Instrument shops try to keep pace – RISMedia
(TNS) âAbby McGuire started playing the ukulele at the age of 5. A few years later, she sold 300 homemade bookmarks to earn money for a 3/4 size guitar. Now a fifth-grade student, Abby has spent the pandemic taking virtual classes, training on her own, even giving a recital in court.
In October, her mom took her to buy a Christmas present: a full-size guitar. âI heard from her instructor that if she wanted one we better get it right away,â said Julie McGuire, who lives in Chesterfield, Mo.
Instruments were harder to find during the pandemic, especially guitars. Some players, like Abby, spent more hours on their hobby while stuck at home and are now in the process of leveling up. Others are testing their musical talents for the first time by purchasing starter tracks. Scrambled supply chains further refined the selection.
One of the few bright spots for the stores has been sales of musical instruments. Pedestrian traffic has collapsed. Face-to-face classes are at a standstill. And rentals, without school programs, are almost non-existent. Repair jobs are on the rise, as are online sales, but they haven’t always made up for other losses.
Guitar Center, the largest retailer of musical instruments in the United States, reported an 85% increase in business in August, moving nearly three times as many guitars as usual. But that wasn’t enough to avert bankruptcy, which the company blamed on the inability to bounce back after the spring shutdown of most of its nearly 300 stores.
Small stores have also been hit hard.
St. Louis Strings specializes in orchestral instruments. His violins, violas, cellos and double bass range from less than $ 500 to $ 50,000.
âMy best salespeople are my instruments,â said Joe Behan, manager of the company’s Dogtown site. âNothing sells an instrument like having a player play it. “
But the coronavirus has altered shopping habits, making customers less eager to pick up a violin and put it under their chin.
And it had a negative impact on revenue this year, leaving the company “a mountain to climb,” Behan said.
A second store, in Chesterfield, was due to open in March but was delayed until June.
Despite this, Behan has met some budding artists who are finally motivated to take up orchestral music.
âWe’re definitely eliminating people who cross the violin or cello off their bucket list,â he said. “In 2020, that demographics have taken off.”
“A buying frenzy”
All types of instruments have been difficult to find over the past nine months.
The components of a violin or guitar originate from several countries. Most manufacturers halted production in the spring, and not everyone restarted on the same schedule. Even when they did, the security and sanitation measures slowed the process down.
Some stores have said deliveries are taking twice as long as in the past. At Music Folk, in Webster Groves, the guitar wall and banjo racks have a few shortcomings.
Don Ploof has co-owned the boutique for a quarter of a century. He sells a few hundred instruments per month, divided between beginners and more advanced players.
Ukulele sales have been particularly strong this year, continuing a wave of popularity the Hawaiian staple has enjoyed over the past decade.
âIt was a pretty big force,â Ploof said. Beginners appreciate it for its relative simplicity and low cost. For less than $ 100 and a few hours of practice, they can pull off a four-chord melody.
Music Folk’s online sales and repair work have resumed since the start of the pandemic, but this was offset by the loss of on-site classes.
Upscale stores, like Killer Vintage in Lindenwood Park, fared better. Owner Dave Hinson’s customers are serious gamers who know what they’re looking for and are comfortable shopping online.
Hinson restores and sells vintage guitars – counting U2 and the Eagles among his customers – but has struggled to find enough sellers to keep up with potential buyers.
âI never imagined that a guitar would be a successful product during a pandemic,â Hinson said. “People are in a buying frenzy.”
Even before the pandemic, its activity had accelerated. Earlier this year he sold a 1960 Gleason Sunburst Les Paul for $ 200,000.
But Hinson has also seen a spike in interest from newcomers looking for entry-level instruments. More girls and women are embracing the guitar than when he started playing in the 1960s.
âI think it’s really promising that people are flocking to music,â Hinson said. âThere’s nowhere to hear it, so they’re making their own. “
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