Publicity stunt or penny-pinching? That's the question being asked about Dollar Tree's decision to discontinue playing music in its 3,899 stores.
In response to customer complaints on its Facebook page, Dollar Tree explained the decision to remove music from its store:
"... keeping our expenses as low as possible is ALWAYS a focus at Dollar Tree. By doing so, we can continue to offer amazing values to our customers. The decision to remove store music was not an easy one, but the savings from that allow us to expand the variety of fantastic items we currently offer our customers."
Ironically, when I called the corporation to ask for further details, I was put on hold, and the hold music was Aretha Franklin's wonderful "A Natural Woman."
Stores pay a fee to music licensing companies such as Muzak, Trusonic or Sirius to play music. Easily recognizable Top 40 songs cost more than a rendition of say "Blowing In The Wind" played on a pan flute.
Spokesperson Shelly Davis told me that the decision was based on the company's desire to be as cost effective as possible. She also said that, when the company reviewed other large retailers, it was surprised at how many don't provide music. She mentioned Target as an example. Even without the music, she said, Dollar Tree continues to provide a "fun, friendly shopping experience."
She didn't, however, have details about how much money Dollar Tree was saving with this decision. While Dollar Tree is not its customer, Brittany Like of Musak, the industry leader, explained to me that the music provided to stores is so customized that prices vary widely, so it would be impossible to guess how much Dollar Tree was paying. A company with the number of outlets that Dollar Tree has might also have been able to negotiate a volume discount with some vendors, she said.
Given that fact, Dollar Tree may want to reconsider. Music is an important element for retailers. Many stores carefully create play lists that tend to put shoppers in a buying frame of mind. Music is also an important element in branding and establishing an overall image. Note the next time you're in a coffee shop what tunes are playing; the ones I frequent buy an eclectic blend of recent pop hits and alternative music; nothing too hard core and few golden oldies.
Interestingly, someone has created a Facebook page titled "We will not shop at Dollar Tree anymore unless they bring the music back", but so far only 8 people have cared enough to " like" it, so I'm of the opinion that this is a tempest in a $1 teapot.
My suggestion? If you need music in order to shop, wear your iPod in the store. Any item you don't buy because the music wasn't there is an item you didn't need anyway.
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