For the first time, leading European retailers and international labels have mapped out a cooperative work program aimed at enticing customers back into record stores.

For the first time, leading European retailers and international labels have mapped out a cooperative work program aimed at enticing customers back into record stores.

During a closed-door meeting yesterday at Midem in Cannes, representatives of the Global Entertainment Retail Assn. Europe (GERA-Europe) met with the IFPI to "brainstorm" solutions for the troubled retail sector.

The parties agreed to share information on the best practices for the promotion of music in Europe. Specific plans call for record stores to improve the buying experience through enhanced outlet image and functionality.

GERA-Europe president Simon Wright, CEO of Virgin Entertainment Group, says, "We are committed to having a dialog with record companies on how to drive consumer interests and cater to a wide range of musical tastes. It is also vital to raise consumer awareness of how piracy undermines investment in new talent and ultimately affects diversity of choice."

A source close to the talks says the meeting would likely not have taken place were it not for the release of a stern GERA mission statement in October 2003. In it, the retail trade body targeted the music industry, claiming the "quality and timing of music releases needs urgent attention." The statement noted that while piracy is portrayed as the main culprit in the downturn in music sales, the decline in quality and diversity of releases is an equally large problem.

All proposals agreed upon during Sunday's meeting will take effect in 2004. Both parties also pledged to hold regular meetings.