|EMD Music Director Giovanna Baldocci (center) with Sales Manager Tony Graham (left) and Operations Manager Andrew Swift.|
Leading distributor expands portfolio to include
Originally a general distributor, Brussels, Belgium-based EMD Music spent years cultivating its own proprietary brands. Its long-steady growth got a significant boost over the past 24 months when it began expanding its distribution portfolio to include distinctive established brands to provide a more comprehensive product selection for its dealers.
EMD Music was founded in 1963 by former Davoli Amplifier rep Leonardo Baldocci. After becoming one of the industry’s first distributors to import product from China in the early 1990s, the company launched its own proprietary brand, Stagg, in 1995. Spurred by Stagg’s rapid growth across Europe in the late ’90s and early 2000s, EMD opened a U.S. headquarters and warehouse facility in 2003. Five years later it expanded its range by opening a Canadian office and now sells its full range of products throughout North America.
Despite its global reach, EMD Music is a family business, now headed by Director Giovanna Baldocci, daughter of the founder (who is still the company’s chairman). Having grown up with the business, Giovanna Baldocci oversees all operations, with a specialty in purchasing and importing. EMD’s U.S. team is led by Operations Manager Andrew Swift, Sales Manager Tony Graham, and Finance Manager Geraldine Ennis Markus.
Stagg stands out in the industry for offering products from nearly all major categories under a single brand name, including guitars, folk instruments, amps, drums, percussion, strings, brass, woodwind, pro audio, lighting, and thousands of accessories. The goal, Swift explains, was to create a consistent, trusted brand image representing quality products, affordable prices, and first-class packaging that dealers could promote to their customers and proudly display throughout their stores. And from the start, exceptional dealer margins were key.
Over the past few years, as management saw opportunities for “step-up” lines, EMD has launched additional wholly owned house brands across a broad range of product categories including Angel Lopez, JN Guitars, Blaxx Pedals, and Levante Brass & Woodwind. During roughly the same period, it began expanding beyond its core house brands to become more of a multi-brand distributor. With a portfolio that already included staples such as Remo Drumheads, Aquila Strings, and LaRosa Percussion, in 2017 EMD added a slew of established brands including Laney Amplification, British Drum Company, HH Audio, and Nady Wireless, followed by Islander Ukes, Kuppmen Music, and Keo Percussion a year later. More products and brands will be added in 2019, and the company is “always looking for unique SKUs and brands that fill gaps for most of our dealers.”
EMD products are sold in 70 countries on six continents. Its European headquarters sells direct to the U.K., France, Germany, Benelux, Austria, Italy, and Spain, and it partners with distributors across Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Australasia.
EMD’s warehouse in Foshan, China is used as a consolidation point for its products. It also facilitates giving its dealers the opportunity to direct purchase containers from its warehouse that can be delivered to their door in six to eight weeks. Having product in stock (eliminating production delays) is just one factor that makes doing business with EMD “super-efficient and fast,” says Swift. “It’s given EMD a significant advantage over competitors that offer only the traditional direct-factory approach.” In addition, with thousands of Stagg SKUs to choose from, order consolidation for the container program is “much easier to achieve without excessive inventory in any one category.”
With office staff in China and relationships that go back 25 years, EMD makes direct importing a simple, stress-free experience for its dealers, requiring “no letter of credit, no dealing directly with factories, no risk regarding any product problems, and no paperwork or import documents to deal with.” The company can also accommodate OEM requests, giving dealers an opportunity to significantly increase their margin without the risks associated with “going direct.”
The U.S.’s hyper-competitive distribution landscape presents serious challenges. While the entry-level market remains strong for EMD and fluctuates little with economic changes, the company’s expansion into higher-end brands and products brings it into a more crowded marketplace where consumer and dealer purchases are more calculated. To address demands for fast delivery to a market as physically large as U.S., Swift points out the strategic location of EMD’s warehouse in La Vergne, Tennessee. Other issues such as CITES rosewood regulations and threats of additional tariffs in 2019 represent, in Swift’s words, “complications we didn’t have a few years back, but all distributors are on a level playing field.”
EMD’s B2B platform, acclaimed by dealers, makes doing business easy and reliable. Now accounting for more than 25% of all incoming orders, EMD’s dealer website gives dealers instant access to stock availability, images, back orders, purchase history, etc. It also allows the EMD rep team to efficiently process orders live, in-store. Meanwhile, the company’s marketing team in Europe has stepped up its presence on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with market trends, and it is proactively producing quality video content for social media and for assisting dealers with online selling. A mobile app planned to launch in the near future is expected to “take our dealer site to the next level.”
Giovanna Baldocci looks forward to further expansion of EMD’s dealer network, brand portfolio, and product development. “We want to provide everything our customers need,” she says—“effectively, efficiently, and with the best service possible.”