Special Report

For the third consecutive year, MMR’s annual dealer count remained slightly ahead of the 8,000 mark. This year’s total of 8,004 operations showed a net decline of 34 outlets. As reported in last year’s tally, storefronts are only one measure of the industry’s health as Internet sales continue to garnish a larger percentage of music products dollars and Guitar Center and its Music & Arts divisions continue to open new outlets, generally larger in size than dealers who have left the scene during the past 12 months. On a state-by-state count, 22 had net gains and 25 states recorded a loss of units, with three states and the District of Columbia remaining even. The largest gains were in Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. States experiencing the biggest losses were Florida, California, Texas, Missouri, and Washington.

While compiling this year’s “Profile,” we looked backward to our initial report in 1991 with a tally of 9,371 units. During the intervening years, the industry has recorded a net loss of 1,727 storefronts.

The majority of closings took place during the early 1990s with a loss of more than 1,200 units from ’91 through ’94. In the past ten years there has been a net loss of 418 stores.

Guitar Center and its Music & Arts subsidiary continue their pace of store openings, however. For the past two years, GC has opened 10 and 16 new branches, respectively, and at year-end will have opened an additional 15 in 2013 for total of 255 branches. Music & Arts is set to see a total of eight stores opened in six states this year, and has also acquired three longtime dealers: Anaheim Band Instruments, Harrison Music (Richmond, Va.) and Maximum Music (Long Island). This brings them to a total of 116 outlets. While Best Buy is not included in our dealer count, many of their 100 plus music departments have been shuttered while, on the opposite side of the ledger, Sweetwater Sound has added 110,000 square feet to its Fort Wayne, Ind. facility and increased its work force by more than 300.

Sam Ash Music gave up its status as one of the last remaining music dealers on New York’s famed 48th Street (Rudy’s Music is the sole survivor), moving its Manhattan location 14 blocks south to 34th Street nearby to Macy’s Department Store and a cluster of retail outlets. The new store has 20,000 square feet of selling area with 10,000 square feet of warehouse space. This past month, Gruhn Guitars moved from the Broadway section of Nashville to new and larger quarters on 8th Avenue South. On the West Coast, Los Angeles’ West L.A. Music closed its doors after 58 years in operation. Company assets were sold to Guitar Center and the location has been leased to a non-music tenant. In the Boston area, Guitar Center moved into a former Daddy’s Junky Music store location opposite Berklee College of Music. The 6,300 square foot unit is smaller than the traditional GC footprint and will primarily merchandise accessory and fretted instruments.

The long struggling keyboard market showed some signs of resurgence with several dealerships opening and expanding their operations: Long Island-based Faust Harrison opened a third outlet in Huntington Station, N.Y.; West Coast-based Piano Empire opened a new and larger (11,000 square foot) store in Anaheim, Calif.; Miami’s Piano Music Center added a second store in Pembroke Park; the four-store Keyboard Concepts moved to a new location in Cupertino, Calif.; and 40-year-old Gist Piano expanded by opening an exclusive Steinway showroom in Louisville, Ky. Venerable Sherman Clay sold its two California outlets to Steinway and continues operating outlets in Seattle and Houston. Two of the oldest stores to close in the past year were Haverhill Music Centre (Haverhill, Mass.) after 58 years, and Pennsylvania-based Haines Music, which sold to the Robert M. Sides Family Music Centers after 37 years in operation.


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