2010 has been a tale of three seasons for many retailers to whom we’ve spoken. Sales for many in the first three months of the calendar year hummed along well. Store traffic was excellent. Then came the next three months, where, for many, sales slumped significantly. Then, we have the July-September months, when many of you told us business has started to rebound, although sales might not be gangbusters.
What can we make of all of this? Although there are theories, nobody seems to know why we’ve seen seismic shifts at your store when it comes to sales and floor traffic. But what we can do is bring four percussion manufacturers to tell us how their businesses are performing. We also asked them to provide tips for you in an effort to increase store traffic. (No matter how well your store is doing, more floor traffic can’t hurt.) And we concluded by asking what their top-selling percussion products are. Our panel is an all-star group: David Jewell, marketing manager for Yamaha drums; Stacey Montgomery-Clark, vice president of marketing for SABIAN; Mike Robinson, senior product manager, percussion, D’Addario; and Craig Toporek, product manager for Percussion Plus.
1. With the economy continuing to be sluggish, how are percussion and percussion accessory sales doing? Are they up, down or the same compared to last year?
“We’re up compared to 2009…especially with consumable accessories like drumheads,” Robinson replied. “However, there’s no doubt that the percussion market as a whole has slowed. Consumers are definitely more conservative and judicious with their spending…they’re more price-conscious. The concept of ‘value’ has become more literal for everyone. Consumers will only pay for product features when they result in a clear benefit…whether that be a practical benefit like durability and consistency, or an aesthetic benefit like improved tone. One of the benefits of implementing ‘Lean’ manufacturing at D’Addario is that the discipline is so focused on increasing the value of the product and the customer service we provide. It’s a core principle of Lean that the consumer pays for what’s of value to them…such as improved tone, durability and consistency. They should not have to pay for any waste that results from inefficient manufacturing.”
“Overall we are running about even versus 2009, but we are seeing a significant pick-up in our drum set business as we head into the fourth quarter of 2010,” said Toporek. “Percussion accessories and hardware have been moving steadily, but larger-ticket items like drum kits have been a more challenging sale in the last few months.”
“We are pacing slightly above last year, but I am still cautiously optimistic for the rest of this year,” said Jewell.
“SABIAN cymbal sales are up from the same time last year,” answered Montgomery-Clark.
2. Retailers have told us floor traffic in their stores has dropped compared to the first quarter of the year. Any advice about how retailers can help bring people back into their stores?
“We would recommend having a good assortment of drum sets, accessories and hardware to sell in stores to make sure that, when customers come in the store, they are excited about the products offered and are subsequently compelled to make a purchase while in the store,” Toporek said. “In this retail environment, it is essential to create in-store promotions to spur store traffic through ads, social networking and by using the store’s database of customers to invite customers in for special events, sales or new product arrivals.”
Responded Montgomery-Clark: “Social marketing is an important resource that retailers can leverage to drive increased traffic into their stores. Using key social sites like Facebook and Twitter, retailers engage in direct dialogue with customers and potential customers alike. Using posts that invite a response, retailers open up their stores to potentially thousands more customers. For example, if a store has 500 followers on Facebook, a post that draws responses will be read not only by those 500, but also by all the friends of those who respond. If 50 respond, and each of those 50 has 100 friends, that’s 5,000 more people aware of an event at the retailer’s location. Advertising on Facebook and YouTube can also be very effective in targeting people who fit the right profile as a customer, both in terms of demographics as well as location. With an excellent pricing model, they reach significantly more of the right people, therefore serving to drive more traffic into stores. SABIAN has been very active in social marketing, and has dedicated significant marketing resources to video in 2010. This allows retailers to embed high-quality SABIAN product videos on their Web sites and social networking sites, such as Facebook. SABIAN videos are a great tool for sparking a dialogue with engaged drummers, and are available to all SABIAN partners.”
“Dealer events and special activities are the key to keeping traffic up. I was just in Memphis for an event at Memphis Drum Shop and one in Nashville at Fork’s Drum Closet. Both events had a great turnout because the stores promoted the event and used any and all avenues to get the message out to the customer,” responded Jewell.
“For percussion, only drumheads and sticks are the real consumables…so consumer purchase frequency relies heavily on the dealer’s efforts with both products,” said Robinson. “Statistics show that the average consumer buys only a couple of heads per year. Even a small improvement in the frequency of drumhead purchases per consumer, or the quantity of heads purchased per visit, can make a HUGE difference to a dealer’s bottom line. Dealers would benefit greatly from educating the consumer about when to change heads (recognizing the signs of an overused head). In doing so, if the average consumer bought three heads per year instead of two…that would result in a 50 percent increase in drumhead sales. While nobody is expecting miracles of that magnitude…one can still imagine the sizeable rewards available to those who make the effort.”
3. Tell us about your current best-selling product and what type of products or launches we may see at Winter NAMM.
Said Jewell: “Our best-selling drum set is our Stage Custom Birch drum set. Pound for pound, the Stage Custom Birch is the best value out in the marketplace. When you look at the sound quality and hardware of the Stage Custom Birch, it makes this drum set an easy sale for our dealers. Our new Rock Tour Drum set is also doing very well. It was just featured in a new Lexus IS commercial, so that should help with branding of both the Rock Tour Drum set and drumming in general. We have one very cool innovative new drum set coming out at Winter NAMM as well as a limited run of some old Recording Custom kits. We will make only 45 of the Recording Custom drum sets for the U.S. market.”
“SABIAN is looking forward to launching some very exciting programs at NAMM in 2011. A key area of focus will be SABIAN University, a new online video-based training Web site for SABIAN dealers and their sales staff. SABIAN U is launching with a series of video training modules that sales staff can work through at their own pace,” Montgomery-Clark said. “Scores are stored on the system in the user’s profile, a great tool for store managers to monitor employees’ progress. Graduates will receive a framed certificate of their designation as SABIAN Sound Specialists. Bonus training modules include topics like ‘Generating Impulse Sales’ and ‘How to Help Choose the Perfect Crash Cymbal.’ On the product front, watch for some very cool new cymbals developed with SABIAN artists Chad Smith and Jojo Mayer, in addition to significant improvements to our entry-level series.”
Said Robinson: “The EC2 line of tom heads continues to be a best-seller, along with staples like the G1, G2, EMAD and HD. Dealers are cutting back on the number of niche products they carry, preferring to spend their purchasing dollars on ‘the sure thing.’ The exception to this is our Inked by Evans custom bass head program (www.inked byevans.com), a Web site where consumers can upload their own artwork or choose from our library of designs to have printed on their front bass drumhead. Dealers currently receive a credit from D’Addario for purchases of an Inked head by a consumer, but we’re getting ready to launch an Inked Gift Card program that will allow dealers to sell ‘bass head customization’ over the counter. This will be out in time for the 2010 holidays.”
“Cymbal stands, drum thrones and bell kits have sold especially well this year,” responded Toporek. “Musicorp always strives to provide the best value and features in our Percussion Plus drum sets, hardware and accessories. The Percussion Plus brand is well known for its quality and mix of colors and sizes of drum sets offered. A recent ad featured our revised Percussion Plus drum throne product line, offering some new models for late 2010 and Winter NAMM. We are excited about the opportunities that Percussion Plus creates for dealers to sell these great products at very competitive prices, profitably.”
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