Spirits ran high on July 13 at the Hilton Nashville Downtown as many in the MI industry saw each other for the first time in 18 months as the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD) show commenced.

Whitney Grisaffi, president of NASMD and Ted Brown Music, kicked off the event by stressing that is especially important for people to gather in person after such a difficult year. “Some of the best business is done when people sit around the table where vendors and retailers meet,” she said in her opening remarks. “You have a chance to make those connections you would not make otherwise.”

Following a Power Hour breakfast, the retailer-manufacturer connection was further solidified via “Vendor Partnerships: Working Together Makes Us All Stronger,” a breakout session moderated by Beacock’s Music’s Gayle Beacock. Before even discussing these all-important relationships, she expressed discontent with any notion that retail’s future is bleak. “I have heard the comments that retail is dead,” said Beacock. “Obviously, retail is not dead and I hope it will never be dead if you are good [at what you do]. We can be good with the help of our vendor partners.”

Joining Beacock on the panel were Hal Leonard’s David Jahnke, Gator Cases’ Crystal Morris and Cannonball Music’s Tevis Laukat. Jahnke was asked what they do to help their retailer partners. “We have two programs,” answered Jahnke. “One is called PROF-IT (Preferred Retailer Online Fulfillment Through Technology). It allows people to order products on our website and support the music retailer of their choice. It was a way when the pandemic hit to support the retailer. We also have a fulfillment provider program, also for online. We are a firm believer we want our sales to go to retailers.”

Jahnke added Hal Leonard also has a Digital Retailer Program, which gives retailers access to a huge amount of digital content online at their stores. “So there is never a product that is out of stock, because it can be downloaded digitally.”

Laukat noted when he and Sheryl Laukat founded Cannonball 25 years ago, brick-and-mortar retailers were their main focus and have been the “backbone” of the business ever since. “We totally believed the school music dealer is going to be there forever,” said Tevis Laukat. “When I was a kid, there was a hardware store on every corner. You could get a hammer and a set of nails. But that changed. A hammer is a hammer. You can find it anywhere. But a musical instrument is an individual, personal item. People name their instruments because they are so personal.

“People have always been amazed we do not sell online,” Laukat continued. “We only sell to music instrument retailers and to this day, that still is our philosophy. Brick and mortar is here to say.”

If retailers still have any difficulty selling Cannonball products, Laukat stressed they should pick up the phone and call him. “Those that know me know I have a passion for this,” he said. “I can get on the phone and help you close that sale. You cannot have something on the wall and hope it sells. Feel free to reach out to me.”

If all else fails, retailers should ask manufacturers for anything they need, Beacock relayed. “Ask manufacturers how they can make step-up season more successful or rental season more successful,” she said. “That’s what dealers not here [at NASMD] are missing. They do not have that connection. That is why is important to still meet in person.”

“What can we do to support you and make your business grow?” added Laukat. “As manufacturers, we have to be flexible to make it work for your situation.”

Looking ahead, Morris said Gator Cases is focusing on what it can do as a company both virtually and in person. “We found there are a lot of things we can really do well virtually,” she said. “For example, we have put on shows where we debut new products. We found we did that very successfully virtually. But the personal relationships and conversations you have are things you cannot do virtually. So, we are actively discussing how we can blend the two to continue relationships and networking. We want to focus on relationship building while also taking advantage of all of these new ways to conduct business.”

Gator Cases is additionally focused on the challenging supply chain. “As suppliers, we have to make sure [retailers] have products to sell. We have make sure everyone does well every year. The hurdle keeps changing every year, but we need to come up with creative solutions.”

Make sure to check out more NASMD coverage both online and in the August issue of the Music & Sound Retailer.

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