America’s Top Music Chains – 2011
Three decades in, and this year’s installment of our end-of-year survey of top MI retail chains shows that, while “the more that things change, the more they stay the same” is often spot-on, sometimes it’d be more accurate to modify the maxim somewhat to state, “the more that things change, they more they really change.”
Glancing at the December, 1982 issue of MMR (in which we proudly touted our “first-ever listing of multi-unit music stores, coast to coast!”) possibly the first thing that catches one’s eye is the top-spot. Back then, Lowrey Organ Centers was “#1,” with 171 retail outlets. The current (and longstanding) top entry, Guitar Center, fielded a mere seven stores – a far cry from today’s 324 (including Music & Arts and Woodwind & Brasswind). Also immediately apparent – the relative lack of product category types compared to today. Thirty years ago, it was sufficient to ask dealers whether they carried Piano/Organ, Combo, B&O, and Sound Equipment. Categories such as DJ Equipment and Electronic Keyboards were irrelevant at the time because neither truly existed in any meaningful way for most MI operations.
Not everything has changed entirely, though. While Internet competition and MAP pricing are concepts that would’ve been met with blank stares by the dealers of 1982, the results from a survey of 450 retailers compiled in that year could’ve been pulled from any present-day e-blast sent by MMR: “The nation’s musical instrument dealers are caught in the economic storm, buffeted by discount competition and a shrinking marketplace…” Sound familiar?
It’s hardly news at this point, but readers of this year’s Report will surely notice the absence of longtime industry heavyweight, Daddy’s Junky Music, which last year fielded 20 stores (5, as reported in the 1982 Top Chains Report, for what it’s worth…) and did over $20 million in business. Others have disappeared (perhaps to return?) from this annual listing, due to a reduction in storefronts – though that’s not to suggest that by now operating fewer than three retail outlets those operations are necessarily “doomed.” We also have a handful new entries (read on to find out more) and, though overall revenues are relatively level on an individual basis, total store-count is also at a fairly even keel with 759 in 2011, compared to 767 last year*.
We’re definitely not out of the woods yet – all one needs to do is go online or turn on the television to know that. But things are beginning to look up, at least according to many we spoke with. “We are quite optimistic for 2012!” enthused Tim Adrianson of Firehouse Guitars, Inc. (Jenison, Mich.) when we asked about his expectations for the coming months. Danny Saliba of Steinway Hall – Dallas (Texas) agreed: “Without question sales will increase in 2012.” That would be good news for all of us…
Read the full report in the December 2011 issue of MMR Magazine, or read it online by clicking here.