Considering the strong industry MI has enjoyed during the past couple of years, one would think things are gangbusters for manufacturers of accessories and bags and cases. Overall, these manufacturers have enjoyed a robust recent past, with a solid future expected to remain ahead. But that certainly doesn’t mean things are perfect. And with good times comes increased competition. These companies need to continue to innovate to counter the strong offerings competitors are bringing to market. To learn more about the accessories and bags and cases markets, we reached out to three companies: Manhasset Specialty Co., Gator Cases and ProX Direct. Answering our questions are Manhasset’s president Dan Roberts; Gator’s “dream team” of Rob McCoy and Casey Keough, who lead its product management and development; and Jolil Ula, creative director for ProX.
Let’s start with the accessories market, getting Roberts’ take, before shifting to the bags/ cases market.
First, let’s take a look at what are some of the current trends affecting the accessories market. “Our music stands and related accessories continue to be strong sellers, especially at back-to-school time in the USA. Our export business has been affected by Brexit, concerns about a U.S.-China trade war and a gradual economic slowdown in Europe,” said Roberts. “We continue to see sales of single music stands grow as a proportion of our total sales as more parents are choosing to buy durable Manhasset stands for their kids to practice with at home, as compared to buying the cheapest stand available.”
An especially hot seller for Manhasset Stands are new colors of its #48 Symphony stands. “The Noteworthy laser-cut music stands continue to grow in sales,” Roberts said. “But our best-selling stands continue to be our #48 Symphony stands in six-packs and single cartons, along with the Stand Carts that are used for storing or transporting Manhasset stands. Manhasset’s LED lamps are selling very well, too. The LED Lamp II and The Trente LED Lamp are priced competitively with great performance and durability.”
Perhaps these products have sold well at your store. But if you want to do even better by adding even more accessory sales, Roberts offered MI retailers the following advice. “One way to grow accessory sales is to offer the consumer step-up opportunities for the lowest-priced models that they may be considering,” he relayed. “Consumers respond strongly to Manhasset’s value proposition when they realize that our music stands are covered with a lifetime warranty and that they are made in the USA. Manhasset also offers many accessories that can be added to our music stands to help keep the musician organized and uncluttered. Examples are mute holders that can be mounted to our stands and a wind instrument system that can be added to Manhasset stands that perform very well as instrument holders. These accessories, to be used with Manhasset stands, would make great add-on sales. They are affordable for consumers and profitable for retailers.”
Looking ahead, it always has and always will be difficult to predict the future. But with this said, Roberts commented about where his company might see future growth. “Manhasset offers four styles of Universal Tablet Holders at present,” he stated. “This has become a growing category for the company as some musicians are choosing to use a tablet to download printed music also, instead of purchasing sheet music. While this is a very small percentage of the number of stands that Manhasset sells, we do want to take care of that market segment, too, by offering these options. All of us at Manhasset hope that electronic music or dance music will fade in popularity. We all prefer to see live music played. We try to stay informed of all new technology that might impact the products that we make. We want to maintain our position of leadership by staying on top of any new trends.”
Manhasset Specialty’s president also discussed the immediate future, specifically in regard to what we might see from the company’s booth during January’s The NAMM Show. “Manhasset will be showing the new STANDMATE instrument and mute holders at NAMM, as well as the company’s Monarch Pencil Clip Holders, both of which were recently acquired by Manhasset,” relayed Roberts. “We will also have some new colors of stands with textured finishes. And we are working on some other accessories that we expect will be well received.”
It’s in the Bag
Although bag and case sales are often tied to the strength of sales of the products they house, most manufacturers are diversified, which lets them ride the ups and downs of the market, should there be any. But more than anything, bag and case manufacturers are trying to solve an inherent problem when making products.
“We are solutions-oriented,” noted McCoy. “We focus on the voice of customers and their feedback. What we hear as the strength of our bags and cases is they solve their problems and make their lives as musicians easier. Our bags guard their gear, whether they’re driving or flying to their next gig. Plus, [bags and cases] have great designs. We offer solutions and experiment.
For example, we offer different types of high-quality materials for gig bags, lightweight and hard cases. We have cases that are TSA accepted. We have cases that you can take a hammer to and they won’t crack, but they also won’t break your back when carrying. And they look great.”
Stated Ula, “MI has hit its all-time high in sales when it comes to what’s available, convenient, and almost all the gear companies are utilizing lightweight materials. Bags and cases are becoming slimmer, lighter and more ergonomic due to this trend. At ProX, we use materials and make products that cater to them but are not harmful to the environment. I care about our earth. I have a 2-yearold daughter, so I think our users tend to appreciate it too.”
As for what manufacturers value most when designing such products, quality is priority No. 1. “We always think about the user experience first. The overall build [of the product] ends up being the latter focus,” answered Ula. “In between those two, we try to imagine the brutality each case or bag faces during its lifetime. In the end, we want the user to feel comfortable knowing that their gear is reinforced and protected in all situations with a limited lifetime warranty.”
“We design for our customers and what our customers value most are high-quality solutions that protect and perform and allow our customers to focus on what they love,” noted Keough. “We design and make unique solutions to ensure our products never fail our customers.”
In the future, consumers can expect more innovation in both design and function of bags and cases, he added.
Ula noted that tech integration will lead the industry to innovation and newer trends in the future. “We already see how far LED lighting has come and become more affordable and can be controlled. With our smartphones and technology, there is always room for future trends,” he said.
McCoy continued by offering up some advice for MI retailers selling Gator products: listen “to your customers, respond to their needs, solve their problems.”
Ula offered this advice for MI retailers: “Other than having the best possible protection for your gear that your customers’ money can buy, most of our products also include a limited lifetime warranty. We are always looking to help educate our customers and dealers on our products, we are involved with many of our users small and big on social media, you can shoot us a message any time if you have a product-related question and we will try to reply to you.”
As for what products are moving the needle, Gator’s GBE and Transit series are very popular, responded McCoy. “The GBE bags are a go-to for gig bags, and the Transits are very stylish and durable,” he said. “The 4G and Pro-Go series also sell well. They offer even more protection for the ultimate traveling musician. We also have great Levy’s [Leathers] gig bags that offer style and comfort.
In the Frameworks line, our combo guitar seat and stand sells well. We also have mic stands that are popular amongst musicians and creative pros like podcasters. They’re multi-functional and can be used for guitar amps, bass drum or desktop recording.”
Over at ProX, the XF-MESAMEDIA, an all-in-one Portable DJ Table-top facade solution, is a top seller. “It includes a 56-inch-wide table and shelf that mounts [to the] facade frame,” said Ula. “It has a 65-inch TV monitor front mount. It takes five to 10 minutes to set up, and it all fits into one bag. It’s a cool product. Another feature is being able to mount a 65-inch flat-screen to the front and display your visuals directly in front of you. It adds a huge impact on your show when combined with more monitors.
“Another hit this year has been our XS-SX1K2UWLTBL LED case, which fits the Pioneer DDJ-1000/SRT, DDJ-SX Series and Denon MC7000 DJ controller(s),” continued Ula. “It’s equipped with a 2U rack, powerful steel-ball corners, recessed rubber handles and latch locks, and our GloLITE RGB LED Fixture mounted under the sliding laptop shelf.”
Looking at the quickly approaching NAMM Show, McCoy relayed he is really excited about the new products the company is working on for the winter show extravaganza, as well as the next year for both Gator and Levy’s Leathers. “We will release new keyboard bags and expand our ukulele bag offerings. We are enhancing our band cases. We’ll also offer more products for creative pros and have even more solutions for photo, video, content producers and podcasters,” he relayed.
ProX is often releasing new products throughout the year. Expect to see these on display at The NAMM Show. “We’ve expanded our truss line and we now make a 12-inch bolted box truss called BoltX,” concluded Ula. “We also have a few new innovative products we’ll be demoing at The NAMM Show. You’ll just have to wait to see!”