MDT is best described using the following excerpt from a newspaper:
With the Internet continuing to overtake high street stores as the leading source for purchasing specialist classical music, UK family mail order company, MDT Classics has evolved with the times; shaping its firm to meet the needs of enthusiasts and collectors and continually receiving praise from major international record labels, while embracing the classical music industry’s technological advancement.
From its roots as a small, highly specialist, family run classical music shop in Derby’s historic Blacksmith’s Yard, MDT Classics has grown over a period of 15 years to become one of the world’s leading suppliers of classical CD’s, DVD’s and SACD’s, with an extensive catalogue of over 65,000 titles.
The company was created in 1989 by husband and wife team Les and Val Wilson. Frustrated by the personal experience of being unable to acquire specialist classical titles for their own enjoyment in a time where the classical music sector was antiquated, they chose to create a shop with an in-depth catalogue that would meet the requirements of classical enthusiasts. Les, a former computer industry sales specialist from IBM’s infancy era with a previous background in retail and wife and mother Val, ran the store together; Les full time and Val covering the lunch breaks, with their sons, Daniel and Tim helping out after school and during holidays.
“It was an exciting and challenging chapter of our lives,” says Les “starting up a family business where we knew there was product demand, but needing to inform the market of our existence and ability to supply.”
Although the shop floor was wall to wall with titles, it was Val’s insistence of offering a mail order service from the shop premises that gave MDT its competitive edge and the customer base it was looking for.
Initially, orders would come in by letter or phone. The early 90’s cottage industry team effort of Val picking the product from the shop, packing it up in-store and charging it through and Les taking the orders to the post office is a startling comparison to MDT’s current high-tech business operation.
Although relatively small, the company’s drive was impressive and soon deals with leading labels including EMI, Virgin Classics, Phillips and Decca were being negotiated to offer more competitively priced products to the shop and mail order customer base.
Ads with title listings were placed in classical music publications and mailings of new releases sent. Within weeks the mail order interest was so strong that shop fittings had to be dismantled to allocate space for additional packing areas. Orders began to be received on an international scale and the shop soon had to close on Saturdays, allowing more time to pack and post products.
As the mail order side of the business flourished, the shop footfall declined and by 1995 premises were changed and MDT became a mail order only company, expanding its staff and refining its service.
Les moved away from the front line of the business and became the Financial Director, while Val took the lead as Managing Director, concentrating her efforts on setting the high standard of customer service and honing an in-depth product knowledge.
This business practice, combined with continued record label savings enabled MDT to win repeat customer orders and word of mouth recommendation.
By this stage sons Daniel and Tim were also becoming more involved. With their education complete both siblings decided to take on permanent roles within the company. Daniel’s strong marketing influence and Tim’s electronic media skills became paramount to the company’s growth and the development of its state of the art website and on-line ordering facility.
Now employed as the company’s Marketing Director, Daniel says: “We grew up with the company – classical music played in the house, stamping jiffy bags and stuffing envelopes to help out – it’s been part of our upbringing.”
The family joke about the initial stages of their first “dining room table” website, created at home from a text book guide as the company moved with the technological times. Basic but informative, the site was unique, but it worked and continued to draw in the customers.
The site has now been upgraded to a new advanced, fully integrated e-commerce shopping basket site, which the family feel has been the turning point of the business.
Val says: “The closing of the shop was the first stage of the company’s major evolution, followed by the progression of technology and the status of the high street market place. Internationally, as the specialist classical product has been reduced, the demand for mail order and internet purchasing has increased, enabling us to grow. Since the shop’s closure we have had to move premises twice to accommodate the company’s expansion.
Carrying a central database of tens of thousands of titles available from MDT, the new site has the facility for customers to purchase on-line and has enabled the customer base to grow further on an international basis. Extensive orders are received from across the globe, including Europe, the USA and Asia, making the site a leading source.
With the business now experiencing unprecedented stability and global success, MDT has the satisfaction of knowing it is delivering the right service. Where previously the business was outgrowing the company, the new technological infrastructure now supports the level of activity, better equipping the team to continue providing excellent customer service.
By offering such an internationally understood product, often hard to locate, through an on-line shop which never closes irrelevant of which country you order from, the concept is steadfast.
The future holds continued promise for MDT as the company embraces the technological advancements ahead. Although the CD market seems stable, growth of DVD’s and SACD’s is predicted to increase.
Never dismissing the requirements of customers, MDT’s future plans are based around addressing the needs of the modern market place, investing in the company’s talent and becoming a household name in a business where the future will be on-line purchasing.
The family has never questioned its chosen formats for success. Although the climb has been gradual, each successful year could have been predicted in advance. By maintaining its multi-channel business and staying committed to a strong level of customer service and changing technology – even taking the personal approach and talking first time internet shoppers through the web shopping process, MDT has found a system that works.
Working as a family has also helped to strengthen the business: “Over the year’s business and home have integrated, with the best ideas for the company happening over Friday night family dinners” says Les; “The family can be reactive and proactive and there’s 100% confidence in each member. There wouldn’t be a company without the family.”
In August 2008 MDT launched a new gift company Englishpostbox.com Gifts ranging from Sterling Silver Jewellery, gardening gifts, complex and mechanical wooden models to legendary Steiff Bears.