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January 25, 2019 5:16 PM

14 Music Retailers Forecast 2019

Japan Music Trades interviewed 14 leading music retailers in Tokyo and Osaka area to ask what they foresee 2019 market and business. 6 retailers replied they expect much in the 2019 market, 7 retailers remarked business would remain unchanged. While, only one retailer expressed negative view that they would anticipate stagnant sales. Here are their comments.

“Sales of our main lines including large keyboard instruments and wind instruments were flat in 2018. I anticipate consumption tax hike in fall will impact our sales with significant level of ups and downs before and after new rate is applied. Other than that we expect there will be no large change in our business.

“To increase music makers, we make our utmost efforts this year providing customers with multiple opportunities to touch and feel the instruments, and fun experiences. For example, we plan Premium Morning for prospective piano buyers for 30 minutes of free experience before the store opening, mini lessons, free consultation programs for first-time wind and string instrument players, and drum experience. We believe these kinds of program will help increase our store traffic. Consumer is increasingly interested in fun experience these days and there are many ways we can stimulate their desire to play music.”
Hiroshi Funayama, Ginza Store manager
Yamaha Music Retailing, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

“We spent much more time last year on SNS-related works including taking pictures of products for our website, internal works involved in computer and revised E-commerce system aside from store and online sales and marketing. They contributed us to achieve two-digit growth amidst stagnant music retail business in general. It’s simply because our chief sales staff of each category have now better skills and undertaken more responsibilities. I understand it’s a key that we provide them excellent work environment so that they can keep motivation in 2019.

“Our sales staff members are spontaneously engaged in improvement of sales technique, product packaging, etc. While, we are trying to increase opportunities to visit overseas business partners in selection of our lines, establishing better communication and building friendship. I believe it will benefit our customers with more reliable product information, wider selection of products, and thus, result in broadening our customer base.

“We will face a host of new issues including announcement of a new imperial era in April, 10-day holiday related to its ceremony in May, consumption tax hike to 10% in October. We will also experience consumer rush into buying, and sales slow-down before and after the tax hike, and we must be well prepared for ongoing cashless payment.

G”oing back to basics what consumers expect in purchasing goods, we will heavily concentrate on providing them with fun and exciting buying experience.”
Masayuki Takada, manager
Watanabe Musical Instruments Co., Ltd.

“We shifted our marketing toward items of higher unit price last year to better meet the needs of broader customer groups from entry-level musicians to professionals as we moved into the new location in Shibuya, Tokyo. Customer response is mixed. Eliminating inexpensive products, customers under 20 years old, mainly senior high school students, drastically went down. While, sales surged as total volume of purchase increased. More customers came to us to sell old gears.

“Another advantage of our shift toward more expensive products is that foreign customers from Asia went up, and sales of expensive Japanese-made guitars increased. Customer musical genre changed too, from HM/HR to modern types.

“We organized a special event, which presented audience at our store all procedures that a professional drummer Seiichiro Hayakawa built up a drum set. It was very well accepted as this kind of event wasn’t provided before. We plan to organize another one at our Osaka store in February.

I say you will see our business more exciting in 2019. Customers will definitely visit your store when you have exciting products and nice, friendly staff. Besides getting out words without interruption on SNS, I believe it’s most required to build up inviting environment for customers and staff as well.

“The store has a cozy lounge like an automobile showroom. All staff encourages customers to sit on a comfortable sofa, try any instruments and talk over a cup of coffee.”
Soichi Takashima, sales manager, Eastern Japan Area
Music Land Key、Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

“Business was unstable last year. We will close 2018 with sales leveled off, but frankly speaking, we could have achieved a better result.

“Stringed instruments sold relatively well. It’s the market we can further explore. On the other hand, guitar sales were flat, especially in the latter half.

“As part of our market development initiative, we joined the all industry campaign, ’10 Days to Experience Musical Instruments’, and heavily promoted it with our original programs in June. Simply encouraging visitors to ‘touch, and take a photo with musical instruments’, a total of 800 people enjoyed experiencing some types of musical instrument in 10 days. It suggests there is a sizable market we have not yet exploited.

“Japanese consumption tax will be raised to 10% from present 8% in October. It will impact our sales more after it takes effect. Obviously, high-ticket products will be hard hit for a while. Where as, customers buy whatever they want. The point is how we can present our products attractively and effectively. Last year we launched original flute bags with great success, which were produced in collaboration with popular apparel brand Samantha & Thavasa. Apparently, we need that kind of positive approach this year. Well prepared and carried out properly, then our efforts will be paid. ”
Shuji Miyazaki, associate store manager
Yamano Music Ginza Main Store, Tokyo

“We refurbished our Shinsaibashi flagship location in Osaka to be the specialist store of pianos and Electones. This is the last and latest addition to Miki Gakki Specialist Stores. The American Village store moved Fender guitars on the 2nd floor in July, following Gibson guitars.

“Excellent sales in spring and fall events were offset by severe damage from devastating North Osaka earthquake in June and the typhoon in fall. In the time of net shopping, brick and mortar stores should better be prepared to provide customers coming to the store with goods of real value. I think the keys are improved network of our specialist store group and intensified sales training of the staff.

“As part of our projects to become a more specialized music store group, we redesigned our website in December. It’s expected to increase store traffic and better serve our customers.”
Masashi Komatsu, Marketing & Planning Section manager
Miki Gakki, Chuo-ku, Osaka

“Business was better than expected in 2018. Our original products kept us afloat. Consumer trend is shifting to ‘Experience’ from ‘Buying goods’. It seems they are increasingly spending on ‘Viewing’ these days. That’s the background that we refurbished Kanda store in November. It offers the visitors exciting experiences.

“REC Studio, which presents visitors self-recording experience with use of professional recording gears is very well received, and we have customers visiting regularly and from remote areas.

We have expensive H?fner, Rickenbacker, Strandberg guitars priced between 300,000 yen and 400,000 yen, which are picked by seasoned guitarists. They search on the net, come to us to try and purchase when the guitars fit them. Their purchase pattern continues.”
Tatsuki Boda, store manager
Miyachi Gakki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

“Generally speaking, sales weren’t bad last year despite small fluctuations continued. We spent busy days having taken part in various events. 2018 Musical Instruments Fair in Japan helped boost our sales of small accessories. It also led customers to visit us for larger instruments after the Fair.

“As a distributor of wind instruments, we have successfully increased import brands visiting Frankfurt Musikmesse every year. Our efforts have been paid off and such approach contributes to strengthen our sales.

“Our mission is to promote high quality products throughout Japan. Carefully selected, they are well recognized by discerning players. We often organize promotional campaigns and events in cooperation with local dealers to provide customers opportunities to experience such instruments.”
Ayumu Inouye, manager
DAC Musical Instruments Shop, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

“Being a specialist store of accordions, business was better than the year before in 2018. Entry models and used accordions are gaining popularity among young customers. They are not a main stream in music scene, and seldom heard in public schools today, but young people find it new and attractive. It was witnessed during 2018 Musical Instruments Fair in Japan as not a few visitors dropped in our booth to experience accordion. Concerts and seminars of chromatic harmonica and concertina also drew massive crowd.

“We expect we can keep present level of business in 2019 as sales will increase through to 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as number of foreign tourists go up though domestic sales will be stagnant.

“We are now heavily promoting Ochanomizu, a mecca of musical instruments to music makers nationwide, and to raise its awareness. The more people come to know Ochanomizu, the more the industry will be benefitted as retail business boosted.”
Hiroshi Iwata, president
Taniguchi Gakki, Ochanomizu, Tokyo

“In short, 2018 sales was rather poor. Even though, all our stores have characteristic product lines, well-trained staff and different customer base, we understand that we are in a right course. Every effort is taking effect.

“In December, we redesigned first sales floor of our Sanjyo Store putting all products away to secure space for experiencing musical instruments. Various musical events take place there every Saturdays and Sundays. Our 120th Anniversary event held earlier before proved the market trend is ‘Experience’ than ‘Purchasing products’. It also represents our message addressed to customer. They can get product information just by clicking mouse. They find no reason to visit music store on street themselves. Bottom price can’t be a key factor in making purchase decision. We will see this trend continue in 2019.”
Hitoshi Ikegami, Sales Group Manager
Jeugia, Kyoto

“There is no much change in sales with occasional ups and downs. School music dealers like us are affected by declining child population, but customers who buy their first instrument themselves tend to buy a high quality model from the outset. Accordingly, average unit price goes up. What we are worried about is price increase. Some of the products are priced double from 20 years ago. Such price hike affects the market and musicians as well.

“We started in-store events 2 years ago on every weekend to encourage all level of musicians to visit our store. Tuning workshop for oboe players teaming with manufacturers was quite successful.

Being discretional items, we can’t expect dynamic market growth of musical instruments. But they will never be discarded. I believe we can go on doing something small, but appreciable experiences which please customer.”
Tadashi Sato, store manager
Central Musical Instruments Co., Ltd.、Yokosuka

“We enhanced accessory lines to build up our entire sales last year. Since we are located in a shopping center, our product mix is largely consisted of regular type of musical instruments and brands usually purchased by street-goers. We will keep us not to be too professional, but make our place easy to come in, touch and feel the product lines we have. Recently, we come to see new type of shoppers as a food court opened at lower level.

“We provide original cables as I do electro magnetic shielding of cables myself, which are appreciated by professionals and live house staff. Coupled with maintenance and repair services, they make us differentiate from our competitors.

“I believe building up communication with our customers, and providing them with information in need will create long-lasting friendship between loyal customers and the store.”
Tomio Katayama, president
Umeda Nakai Gakki, Kita-ku, Osaka

“A trend continues for years that our sales slightly go up or keep the level of previous year as higher unit price fills the dip of sales decline. Digital pianos and drums maintain good business.

“A notable trend is uptick of electric guitars. They had been stagnant for years, but we see them coming back in a year or two. They sell well in every price range from entry level to high-end models. The same goes for acoustic guitars, and we sold considerable number of expensive models during an event in Yokoyama last November.

“Our net sales are growing since we redesigned our web site 2 years ago. Albeit, we maintain our store sales with utmost care as it’s our main field. Based on our new internal rules we regulated some years ago we are improving work environment and raising motivation level of staff. They are taking effect in fact. We believe people power plays a vital role in business whatever challenges we see in the future.”
Kaita Nose, manager
T. Kurosawa & Co., Ltd.
Toshima-ku, Tokyo

“Though soft market adversely affected our business in 2018, we see positive changes in our market development programs we carried out extensively in the recent years. We see customers from far remote areas these days. All in all, we have confirmed integral part of business is excellent shopping experience for customers and how better we can meet their needs. In times of 24-hour shopping anywhere, we understand excellent communication skill of our sales staff will make change our business more than ever and contribute to our healthy growth.

“We analyze individual locations and their sales performance every March. Some new stores will open in busy areas with good traffic though they are more compact in space. Cost-efficient operation and attractive product mix are the points.

“Improved music teaching operation is another key factor of our business in 2019. While taking necessary measures to increase new enrollment, and helping students keep their motivation to go on playing, we are seeking opportunities to play live, and also collaborate with people outside of the industry. A series of musical events and launch of special products are on the way in commemoration of our 70th anniversary.”
Ryuji Maruta, store sales manager
Aikyoku Gakki, Showa-ku, Nagoya

“The largest news in 2018 was relocation of our outlets in busy Shibuya area. Pro Shop Tower store with eye-catching exterior located in very attractive settings is successfully contributing to draw new customers. We expect they become another core base of our customer group.

“The market condition is mix, depending on segments. While sales of synthesizers and recording equipment as well as digital amps and processors are increasing, guitar business is stagnant. Slow sales of entry models are now felt for models in mid-price range. But guitar market is expanding as young people are getting to know guitars with recent animation movie and video games. I believe we can do better and promote pleasure of guitar playing to first time players. Pro Shop Tower has greater potential as a music store with many fun features not found in web stores. We are determined to provide the visitors with a host of original programs with real touch of Ikebe’s during the 2-year rent period.”
Masataka Yamada, managing director
Ikebe Musical Instrument, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.

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