To say that this year has been tumultuous would be quite an understatement. We started 2022 with many manufacturers still struggling to get product into the country, especially fretted instruments. The cost of shipping a container had skyrocketed throughout the pandemic, and the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach had seemingly endless backups. Finding inland transport was also challenging, and the result was a series of price increases and significant delays across most all categories of our industry. While some level of supply and demand imbalance is to be expected, I personally have seen nothing quite this extraordinary, and to that end disruptive to our business.
The Pendulum Swings Both Ways
By summer you could feel the winds start to shift, and instrument backlogs being depleted. While this appeared to be a net positive, at the same time the highest inflation we have seen in decades put many aspirational musicians on the sidelines. The result has been a complete reversal of circumstances, with ample supply now chasing a shrinking audience. While not every category has been affected to the same degree, most importers now have goods on the shelf that have higher baked-in transportation and manufacturing costs, this while the retail channels are stuffed with a ton of guitar inventory. Some of the largest suppliers have taken aggressive steps to discount directly to the end user, further exacerbating tensions among channel “partners.”
Talk of Recession and Singing the Blues
While the Fed continues to raise rates to combat the inflation they also contributed to, the talking heads opine about imminent recession. It’s likely that parts of the real economy are already in retreat, and despite low levels of unemployment, there are cracks in wall that cannot be ignored. Those of us old-timers have been through several downturns over the years, and thankfully in the past the musical instrument industry seems to fare relatively well. If you have the blues about your monetary situation, nothing beats picking up a guitar, playing some tunes with friends, or otherwise immersing yourself in the joys of music. While the past cannot predict the future by any means, we can all hope that the current situation stabilizes before too long, and that the Holiday Selling Season helps to move out a good chunk of the extra inventory.
Start at the Finish Line
In moments like this I like to visualize the future, pick a point in time and dwell on what it looks like. Or at least how I want it to become, and then work back to today. The next step is to define the actions required to create the desired outcome, always expecting the unexpected, and being ready to adjust. For me it means hatching new ideas and finding fresh opportunities. Recently some very exciting developments have occurred which give me cause for optimism for 2023 and beyond. Not long ago I discovered that the content written over these past few years have given this website some good SEO and high ranking for terms such as “musical instrument consultant.” This in turn has led to some extremely interesting conversations, again broadening the landscape of possibilities. A chance encounter with Feed Media Group CEO Jeff Yasuda led to him posting this very nice article on LinkedIn, and other ventures are underway that will be announced in the coming months. Despite the tragic loss of two of my brothers and several close friends this year, I’m still standing and grateful for each day. This may be the true lesson I have learned from aging, battling cancer, and otherwise not ever giving up. I sincerely hope that each of you reading this article take all this turmoil in stride and move ahead into a peaceful and prosperous New Year!