The Big, Bad Online Threat and the Power of Optimism

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Editorial
• Created: November 8, 2017

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For the past… well, certainly since I came on board at MMR in early 2002, nearly every issue has featured articles, surveys, or editorials that have, in some way, touched upon the challenges and threats that online retail poses to brick and mortar MI dealers.

Our November 2017 issue takes that theme – not really even by design, truth be told – and runs with it to an extent that goes beyond “the norm,” however.

Sure, we have published issues with cover stories specifically dedicated to exploring Internet sales and how to react to and compete with them, and there have been detailed examinations of how to comprehend and embrace (or combat) related phenomena – apps, social media, et cetera – but for online retail competition to “randomly” take center-stage, as it does this month, is a reminder (or at least anecdotal evidence) that this is one of the most serious (very likely the most serious) tests that traditional MI retail models have ever needed to face and to overcome.

“Significant trends are the ease of simply purchasing on the internet, sight-unseen, or tested and heard in person,” observes Greg Allen of Long Island Drum Center of Nyack (Nyack, New York) in this issue’s dealer survey – a sentiment that was shared by nearly every participant.

Ronnie Dungan, discussing shifting trends and trials for musical instrument suppliers and retailers in his “MMR Global” department posits:

“Maybe the more serious issue is the ease at which it is possible to buy reasonably priced second-hand guitars online, making the case for a brand new purchase a lot harder.”

In this month’s Supplier Roundtable, Meinl’s Gabriel Harris observes that, “Online dealers can offer an entire catalog and sell to virtually anyone.”

Happily, November MMR also offers some hopeful outlook, as well.

In his first column for us, industry veteran and certified wealth strategist and succession planner, Jamie M. Blackman, asserts that, “brick and mortar music retailers, who continue to innovate and create new services will successfully compete against the ‘box pushers.’ After all, Amazon can’t shake the hand of your customer, and ask them how their granddaughter is enjoying her piano lessons.”

Chad Lyon of Wells Fargo (page 12) also provides the outlines of an overall plan to not only survive, but to thrive, in this changing market:

“By focusing on quality in-store customer service, businesses are creating an advantage by embracing something online retailers can’t replicate.”

I’m absolutely certain many (most? all?) have heard some variant on these broad stroke “solutions” and maybe some of you are – understandably, for many reasons – at this point a little cynical about the real-world application of such philosophies, or maybe they just seem a little too self-evident to prove meaningful (“Oh, really? Provide good customer service and everything will be fine? What a novel idea – thanks soooooo much…”). To those who fall into this category, I’ll refer you to some of the words of Menzie Pittman (again appearing in this issue) – himself a rather successful brick and mortar musical instrument retailer, by any metric: “The pessimist holds the belief that the outcome of any and all problems will only worsen… Where others see blocks and restrictions, the optimist sees opportunity… I’m betting on optimism.”

Me, too, Menzie – me, too.

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