Mark Catlin was selling CDs and videos on a market stall in Romford, Essex, when he got his big break. He persuaded a local shopping centre to give him a temporary lease on a store in a prime position. Once he had proved that he could afford the high rent, other shopping centres opened their doors to Music Box, and Catlin now owns and runs 19 stores across the country. Rapid expansion has driven up sales 144% a year, from £416,000 in 1996 to £6.1m in 1999. Catlin says the secret of success has been a policy of pricing chart CDs at £9.99, a decision that came about by accident. ‘One year I was stuck with a load of CDs after Christmas and started a £9.99 sale to clear them. The result was so unbelievable I worked out a way to keep it going,’ he says. His stores stock only the most popular CDs, videos and DVDs, thus reducing the need for large amounts of slow-moving stock. Catlin also believes in employing people he knows – the manager of his Romford shop is a former Saturday boy on his stall and his accounts manager was a fellow trader at Romford market.
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