DJ equipment and vinyl records on South College Street in a tiny unit which is now The Hairshop.

Vic and his friend David both had other jobs at the time and only opened Sound and Vision two nights a week and all day on Saturdays.

Two years later, they made the move to South Street in the town centre to grow the business.

Moving to the town centre was a priority, but they couldn’t afford their ideal High Street location due to an issue that continues today.

Vic and Graham Flett outside front door of Sound and Vision.
Father and son Vic and Graham Flett run Sound and Vision in Elgin together. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Vic, 74, said: “The High Street was where we wanted to be but it was way too expensive.

“I had worked for a company called Roadrunner Records which had a shop on the High Street so I knew how much the business rates were.

“I knew the costs would be prohibitive, they still are, so we started off in a small shop next door before moving where we are now in 1989.”

Despite the additional costs that come with a town centre presence, Vic is still adamant it’s the only place to be for local retailers.

He said: “Back when we started it was the only place to shop, there were no retail parks or online. You had to be in the town centre.

“A lot of the manufacturers we did business with wanted that High Street or town centre presence, they wouldn’t sell to you otherwise.

Black and white photo looking down South Street.
South Street in 1978, four years before Sound and Vision moved in. Image: Aberdeen Journals

“Even today though I wouldn’t thinking about opening up in a warehouse or industrial estate.

“I don’t think it would work for us. People expect to see businesses like us in the town centre, I don’t think they would come to us on a retail park or industrial estate.”

Frustrations with illegal parking in Elgin town centre

Drivers flouting parking restrictions in Elgin town centre has been one of the biggest concerns in recent years.

Cars and vans parked on pavements, double yellow lines and in disabled and loading bays have been commonplace.

However, things could be changing with Moray Council now paying for police overtime to enforce the rules.

The initiative resulted in 79 fines being issued in just three days in early April, a staggering 61% of the total issued in the whole of 2023.

Cars parked in loading bays on South Street.
Cars parked in loading bays on South Street. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Addressing illegal parking on South Street has been a big concern for Vic in recent years.

He said: “We see cars sitting in loading bays all day as if it was normal. The loading bays are obviously there for deliveries.

“I’ve been through it all with the police in the past. I’ve called up, I’ve noted down number plates and reported them.

“The police have come down a few times. It’s good to see them doing something about it now. It must be frustrating for them, I’m sure they’d rather be doing other things.

“It’s just selfishness from the drivers, people can be lazy.”

Online shopping has opened Sound and Vision to the world

Sound and Vision doesn’t rely on seasonal trade, it has waves of customers that come and go through the front door through the year.

Sales of various musical instrument accessories are the main day-to-day business with big one-off sales, including electric pianos, providing a boost.

The firm has also diversified into fitting sound systems into buildings including village halls.

With footfall in the town centre being an unreliable gauge for the business, the specialist music retailer has found a new source of revenue online.

Graham and Vic Flett surrounded by guitars and drums.
Sound and Vision ship instruments from Elgin across the world. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Graham said: “With the internet we’re now sending stuff all over the world.

“Just recently a guy from New Zealand has been in touch, we also send to the US and Canada regularly and also Europe, but less so after Brexit.

“It’s specific items that people are usually after, sometimes items that aren’t manufactured anymore so they’re harder to find.

“I was e-mailing someone from New York recently and they were talking as if we were just down the street. I don’t know if he knew where we are, but it’s good to still have that connection with people.

Guitars all hanging from the roof and stacked on the ground.
Guitars and guitar accessories are the biggest sellers. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

We have listings on Reverb, which is a specialist music site a bit like Etsy. It’s a site just for musicians, there’s nothing else there, so it’s great for a specialist like us. We used to use eBay too, but it’s too expensive now.

“We’re lucky that we get a good number of people coming to us to trade in. A lot of it is in very good condition, which makes it attractive for people looking for some harder-to-find items.”

Worries about ongoing construction work on South Street

Roadworks have been a permanent fixture on South Street for nearly a year with no imminent end in sight.

Extensive renovation are already underway on the Crown Office building as well as the prominent Gordon & MacPhail corner building.

And a Moray Council-led project to refurbish the former Junners toy shop into smaller retail units with flats above is also planned.

Vic and Graham believe the long-term works are having a dramatic impact on South Street footfall but remain optimistic about the end results.

Graham said: “When you look down the street at the moment all you see is a lot of construction work and you think ‘That isn’t the way I want to go.’

Gordon and Macphail building on South Street covered in scaffolding.
The Gordon & MacPhail building has been shrouded in scaffolding for about a year. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“It also means that we’ve lost a lot of the parking up the side of the street for shoppers to stop and drop.

“We’ve already had it for a while and it looks like the works we’ve got at the moment might just run on into the Junners works, which is a worry.

“Don’t get me wrong though, if the Junners project comes through and there’s more retail in there then it can only be a good thing for the street.”

Vic added: “Poundland opening up soon will make a big difference to the High Street, just to have that corner open again.

They’ve done a great job with the building too. It’ll put the rest of the building owner’s down the High Street to shame.”

What changes would Sound and Vision make if they started again?

After more than 40 years in business, Sound and Vision has survived countless changes in Elgin town centre and continues to be a go-destination for musicians.

Knowing what they know now though, would they do anything differently?

Without hesitation, Vic said: “We’d have a smaller shop.”

Vic revealed Sound and Vision currently has an annual business rates bill of £11,000, a fee he has repeatedly appealed and contested over the years with no success.

Graham and Vic Flett sitting with instruments.
Graham and Vic Flett think the Elgin town centre presence is important to Sound and Vision. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Graham added: “Yes, I think realistically it would need to be smaller. We’ve got the benefit her of a good shop space but all the storage space we have makes the rates ridiculous.

“When you look around the town you see properties filling up reasonably quickly, but it’s all the smaller properties that are under the rates threshold.

“You’re only really going to see the major chains opening up in the big units on the High Street now because they’re the only ones who can afford it.”

Vic said: “I think we’d still want to be in the town centre, or close to it though. It’s where people expect to find businesses like us.”

Graham added: “Yes, I think so. Being on an industrial estate wouldn’t work for us and the Edgar Road retail park units are vastly too big for us.”

Read more from Elgin town centre businesses