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Just as last May found us recognizing suppliers of musical instruments who have weathered changes in the market and popular culture, as well as personal challenges, in order to make it to the 100-year mark and beyond, this year MMR is shining the spotlight on dealers who have reached that same milestone.

As anyone reading this is no doubt personally aware, fielding a brick-and-mortar retail operation of any type is a struggle – and a musical instrument store could be fairly described as a more precarious venture than most. In addition to anticipating and reacting to trends in popular music, navigating through uneven economic times, and targeting the needs of specific communities, MI stores have to contend with the reality that instruments and related gear represent “luxury” purchases – entertainment, not essentials.While many musicians of all types and skill levels (myself included) might express and genuinely feel sentiments such as, “I couldn’t live without playing!,” if it comes down to paying the grocery bills or buying a new amp, very few will opt for the latter.

Then there are the challenges more unique to present (and recent) times. “Digital sales are growing – quickly,” noted Rachelle Bergstein in a Forbes article from January of this year. “Over the next several years, digital will continue to take market share from physical stores.” Successful, forward-thinking MI businesses are upping their own e-commerce abilities to augment the in-store experience, but there’s no question (and, again, it’s not news to any MMR reader) that the threat from Internet sales is real and considerable.

Additionally, retail consolidation and the continued growth of big-box competition is another reality to contend with. While savvy MI dealers find ways to offer services and products that differentiate their stores and appeal to consumers even when a mega-musical instrument store moves into the neighborhood, there’s no arguing the fact that plenty of longtime operations shutter their doors for good or become absorbed. Anecdotally, on the block where I used to do all of my own shopping (the area around Berklee College of Music) there were – not so long ago, either – no fewer than three independent MI stores and another two outlets representing small, local chains. Now there’s one GC, and that’s it. That small MI operations struggled (and failed) to exist within a few feet of literally 4,500-plus musician-customers speaks volumes.

All of this makes it more than impressive that the music stores outlined in our “Century Club” feature have stood the test of time for so long. Many congratulations to each and every one of them and we wish them – and all of you – continued success and best of luck!

 



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