Importers Put On The Brakes
...tepid retail results for the first quarter that pointed to overall industry growth of just .4%. Although there is no direct correlation between imports and sell-though, these figures are an accurate measure of manufacturer sentiment and confidence in the marketplace. During periods of growth, distributors invest in inventory to support higher level of sales. Conversely, during periods of decline or no growth, this same group will reduce inventory investments.
The professional audio category is, without question, the industry’s most resilient product segment. Overall imports as measured by value advanced 14.1% to $445,564,000 compared to $388,204,000 in the year-earlier period. With the exception of this category, the latest import data reveals that manufacturers and distributors are not expecting growth for most parts of the industry in the coming quarter.
Imports of school music products which have been extremely strong in the last year backed off 6.2%. The latest quarterly figures showed: brasswinds +1.9%, clarinets -21.6%, saxophones -9.5%. flutes -4.4%, and stringed instruments -4.9%. Imports of drums fell 1.7%, while imports of cymbals were up 1.5%. On a positive note, electric guitars jumped 18.5% to 368,708 units compared to 310,983 in the year-earlier period. Overall imports of acoustic guitars slipped 12.1%. The ukulele craze seems to have slowed, as imports dropped 5.6% compared to the year-earlier period. Total imports for Ukuleles were 190,671 units versus 202,059 in 2012.
While the total piano market dropped 5.8% during the quarter, grand pianos actually increased 7.6% in units compared to the year-earlier period and 35% compared to the same period two years ago. Vertical piano imports dropped 13.6%, led by a 28% decline in 44"-47" models. For the latest period, Japan was the top source for vertical pianos with 1,921, units and China was the leading supplier of grand pianos with 1,082 units. Imports of synthesizers increased 8.5% in the quarter, while portable keyboards declined just over 5%.
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