Sanity's Final Day: Lights Out On Suburban Music Retail

26 March 2023 | 4:00 pm | Stephen Green

We share the final day of trade at the very last Sanity Music store as the doors close on Australia's last major suburban music chain.

March 26 was the very last day of trade for the iconic Sanity brand, a chain that has served Australian music lovers for thirty years and we were there to capture the occasion. It was announced at the beginning of 2023 that all Sanity stores were to close, with the remaining fifty stores progressively closing over the past three months. 

We took a drive to outer suburban Brisbane's Browns Plains where the Sanity store is one of the final two to close their doors (along with Bundaberg) today. The signs touting 75% off storewide are a far cry from the chain's heyday when more than 200 stores adorned almost every major shopping centre in Australia selling CDs and later DVDs and merchandise to the masses as they stopped in to do their weekly shopping. 

The store was already stripped bare, with empty shelves apart from a few racks of DVDs and a single shelf of CDs, stubbornly refusing to shift regardless of the steep discounts. In a world where first music and then movies made their way online, the closure of the chain is no surprise, but the historical moment isn't lost on staff who are philosophical about the closure and despite losing their jobs are more focused on mourning the loss of the store and the impact on their customers. 

We spoke to team members Mel and Emma who were dilligently clearing remaining items. The first thing Mel mentions when we ask about taking some photos is that behind the counter is looking a little messy. The fact that the store would no longer exist from 4pm did not matter to a team that clearly had pride in the store they managed right to the end. 

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"I'm still in denial really," said Emma. "Sanity is such an amazing company to work for and it's really sad that we're the last ones. Next week I think I'll be pretending I'm on annual leave and that Sanity is still here."

The first Sanity outlet, a rebranding of Brett Blundy’s Melbourne-based record and cassette store Jetts, opened in 1992 in Doncaster before expanding across the country and eventually being acquired by Ray Itaoui in 2009. Itaoui said the brand would continue to live online, with the Sanity website one of the country's biggest destinations for physical media. 

"With our customers shifting to digital for their visual and music content consumption and with diminishing physical content available to sell to our customers, it has made it impossible to continue with our physical stores."

At 4pm the doors came down on Sanity for the very last time. Shortly the shelves of shiny round discs will be replaced with other retailers, with nothing but fond memories where suburban shopping centre record chains used to be. Canberra still has Frog's famous Songland Records in Cooleman Court and Brisbane still has Rockaway Records at Westfield Carindale, but record retail has otherwise headed underground with small independent stores continuing to pop up around Australia, keeping the dream of physical music sales alive.