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‘Tis the Season: Back to School Sales Post-Pandemic

Christian Wissmuller • ArchivesAugust 2022Current IssueSurvey • July 31, 2022

Nearly 80 percent of participants (79.1%) in this month’s MI dealer survey report that things have either fully or mostly returned to “business as usual” in area school districts post-pandemic. With such developments comes the return of “Back to School” sales, long a key component of many MI retailers’ playbooks, as the season can represent some of the year’s most robust sales, second only to the winter holidays – although only 37.5% of those we polled are already fully committed to such promotions this year.

Nonetheless, the overall tone seems undeniably upbeat with many offering encouraging takes on the coming months, such as Tim’s Music’s (Carmichael, California) Scott Mandeville who describes himself as, “Optimistic that the school elementary band is going to be allowed to open and run this coming fall.” However, while the majority of MI dealers are reporting that the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns is receding, it’s worth observing that a good-sized chunk (20.9%) feel that school activities are not back to pre-COVID status quo and that retail operations are still severely and negatively impacted. Karl Markl of St. Louis’ South County Vintage Instruments simply offers, “I am not optimistic.”

Will you be launching any “Back to School” sales, promotions, or events this year?

Yes: 37.5%

No: 50%

Maybe: 12.5%

What types of Back to School events have you hosted in the past?

In-house/in-store party: 39.2%

Parking lot/street/outdoor gathering: 19.3%

Joint event with other nearby businesses: 9.2%

Online promotions: 13.9%

None: 18.4%

In the areas nearest to your MI retail operation, have school activities fully returned to “normal,” post-pandemic?

Yes: 45.8%

No: 20.9%

Mostly: 33.3%

Does your store maintain relationships with area school district music programs and independent music instructors?

Yes: 91.6%

No: 8.4%

What are your expectations for sales relating to the upcoming academic fall semester?

“Hoping for the best. Not sure what to expect from customers AND manufacturers. Daily, we are hearing from our manufacturers of delivery dates being pushed back later.”

Al Stephens

Moore Music Company

Greensboro, North Carolina

“Not sure yet, as the pandemic continues here in Maine.”

Michael Sangillo

Portland Percussion, Inc.

Gray, Maine

“We keep in close contact with our area band directors to assure them we will have all of the materials and components they may require for their upcoming band season and rigorously cross-train all department staff to keep them up to speed with our rental policies and procedures. When rental season begins, we offer special discounts on cleaning kits and incentives for students to enroll in our teaching programs.”

Jerry Vesely

Vesely Music Co.

Parowan, Utah

“We are predicting a 10% increase over last year’s rentals and sales.”

Jeff Young

Marshall Music Company

Lansing, Michigan

“We are anticipating a normal recruitment and rental season for 2022!”

Beth Houlihan

Kidder Music Service

Peoria, Illinois

“With every local district now back in full-swing for the upcoming season, the indicators are all pointing to a spectacular new school year.”

Nick DuBaldo

DuBaldo Music Center

Manchester, Connecticut

“’The Rona’ impacted the local music programs and personnel very hard. While a few classes and teachers remain, there are plenty of openings for music teachers! I hope we see some new talent step up!”

Anthony Mantova

Mantova’s Two Street Music

“Some BI rental businesses in our part of the state have been bought by nationwide chain operations, which has created disruption in the BI rental business. As a result, we have new rental opportunities that we have not had in the past, a very welcome change for us.”

Allen McBroom

Backstage Music

Starkville, Missouri

“We are planning a relatively normal back-to-school season this fall and have the inventory to do so. We normally do a lot of ‘instrument testing’ in the spring, often using the great new Tri-All device developed during COVID. That interaction with the beginners allowed us to present our rental solutions to the families and pre-sign them on contracts for fall school delivery. This year many rising 5th graders were simply told to look and listen online to choose an instrument. Much less up-front effort for the teacher! So our early applications are down significantly. We saw some evidence of that last year with many returns and exchanges. This year our saxophone rentals are almost double what they have been in the past few years. [It’s] too early to say what the long-term effect of this will be but we are doing our best to reach out to the community with free instrument testing all summer to try to put kids on the instrument that will bring them success. In many ways, this feels like having to rebuild the market all over again.”

Drew Parker

Separk Music

Lewisville, North Carolina

“We are expecting sales to be good this season, especially in the repair shop.”

Dan Rieck

Dan Rieck Music

Aberdeen, South Dakota

“We expect a very busy rental season. The school districts directly around us have invested heavily into their music programs over the last two years. Much to our surprise!”

David St. John

Music & Arts

Glendora, California

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