Show Report: Summer NAMM 2011
However, offsetting that somewhat disappointing showing, attendance at NAMM University courses are said to have increased, compared to last year’s gathering. Also, overall attendance at the NAMM University Breakfast Sessions grew by 27 percent.
There were notably more events, parties and the like than in recent years, suggestive of a rebounding (albeit still very slowly) MI industry. Additionally, this summer NAMM presented the inaugural “Top 100 Dealers Awards,” to honor those retailers who best exemplify business acumen and service to the music community, and to share their strategies for success.
‘This is the Right Place…’
While the general assessments of this year’s Summer NAMM from the exhibitors and dealers we spoke with varied somewhat, all (literally) were in agreement that Nashville is not only a good location for the industry get-together; it’s the ideal location.
“Nashville needs to be the home of Summer NAMM. Period,” says John Hawkins of Samick Music Corporation. “It is a great place to hang your hat for a few days and the show will grow as the economy comes back to at least ‘bad’ from the current recession abyss.”
Mike Shellhammer of Morgan Hill Music/Boulder Creek Guitars agrees (“Indy and Austin were bombs. If there is to be a summer show, it needs to be in Nashville”), as does Pigtronix’ David Koltai (“Nashville is the ideal spot”) and Chris Brady of Aquarian Drum Heads (“Moving back to Nashville was a positive decision”).
Unfortunately, though, location alone doesn’t ensure success across the board: “Historically, the Summer Show has always been important for us to draw the independent east coast, Midwest, and southern dealer,” notes Tim Pfouts of S.I.T. Strings. “Before moving out of Nashville the first time to Indy, the show was great. Then, Indy was a ghost town. Austin was OK, but never really pulled the dealers in the Midwest or east coast due to the location. When [Summer NAMM] moved back to Nashville, I was hoping for a return of the show [as it had been] before it moved out, but it just hasn’t happened yet. The economy, I’m sure, has played a large role in this as well. We would like the Summer Show to do well again and attract the dealers, but it is just not there yet.”
“If Summer NAMM were not in a very cool city like Nashville no one would come,” asserts Sara Heil of Heil Sound. “Anaheim rules and that will never change. Our feeling, corporately, is that the Show is most definitely moving to MI-only. They are fast becoming a little light on the pro side of the industry.”
But, as previously stated, opinions on the show vary. “We’ve had buyers coming through each day, so this year’s show has been very good for us, in terms of sales,” says Levy’s Leathers’ Harvey Levy. “I think we’ve finally turned the corner.” Many, such as Shellhammer, agree: “Last year [Summer NAMM] was good for us, but this year was actually better.”
Among the most definitive and encouraging comments about the Summer Show come from Joe Lamond, himself: “In my opinion, the questions about the future of the Summer NAMM are answered. This gathering offers obvious benefits to our members and the industry and I believe we’ve concluded that particular discussion. Summer NAMM will continue.”
An ‘Industry-Only’ Convention (Mostly)
The jury would appear to still be out when it comes to allowing the public to attend the convention on select days. NAMM reports that “Wanna Play Music Day” brought 1,133 visitors on the final day of the Show – which some see as a decidedly good thing.
“It saved the show this year,” asserts David Koltai. “Great idea. Do it again!” Aquarian’s Brady agrees, saying, “It’s a great idea for the last day of the show.”
Some were less gung-ho, however. John Hawkins says, “It’s fine for product demos, not so good for doing business with dealers. Dealers tell me they do not want to be there with all the consumers. Overall, the Public Day was done much better this year and, as an exhibitor, we much prefer to end the show on Saturday.”
Others, like Sarah Heil, are even less patient with the “public day” concept: “I am very unhappy with the ‘Public Day.’ This show, as well as Winter NAMM, is an industry show. Companies have to shift into an entirely different mode for the public. Pricing needs to be carefully differentiated between industry people and the public. The question remains: Does it build enthusiasm for a product because [consumers can] see it at the show? We don’t think so.”
What’s Going On Out There?
Though we’re all tired of hearing (or reading, or writing) the phrase, nothing could sum up the sense of the overall state of the industry more accurately than, “cautiously optimistic.”
“Things seem to have settled some,” says Pfouts. “Dealers are starting to look to the future and plan again which is a good sign. As a manufacturer, one of the biggest changes I have noticed is the difficulty in predicting demand. People wait a little longer to order and then need product sooner. This holds true in the whole supply chain from the end consumer all the way to the factory. I think this is indicative of the economy as a whole, not just MI. We just have to adjust.”
“It seems the mid-size dealers are the ones that are taking the economy hit [hardest],” offers Mike Shellhammer. “The small, low overhead dealers seem to be doing OK and the big guys are buying each other up, or going away. The middle class dealer seems to be struggling in the U.S.A., just like the middle class people. International sales seem to be picking up for us, even though we do most of our international business at the Anaheim Show.”
John Hawkins observes, “Anybody in the electric guitar side of [the business] is asking, ‘Who turned off the lights?’ Dealers are telling me their acoustic guitar sales are doing well, but electrics are tough with the possible exception of the very high end of the market. My guess – make that a WAG – is that acoustic guitars will rule the day through Q4 and into 2012. We also are providing more and more video content to our dealers for their Websites and in-store displays. Most dealers understand they have to go get new customers, as they rarely just wander in from the streets to hand over hard earned cash. We’ll do anything we can to help since our business is built squarely on the backs of our independent music stores.”
Still the Most Important Meal of the Day…
Summer NAMM 2011’s NAMM U Breakfast sessions kicked off with a lively display of flamenco music by Muriel Anderson, who played her unique harp guitar and was accompanied by the German duo of Tierra Negra. The topic of the Thursday session was retail, featuring special guest Robin Lewis, who runs the Robin Report blog and is co-author of the publication, “The New Rules of Retail.” Lewis spoke in detail about the evolution of trends in retail, highlighting three distinct phases: in the early 1800s, there was more demand than goods; by the middle of the 20th century, tables had turned and there were more goods than demand (which necessitated an increase in marketing and media); and the third wave is just getting underway now, where consumer have virtually unlimited access to and control of the goods they choose to buy.
According to Lewis, these shifts have been driven by technology and globalization. However, he notes that, “Retail is changing; human nature is not.” Now that the consumer has such a vast array of products to choose from, retailers must move beyond simply making products available to creating a great buying experience. Lewis states that a positive buying experience can be neurologically addictive, wherein people become excited about the prospect of buying something, and then there is a natural rush upon completing the buying cycle, as long as the experience lives up to consumers’ expectations. In a pithy phrase, this concept can be summed up by engaging the consumer with the sensation that products are “built by us, made for you.”
After Lewis worked his way through a detailed and informative PowerPoint presentation, NAMM CEO Joe Lamond brought out a panel of MI retailers to discuss the how trends brought up by Lewis in his presentation and in his book applied to the MI industry. The panel of music store owners largely agreed with the tenets set forth by Lewis, with some even expanding the idea. “Small is the new big,” said Laurie Supinie of Wichita, Kansas’s Senseney Music, referring to the trend in creating small, targeted retail outlets instead of the mega-stores that have been popular for so long.
Lewis asserted that the three keys to success in the modern retail era are experiential superiority (providing the best buying experience), distribution superiority (providing the best goods quickly and efficiently), and superior value chain control (defining needs, demand, and experience, and then optimizing products and methods of delivery to meet those defined goals).
The second day of the NAMM U breakfast sessions featured author, consultant, speaker, and trainer, John Arnold, who shared the latest top 10 web-based trends. In summary, they were:
Social Media Monitoring
Social Media Marketing
Online Display Advertising
“Marketing technology isn’t about the technology,” says Arnold, “it’s about reaching people, building relationships, and staying in touch.” Arnold spoke in detail about the difference between marketing and simply keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on various social media outlets to stay up to speed on what consumers are saying. Both of these can be extremely valuable for retail outlets, with the first being the opportunity to share sales and products and the latter being the chance to see what the consumers in a particular area are looking for, and how they feel about available retail options.
Another key to bear in mind in online marketing is that not everyone is ready to buy all the time; a continuous online presence is necessary to be on the forefront whenever the consumer does become ready to purchase. As far as mobile marketing, according to Arnold, smartphones are still outsmarting consumers, but that will chance rapidly as the average user begins to grasp the full capabilities of these portable devices. It’s important to control Web space now, even if only to be prepared for whenever consumers become savvier. The bottom line is that with so many different web marketing tools, it’s critical to not get bogged down trying to do too much – look for the most relevant advertising and social media avenues in a particular region and market, develop a presence in those areas, and keep an eye on the changes in how consumers are making their purchasing decisions.