In the past couple of weeks, a record heat wave and series of floods, tornadoes and natural disasters have pummeled much of the country. The temperatures in many areas of the U.S. are punishing, especially for older folks, or those whose occupations require them to work outside. From a business perspective in the Musical Instrument and Professional Audio trade, we are going “back to the future” with channel conditions not seen since prior to the pandemic. For the past few years, there really were no summer doldrums, with stimulus money and consumers stuck at home driving an enormous amount of purchasing during a period of typically slower sales. Now we see a complete reversal of that situation, and perhaps to some extent the pendulum has swung further to the downside than anyone would care to see – certainly not suppliers, distributors, rep firms and dealers.
Music Trades Statistics Confirm the Downturn
The headlines from Music Trades said it all – “Fifth consecutive sales decline has dealers longing for the stimulus check-fueled years of the Covid pandemic.” Given this backdrop, there are some sectors feeling more pain than others, but in the aggregate, we are working through an extended period of challenging times. While top-line inflation numbers have cooled, consumers have shifted their buying habits, and music products have taken a temporary back seat as inventories continue to be uncomfortably high. Those who make their living in this arena must take a moment and realize that we’ve always had to deal with slower than desired July and August sales, but this time the circumstances have been aggravated by the unprecedented events of the past few years.
Dealing With The “Dog Days”
It’s mid-July, and you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. As an industry participant, what are you doing about it? How are you reacting? From my standpoint, suppliers need to stimulate the end user, which only a handful appear to be doing. Price cuts and deals to retailers cannot continue indefinitely without the consumer pulling gear off the shelves. Breedlove is getting aggressive with a $200 instant rebate to guitar buyers and covering dealers with a margin-share arrangement. Bond Audio (D’Angelico / Supro / Pigtronix) are the Masters of Marketing to the consumer. Samson just launched an amazing new and informative website and are increasing content marketing. These attempts to move the needle are welcome, as getting people to visit retail stores and back into buying mode is imperative. It would behoove other suppliers to think about this and stop believing that continuing to “stuff the channel” makes sense. Informing the consumer in general, creating awareness for your brand, and differentiating your offering is the key to getting attention when the market goes through a slowdown.
Hunker Down or Venture Out?
While I spend much of my time selling our vendor lines and talking to dealers, from time-to-time I check in with other sales representatives. Some are not traveling at all, which is their way of reacting to slower sales. But is that really the best course of action? Even during summer, people are out shopping, and dealers open their doors. I think a better strategy is to get out and see retailers and be the salesperson they remember. When cooler weather comes and the inventory imbalances eventually find buoyancy, this effort will be top of mind with buyers and purchasing managers. The bottom line is to stay in touch with your customers, keep them informed about all the good things that are going on in your world, and realize that we are all going through an adjustment period. Don’t hide in the basement – make yourself heard and keep your positive attitude front and center!