Canadian Music Trade - December-January 2022 - Page 22

PHOTO : MARLON KUHNREICH PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO : ROBERTO ANANIA
Steve ’ s Music ’ s Michael Kirman
Gibson ’ s James “ JC ” Curleigh
Godin Guitars ’ Mario Biferali
so our shelves were pretty bare ,” Kirman notes of the Steve ’ s Music stores , adding that manufacturing slowed down , in part , because of the social distancing rules about how many , if any , employees companies could have at work .
For Blaze Music , Bader says , it started in April of 2020 : “ Stores went into panic
22 CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE mode . It was really quiet for a month or two and then , all of a sudden , it just went ballistic . We had 213 % growth last year ,” he recalls . “ We did really well , but part of the reason is we ’ re a stocking distributor – I buy inventory of stuff that I think is cool and keep it on board , so if someone calls and says , ‘ Do you have one of these in stock ?’ I can say , ‘ Yeah , we ’ ve got that .’”
As for what was flying out the door , Bader continues : “ Number one , by far , acoustic guitars .” While meeting demand may have been an issue for some , it wasn ’ t for Blaze . “ My motto has always been ‘ build and sell a better mousetrap .’” Consequently , his focus has been finding companies that share that ethos , he explains , citing Tone Pro guitar parts as an example . He also cites a U . S . -based company he works with that , “ literally had containers of inventory so when … everybody ran out of guitars and stores went on the hunt for whatever they could find , we had tons of product .”
In addition to guitars , Bader adds , there was an increase in sales to guitar technicians and anyone looking to upgrade their existing axe ( s ). Whether they couldn ’ t afford a new instrument or didn ’ t need one , people were spending money on improving their existing guitars .
Again , a lack of supply drove sales across price points . Those who might be looking for something entry-level couldn ’ t find anything , which drove them towards the mid-level , and those looking for mid-level towards higher-end products . It also worked in reverse , Bader continues , “ when someone wanted something high-level and had to settle for mid-level ; people would buy everything they could get their hands on . That ’ s what happened .”
From the manufacturers ’ standpoint , Biferali at Godin notes that the pandemic environment required streamlining , and communicating frankly with dealers . “ Working closely with dealers to forecast needs and demand all helped us . That allows us to make guitars and to make and ship what they want , but we were a bit behind ,” he explains , citing a shortage of labour . “ That was hurting us a little bit .”
When the pandemic hit , he continues , “ Immediately two things happened – some dealers panicked and canceled orders , some doubled down .” Even though Godin was finding it difficult to cope with demand and even when they informed dealers their stock might be further delayed : “ Instead of saying ‘ we ’ ll just wait for our guitars ,’ they ordered more , so it was evident we needed to crank it up .”
Consequently , Godin doubled down on making themselves more efficient . “ We questioned every SKU . Why does this exist ? Why do we have several models , with similar specs , in the same price points ? Do we need them all ? How about colour options ? Should we delay new model launches and focus on ramping up the best sellers ?” As such , models were discontinued , product lines streamlined . “ We re-evaluated every part of our operation with regards to how we forecast , how we stock , and what we stock , which I think made us a better , leaner , and more efficient company . But , for us , the most important thing was to communicate with our sales team and our dealers .”
CAN THE BOOM KEEP GOING ?
So , can the trend of six-string supremacy be maintained and built on ? The verdict is still out . But all of the factors that drove sales in 2020-21 , and all of the efforts to deal with demand outstripping inventory , offer some insights into how to move forward . “ I don ’ t have a crystal ball ,” Biferali says , “ but I think people who discovered a real love for guitar … many will continue to play , and buy another guitar , and another one .”
To keep sales up and maintain interest , Biferali sees the type of streamlining and re-evaluating Godin has undertaken as an approach that other stakeholders – manufacturers through stores – could benefit from . “ It helps retain the demand , because you ask yourself , ‘ Who is this guitar for ? Who are our customers ? What are they purchasing ?’ We speak to our dealers so much more than we did in the past … and we ’ re more in tune with what they want — and we ’ re still learning . We don ’ t know if the outcome of what we determined is going to be correct , but I think it ’ s going to help us in the long run – putting practices in place to make us efficient . So , when everything goes back to normal , we ’ ll be a much better , well-oiled machine .”
Bader says : “ There was a bump after The Beatles . There was a bump after Van Halen . Will we see a downturn ? Absolutely . Some