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Drum Center Of Portsmouth Goes BIG

...the space was most recently a furniture showroom, but before that it was two side-by-side barns belonging to a farm off Route 1 in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Now it’s home to Drum Center’s stock of 5,400 drum and percussion SKUs—and owner Shane Kinney’s original concept for merchandising them. Although he always had a real-world showroom, Kinney has been known for years as a voice for modernizing the percussion segment through effective use of online sales and content. In the new store, he’s made the two sides work in tandem, combining hands-on gear displays with multimedia extras including brand-specific YouTube feeds playing on screens around the showroom. At nearly 20 times the size of Drum Center’s last location, it’s not so much a new look as a whole new dimension.

“I had to look at the place three or four times before I decided I could even make it work,” says Kinney. “I knew I could merchandise a square box—but what was I going to do with all this space and depth? I slept on it a few nights before I finally said, ‘Okay, I’ve got it. I know what I can do with this.’”

As Kinney elaborates, his concept started with the old Drum Center’s best known feature: the Snare Wall. Upping the ante, the new store opens into a 1,000-square-foot Snare Room with drums covering every wall surface and a handful of high-end models set up on the floor. “Basically you walk in and it’s a panoramic assault on all your senses,” Kinney says. Elsewhere in the store, another whole room has been dedicated to clinics and performances. Dominating the remaining space, though, are brand-specific 12x12 “booths” set up like a mini-trade fair. Along with a selection of gear, each booth features a flat-panel TV streaming from the vendor’s YouTube channel, plus an illustrated timeline of the company’s history. “The idea is that a customer can come in, watch the YouTube videos, look at the product in person, and perhaps develop a curiosity and loyalty for that brand,” says Kinney. “I wanted to make it an educational experience rather than just a retail store.”

Established during the lows of the financial crisis, Drum Center of Portsmouth had to travel a rocky road to get to where it is today: On top of the economic meltdown, the shop was almost wiped out by a dispute over exclusive territories that cut it off from several major product lines. To keep the shop afloat, Kinney sought out smaller boutique lines, which would not only save the business but make Drum Center a destination for desirable products from off the beaten path. Although it’s long since brought in every major brand, its early focus on hidden gems is still part of its DNA, says Kinney. Its early locations—the first at 800 square feet and the next at just 1,100—also shaped the business, which built sophisticated online sales channels to augment its small footprint. Through its own website as well as eBay and Reverb, it still makes more than half of its sales on the web. “I could’ve decided to buy an old warehouse and just sell online,” says Kinney. “But I wanted to give people a reason to get in the car and come here.”

After opening its doors in early April, the new Drum Center of Portsmouth hosted a grand opening to coincide with its yearly anniversary celebration on June 8. This year’s event marked eight years since the store first opened in its original space. In the interim, says Kinney, persevering in retail has been not unlike a boxing match: “Stick and move,” he says. “You have to stay very limber. It’s a fight every day and the challenges come from everywhere, but we’re making it work.”


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