Retailer sleeves date back to the 78 rpm era, and this example from Bobby & Co of Bournemouth (still there as Debenhams) is probably about 1930. A high percentage of 78s came in retailer sleeves, in sturdy cardboard with cloth edging, which is one reason why 1920s and 1930s company sleeves for 78s are so often missing.
They’re often of local interest. I bought the Bobbys one at a vintage stall in Blandford market, with no disc in it. I added the 1929 Imperial disc for the scan. I picked up the Brights of Bournemouth one (now Dingles) for the same reason. Their ‘gramophone salon’ lasted till the mid-1970s and I sold my old Humber Sceptre to the lady who managed it. Similarly, I recall Sydney Scarborough of Hull (not Scarborough, oddly) fondly as a place I spent happy hours perusing the records.
78 retailer sleeves … click to enlarge
The card retailer sleeves were so common that Ace Records used one as the CD cover for The London American Label 1957. This was a long Ace series of CDs, and what with the London label looking much the same over a decade, they were struggling to find different covers for each year. For 1957, they used a Saville Pianos 78 rpm sleeve with Bill Haley’s Rock The Joint:
45 retailer sleeves
In the 45 era, many record stores still produced their own sleeves. None did it for 45s in my area, Bournemouth, and I suspect these were more often late fifties than early 60s … the records that turn up in them tend to be older.
Both the above are great designs. They enhance the records.
Gallery- click to enlarge
The copy of Candy Man from Reading was labelled, and that was 1964. Then Conscience by James Darren from 1962 is labelled on the sleeve from Whitley Bay. Warmed Over Kisses by Brian Hyland from Stafford is 1962, and also written on the back of the sleeve. I can’t remember which I found with the current records in them. Some, but not all.
I was buying records from all three Hull stores in the late 60s and don’t recall seeing the sleeves. East Hull Records was an electrical shop in Cottingham, by the university halls of residence, and I recall the record section as tiny.
Looking at the examples … Gateshead, three from Hull, Newcastle, Whitley Bay, Grimsby, eight branches in Yorkshire, Sheffield … it looks as if “east of the Pennines” had a greater concentration. Then we have Stafford, Ipswich, Reading, Bath, Bristol, Wood Green from the south. It may be the samples we’ve run across, but it also seems likely that it would be a response to local competition. If the shop down the road had a nice sleeve, you had to compete.
The Bristol Wireless one stands out as a thin paper bag, thinner than the average. I wonder if it was used for secondhand or ex-juke box stock?
The ones I’ve seen most are Co-operative Reading (by a mile), followed by Saville Pianos Ltd … Wood Green on one side, Tottenham on the other. But I’ve mainly found stuff in the south. Reading has a major record fair and a lot of sleeves have stayed locally. Reading Co-op discs are in every secondhand shop in the Bournemouth, Poole, Southampton area. It must have been a major retailer, and continued to issue sleeves longer than most others.
Did the record stores discard the printed company sleeves? There was enough room to get it inside the East Hull and Johnson & Tacey card sleeves, both from Hull, but others would have been too tight. Dixons of Derby outsized sleeve was stitched with an outside border, so that it won’t fit into an average seven inch record case. Shephard’s of Gateshead is a personal favourite, but they can’t spell Philips.
Gallery … Warmed Over Kisses … click to enlarge
Warmed Over Kisses by Brian Hyland is one I bought new, what with him being the first American artist concert I saw (though Little Eva wiped the floor with everyone on that show). That’s my HMV copy. It’s the same copy with its sleeve inside the labelled Harold E. Parkes sleeve, which was designed to keep the company sleeve intact. Though I have to say the HMV sleeve is far more attractive!
Later retailer sleeves:
I believe most of these sleeves are from secondhand dealers, giving a uniform look to stock which was in tatty sleeves, white sleeves or sleeveless.
The DJ sleeve from Sunset Distributors of Newcastle is later, late 1970s or 1980s judging by the 091- phone number on the back. They were suppliers of disco equipment and I suspect the very detailed sleeves with places for information were designed for DJs and may have been sold to DJs for storage apart from the records.
Record store card sleeves were revived by Beanos of Croydon (closed in 2009), Oldies Unlimited of Telford and Sounds of The Universe records of Soho.
Other retailers have printed their own sleeves instead of using white ones when the sleeves are missing. Where this can go wrong is when the discarded plain sleeve is what was on the record in the first place (as with pre-1970 Atlantic, or early 70s Capitol). The Glen Campbell record, appropriately titled Record Collectors Dream was placed in the Beano’s bag for the scan.
Sounds of the Universe produce the Soul Jazz card sleeves which their import funk and reggae singles are supplied in, which is why all the pictures on the sleeve show large holes. They sell the sleeves separately too and you can buy packs of them.