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Quarterly Retail Sales Report

...from the beginning of the year, suggest that Americans’ reluctance to spend has faded somewhat.  Economists assessing the future prospects for retail in the USA hold out great hope for additional gains spurred by jobs growth.

Retailers were quick to point out that despite a slowdown in electric guitars, total sales of fretted instruments rose 4.5% led by strong gains in acoustic guitars, banjos, mandolins, and ukuleles. “I’ve been at this a long time and remember thirty years ago when no one wanted acoustics,” noted a dealer from northern New Jersey. “It couldn’t come at a better time, since our acoustic buyers really like coming to our store to try and feel the instruments. Not as much pressure online with this category.” A dealer from Louisiana added, “We’re seeing a huge increase in our high-end acoustic sales with Martin leading the way.” Although many respondents pointed out a tough market for electric guitars, several dealers including one from Dallas shared, “It seems as though electric guitar sales might be stirring once again.” Instrument amp sales added 2.3% during the quarter, following a gain of only .2% in the second quarter.

  Sound reinforcement products, the largest category tracked in this quarterly survey, delivered another solid performance, up 2.5% with sales totaling $343,343,000. “It’s competitive out there, but at least we have solid demand and lots of customer interest,” remarked a dealers from Denver. “New products like the QSC Touch Mix digital mixers give us a lot to talk about with our customers.”

The percussion category rose 3.2% for during the most recent quarter, and one dealer from Tennessee stated,” Drum set sales are hot again.” School Music products generated a 3.8% gain in the all-important back-to-school selling season. Gains were not evenly spread, though, as some dealers had to combat adverse market conditions. One in Florida wrote, “School music is down due to a combination of used instrument availability locally and on eBay. Decreased student populations are also a factor as well as curtailed recruitment efforts due to teacher cutbacks.” Offering a different outlook, a dealer from Chicago wrote, “Our best season ever and we’ve been at this for a long time. Strong programs, strong demand, and lots of great parental support.”

The home keyboard business came in with another relatively flat performance for the quarter: grand pianos +.1%, vertical pianos -.2%, digital pianos +3.1%, portable keyboards +1.5%, home organs -1.0%, and church organs -.3%.

Although the accessory category chalked up another big gain of 6.4% for the quarter, many dealers were disappointed with  crimped margins and online competition. “They used to be insulated, but our accessory profits are way down due to Amazon and Guitar Center offering big discounts and free freight,” explained a dealer from Boston.

With the third quarter now behind them, U.S. retailers reporting to this survey anticipate strong gain for the upcoming holiday selling season. The news is full of a lot of positives, suggested one dealer from New York City, who said, “Income, wage, and job growth are positive, and energy prices are down. We take this all as a positive as we head into the holiday season.”

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