Ukuleles are definitely not just for playing at tropical, relaxed locales anymore. Sales of the instruments continue to climb for several reasons. “We are still seeing growth; sales are up 19 percent,” Amahi Ukuleles founder, Michael Schear, told the Music & Sound Retailer. “We believe this is driven by the educational sector and ukulele enthusiasts. We are seeing more and more orders for classic sets of ukuleles. Additionally, we have seen a rise in the popularity of ukulele circles and festivals. Many of our most successful dealers are those that are offering free clinics and other in-store events.”
Amahi Ukuleles’ Classic and Exotic Wood Series are two lines enjoying strong growth for the Cincinnati-based company. Both series of products were designed with a goal to complement other products that were already on the market. “We started with a selection of best-selling woods, like zebrawood, rosewood, ebony and koa. From there, we added more variety, including flamed maple, African burl and quilted ash, among others,” said Schear. “Many of our mid-range models were designed with unique binding. rosettes and sound holes but sell for less than $200, making them very accessible to the amateur player.”
The ukuleles serve as a step-up model for a current player, but also are intended for the adult beginner. “A growing demographic in the ukulele market are those in the 50-plus age bracket,” relayed Schear. “Many people at that age do not want the least expensive thing to learn on, but rather something more distinctive that is both pleasing to the eye and ear. With that in mind, we designed these series to offer as much variety as possible. What appeals to one person may not necessarily appeal to another. By having several designs in similar price points, we are able to achieve that goal.”
For MI dealers, the products also provide a wide array of options to display in their store without breaking the bank. “We often offer a package deal of our 10 different models in the classic series. For $649 dealer net, the packages include 10 different concert models with a total MAP value of $1,553. The customer can choose to upgrade to the concert, tenor or baritone, or add an EQ for only the difference in cost of dealer net,” noted Schear.
Amahi is taking several proactive steps to make sure its ukuleles keep moving off of MI retailers’ shelves. “Since we first started selling ukuleles, we have offered dealers package specials on our best-selling models. We found that this has made the ordering process easy for dealers, and each month we offer up to 12 different specials. All include free shipping and a discount off the regular net pricing,” Schear said. “We work with Ukulele Magazine regularly to advertise to the end user. We have also become active in sponsoring and supporting ukulele festivals, as well as adding musicians and influencers to our artist roster.”
Feedback for the ukuleles has been strong, stated Schear, with MI retailers reporting brisk sales of the Classic and Exotic Wood series thus far. “Dealers tell us it is their best-selling and fastest-moving line,” he said. “We often hear feedback on how much variety is available in the $100 to $200 price point. Consumers often comment on the fact that this series has a bound fretboard and wider neck. Having the width at the nut just a bit wider makes it more comfortable for players with larger hands or those who also play guitar.”
Of course, with the success of the ukulele market, competitors have swooped in. But Amahi has several unique selling points, including positioning itself as an exceptional value in its market. “For example, all of our ukuleles include a matching gig bag and most of the student mahogany models and all of our intermediate and advanced models include a padded gig bag. For what most of our competitors are charging for just the ukulele, we are including the bag. Additionally, all of our mahogany student ukuleles include Aquila strings, and most have the frets dressed by hand. Everything from our student mahogany line and up are hand inspected before shipping. All of our step-up ukuleles are individually set up before shipping,” stated Schear.
Ukulele design is another huge differentiator for Amahi. “Our approach to ukulele design is similar to how our parent company, Amati’s Fine Instruments, approaches violin design. Each ukulele starts as a project on how to improve the overall tonal and intonational properties, as well as visual appeal and playability. Design begins by first selecting the wood for its tonal properties and beauty. Binding is then selected for its function and improvement in the overall look of the ukulele. For our tropical series, we look for unique designs. A local artist in Cincinnati helped us create our DDUK9 wave design and several of our rainbow designs. Our newest model for 2019 is the DDUK12, a mermaid-scale design by a local artist in Indiana,” revealed Schear.
Amahi currently has 10 unique models in its Classic series, and it offers soprano, concert, tenor and baritone options for most of the models. They MAP for between $97 and $193. In the Exotic Wood series, it offers 22 unique models in various sizes with options for solid top and all solid. They MAP for between $159 to $470. There is also an option for tuner/preamp combination with EQ in many of the models in both series.
As for the future, expect Amahi to continue to innovate. “We showed several new models at the summer NAMM show,” concluded Schear. “We are most excited for the addition of some six- and eight-string models, and also some sopranino-size ukuleles in a variety of different colors. We will also be offering a sunburst Koa model with cutaway and tuner/preamp combination with EQ.”