Where value is measured in decades of each product’s service
If you ever played in a symphony, or a university or school band or orchestra, or sang in a school or church choir, or took music lessons in a studio, there’s a very good chance that you have used a Manhasset music stand. The brand has been a fixture of our musical culture, particularly in America, for more than 80 years.
To a degree, Manhasset stands’ renowned durability is built into their design, but according to President Dan Roberts, their consistent, ongoing quality is just as much a product of Manhasset’s company culture. For the past couple of decades, that culture has been both shaped and reflected by the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) first established in 1992. “Without a doubt, we all have a very positive attitude from having a stake in the company’s success,” he says. “[The ESOP] makes everyone more flexible in doing and improving manufacturing processes, shipping...whatever is needed to get the job done.”
Named for the city in New York where it was founded in 1935 by musician and inventor Otto Lagervall, Manhasset relocated to Yakima, Washington in the 1940s and has remained there ever since. Stitched into our industry’s consciousness as much as the brand itself is the fact that Manhasset music stands are still made in America. These days, that’s a notable distinction for a moderately priced accessory item. Over the years, Manhasset stands’ unfaltering quality has truly earned the cachet that the term “Made in America” has long signified.
School bands and orchestras across the U.S. have always represented the company’s largest and steadiest market, which it supplies through its distributors and their retailer customers. And historically, school band directors are among the brand’s most ardent supporters, drawn to the idea that Manhasset stands last “forever,” and if replacement parts are ever needed, they are quickly available. In fact, the designs and manufacturing processes that Manhasset has been refining for decades allow it to offer a lifetime warranty on newly produced stands. Says Roberts, “The schools, our dealers and distributors, and end-users all love that.”
Is there a downside to making products that never need to be replaced? “While our stands last for years,” Roberts says, “kids are kids: they may ‘decorate’ them with a magic marker, or over the years [the stands will] get bounced around and scratched. We’re very fortunate that our customers want to replace their stands occasionally so they look fresh and new.”
In our industry, as in others, no successful idea goes uncopied. For the more flagrant transgressions, over the past year, Manhasset has become “much more aggressive” and had “very good success” in defending its trade dress against competitors producing direct knock-offs of its products. NAMM and other groups have helped Manhasset identify the offenders. Over a much longer period Manhasset has responded by developing super-efficient manufacturing processes to keep its prices competitive. Also, Manhasset products’ reputation for quality and durability—and the contrasting reputations of some lookalike products—have inspired a high level of customer loyalty. “Most people appreciate the value—the bargain—of a stand that you don’t have to replace for at least 20 years,” says Roberts.
While Manhasset’s domestic sales have “trended up nicely,” its sterling reputation has also translated well in international markets, where there is a demand for American-made products whose prices are competitive with products that are made locally. This is especially true, says Roberts, “when customers consider the advantages of our products’ lifetime warranty and day-to-day performance.” The company has enjoyed “tremendous growth in Europe, which is especially rewarding because some of our competitors are based there,” and in Australia, with very high sales per capita. Manhasset products are sold to more than 30 export distributors and distributed in approximately 100 countries on six continents worldwide. (Roberts quips, “We are still looking for a distributor in Antarctica.”)
To foster further growth of Manhasset sales overseas, Roberts recently joined a number of American business owners at a face-to-face meeting with President Obama to discuss the Export-Import bank’s value to their international business. The 81-year-old Ex-Im guarantees loans to foreign companies that purchase American products, with the goal of facilitating American exports. Despite a history of bipartisan support, Republican lawmakers have blocked the bank’s reauthorization. “All other major countries have programs like this,” says Roberts. “It’s really helped us feel confident about selling into new markets.”
In recent years, Manhasset has expanded its product offerings with microphone and music stand accessories, Universal Tablet Holders, Hi-Hat Drummer Stands, Percussion Trap Tables, etc. Roberts hints of new products, slated for introduction at the 2016 Winter NAMM Show, that will bring new excitement to the market.
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