...edged up 3.9% to $8.1 billion, handily outpacing the industry-wide gain of 2.1%. Does this suggest that larger companies are gaining market share? That the industry is in consolidation mode? Actually, neither. The outsized gain can be traced almost entirely to a single, non-recurring event. In 2013, Gibson Brands vaulted to the number one position on the Top 100 ranking after its acquisition of TEAC increased its top line by $258 million. This single transaction accounted for 82% of the Top 100’s total revenue gain. The results of the other 99 companies on the list reflect a market that, while improving, is still struggling to regain ground lost in the wake of the financial crisis.
Pundits and politicians have exhaustively spelled out the causes and effects of the lackluster economic growth of late. Retailers and suppliers are acutely aware of how these forces have affected their customer base. Yet economic factors are not the only things restraining top line growth. In fact, the industry’s revenues have been limited to a large degree by the ingenuity of its engineers. There’s no question that musicians remain intensely interested in recording, as evidenced by strong sales of monitors, microphones, and related products. Yet the collapsing price of software has virtually eliminated any revenue gains for recording products. End users have benefitted handsomely from these lower prices and have some extra cash to spend. Yet retailers and manufacturers have struggled to make up the lost revenues with extra unit sales.
China, where a large share of the world’s instruments and audio gear is manufactured, has experienced double-digit increases in labor costs over the past two years. Theoretically, this would provide some justification for price increases. However, they have yet to be forthcoming. This suggests that continued efficiency gains on the factory floor and a highly competitive market will keep selling prices in check for the foreseeable future.
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