Profile of the American Music Dealer
|25 Year Dealer Survival Rate At 20 Pct.
Fewer than 20 percent of music product stores remain in business over a 25 year period, according to a random one-city per state selection based on a comparison of MMR’s Directory of Musical Instrument Dealers for the years 1982 and 2007. We arbitrarily chose cities and towns ranging from a single dealership to as many as 24 outlets. The total number of 1982 store fronts was 486 as compared to 443 for the same cities in 2007.
Eight cities experienced an increase in stores between ’82 and 2007, the largest gainer being Olympia, Wash, (from two to 12); Las Vegas, Nev. (from 18 to 30) and Tucson, Ariz. (from 22 to 29). Thirty cities had decreases, the largest being Sacramento,Calif. (from 24 to 10); Ogden, Utah (from 13 to four) and Providence, R.I. (from 10 to four).
The five cities with the largest number of stores that remained in operation over the quarter-century are Sacramento (six out of 24); Tucson (six out of 22)’ Akron, Ohio (four out of 12) Sioux Falls, S.D. (four out of eight and Green Bay, Wis. (four out of nine).
Depleted from the 2007 listings were many of the leading dealerships of the ’80′s, among them Knut Koupee, Minneapolis; Minn, Coyle Music Centers, Columbus; Ohio , and E.U.Wurlitzer, Boston, Mass.
For the past decade, the music product dealer store count has continued a pattern of gains and losses in alternating years. Along this same pathway there has been a net gain of 23 outlets for the twelve month period from June, 2007 to the present day. The modest .029 percent increase has inched total store count to slightly under the 8,000 (7980). Since 1998, total dealer counts have varied from a plus 2.9 percent in 2001 to a minus 3.7 percent in 2004. Overall there has a marked decline of more than 400 outlets. While brick and motor for the independent and chain dealer has decreased, overall industry volume has grown based on a number of factors including higher retail prices, emergence of big box music product departments, and sales on internet-only sites, as well as e-Bay and Amazon sales.
One positive trend has been that 25 of the 50 states registered a gain in total stores, while 21 states and the District of Columbia had a decrease. Four states saw their store total unchanged. Among the states with the largest increase were Louisiana, Texas and Missouri. The Louisiana count rebounded when dealers, closed during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, re-opened. Some of the Texas eleven-store jump were former Brook Mays stores that re-opened or dealers filling the void of the bankrupt chain. States hit hardest with overall losses were California with a net of 15 and Hawaii with five less stores.
The past twelve months have also seen a consolidation of smaller chains with several operators reducing their unit totals. Among these dealerships were Critchett Piano & Organ (Iowa), Herter Music Center (Mich.) Bobb’s Piano & Organ (Fla.), Leo’s Professional Audio (California) and Mom’s Music (Ky.).
Simultaneously there are new dealers opening as evidenced by our December “Annual Economic Review” in which we sample a dealership within each state. During the past review we found three new dealers: Austin Music, Oxford, Miss., Big Bang Music, Hillsborough, N.J. and Notable Music, Denver, Colo. Our store search also uncovered one dealer’s efforts to create additional traffic and volume, veteran retailer Fred Bernardo has rechristened his Shillington, Pa. Fred’s Music and BBQ Supply. Check out the Web site at Fredsmusicandbbq.com
As the chart illustrates, fretted instruments had a plus 3.5 percent growth (164 stores), while print music recorded the largest dip in outlets (152 units). The four remaining major product categories were evenly divided with Sound Reinforcement/Recording Equipment and Keyboard/Piano/Organ on the plus side of the ledger and Band & Orchestra and Drums/Percussion losing some ground. The gains recorded by the keyboard, sound reinforcement and fretted instrument categories reversed the trend of the previous year when all six categories had shown declines.
Percentage shares by product category have remained relatively stable since we first initiated the music store census in 1992. The largest variances are between the Band and Orchestra category, stocked in some measure by approximately 40 percent of music dealers, and the fretted instrument category, sold in 60 percent of the nation’s music product outlets. As we pointed out in last year’s Profile, the number of dealers selling guitar-related products is actually closer to 75 percent if one excludes non-guitar specialty stores (drum shops, acoustic piano dealers, et cetera from the universe of U.S. music stores.
Since the inception of the Profile of The American Music Dealer, we have applied a strict standard of “a single exclusive product category” to define the music products specialty store. During the succeeding years we excluded dealers who were primarily piano outlets if they also carried a print music section and conversely a print music dealer who might have a single keyboard resource. Going forward we have revised our criteria for a specialty store as one that has (as near as we can determine based on dealer response) approximately ninety percent of their volume within a single category. Employing these standards we find that 2,488 outlets of the total 7,980 are “specialists,” as compared to last year’s total of 1,615 dealerships. Basically the dealer footprint has not been altered, a similar number of specialty stores remain, however the criteria has been broadened to more accurately reflect the product mix within the specialty store environment.