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Piano dealers, hows the market?
#2778858 11/06/18 10:29 PM
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I was hoping a few of the people here who own both local and online shops would be kind enough to answer a few curiosities of mine

1. How % of your sales are digitals compared to acoustic uprights and grands?

2. What % of your sales are under 15k?

3. Do you have regular showroom hours or by appointment only? Why?

4. Would you open a piano store again knowing what you know now about the business?

5. How was your 2018?

6. Average margin on a used piano?

7. Anything else interesting to note about the business?

Thanks to anyone willing to answer any of these questions. Its greatly appreciated.

Last edited by kij; 11/06/18 10:30 PM.
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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778864 11/06/18 11:04 PM
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I doubt you're going to get a lot of honest answers to this on the forum.
However, if you get a subscription to the Music Trades, this sort of data is published in every single issue, divided up by different facets of the music industry (guitars, pianos, drums, etc.). It's not too expensive of a subscription, and keeps you abreast of most industry news in a timely manner.


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778867 11/06/18 11:21 PM
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Probably. I am just a pianist thinking about opening a shop. I know google trends shows a downtrend from 2004, but in the last 8-10 years it seems stable, even if it is a lot lower than the 2000s. I have no affiliations to any manufactuer or anything.

Last edited by kij; 11/06/18 11:22 PM.
Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778876 11/06/18 11:58 PM
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With the possible exception of your third question, much of the other information you seek is probably confidential. I cannot imagine why a piano (or, indeed, any other) business would disclose such information publicly. Moreover, even if disclosure were to ensue, it seems to me that differences in geographic location, brands carried, size of store, debt, etc., would make the information of extremely limited utility in making a decision about opening a piano store.

Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778878 11/07/18 12:17 AM
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Quote
I am just a pianist thinking about opening a shop.


Don't!!

Norbert eek whistle laugh

Last edited by Norbert; 11/07/18 12:18 AM.

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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778916 11/07/18 07:59 AM
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It is still a pretty dismal downward trend for US piano sales. Down about 70% from 2005. Down about 15% 2015-2017. Not sure what is behind the big collapse but doesn't seem like a promising industry to be entering. On the other hand, you only need to compete locally so if you can steal part of a large market from other retailers you may do very well.

Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778920 11/07/18 08:16 AM
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Digital, used, rebuilds, inheritances societal trends in music making. I would think globally keyboard playing is way up. More affordable and democratic for all now. Now the transition to more expressive keyboard innovation like Roli Seaboard and other MPEs.

I don't think the Piano will become a niche instrument like the harpsichord, but there is a lot of evolution and morphing still to come. There will always be beautiful acoustics for those who desire and can afford them. I hope folks will embrace the change as there is no thwarting it. I love that I can have a hammer action keyboard such as Kawai VPC1 or MP11 and have access to many high quality grands. These will only get better and more accepted in my view.


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2778978 11/07/18 02:16 PM
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I don't remember the origin of this quote, but "Do you want to know how to make a little money in the piano business? Start with a lot."

I would not crush anyone's dream, but I would say it would say you would need either need to very slowly build over at least a decade or start with very deep pockets and a key manufacturer while carving out some niche in an existing market. We've built slowly over 25 years. Prior to that, my father had already worked for almost 20 years for other dealerships as a dealer tech, concert tech, and service department manager.


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2779038 11/07/18 05:30 PM
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It seems to me that if you want to get into this business, you better be doing it for enjoyment and have a second job to pay the bills. Here in San Diego, there are two major piano dealers and one of them is now liquidating. And San Diego is a city of over 1 million people in a region of 3 million people. I have often marveled at walking into one of these stores and apparently being the only customer in the place,


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2779104 11/07/18 09:03 PM
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As it turns out, when you buy a 10k piano dealers are more willing to talk to you about the business. It's not a bad business to get into, despite the naysayers, from what ive gathered. Lot of upright sales, cheaper brands, digitals etc. For anyone else that was interested. Some do consignment, some dealers you buy up front. Why give any info? A better question to me is why not. If you can't compete you shouldn't be in business and how many people really have the money to go and open up shop? .

Whether I actually open a store is probably unlikely right now but eventually I might. Lots of easier businesses to get into with less investment for sure.

Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2779238 11/08/18 10:48 AM
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This thread kind of reminds me of something Steve Cohen told me once regarding getting into the piano business. I casually mentioned in a thread that I thought I might get into the piano business when I retire from my day job. Steve Cohen sent me a PM and said that if I got into the piano business he would personally come to Georgia and kick my a**.

Being a long-time member here, but not as long as Steve, I took that comment as advice from a forum friend, although I could have been offended by the comment, which I wasn't, that the piano business was not necessarily a good business venture to get into nowadays. So, thanks, Steve, for the advice. I am retired now and have no intention of getting into the piano business.

I do think, however, that not so many years ago it was a lucrative/profitable and enjoyable business to be in and perhaps may still be is some locals for some long-time, established dealers. The way I see it, if you love music, love pianos and like people, it can be a good business to be in.

Moral of the story? There is still money to be made in the piano business, but perhaps not as much as it would have been in the past.

Wishing all the piano dealer members, rebuilders, and technicians out there all the best. We still need piano dealers... smile

Rick


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
PianoWorksATL #2779402 11/08/18 10:20 PM
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Sam that quote originated with Moses. Still true!


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2779408 11/08/18 10:58 PM
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Reminds me of the story of the farmer who won the lottery.

"Well, sir, now that you have all of that money what are you going to do?"

"I'm jes' gonna keep right on farming until it's all gone."


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
oldMH #2779844 11/10/18 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by oldMH
It is still a pretty dismal downward trend for US piano sales. Down about 70% from 2005. Down about 15% 2015-2017. Not sure what is behind the big collapse but doesn't seem like a promising industry to be entering. On the other hand, you only need to compete locally so if you can steal part of a large market from other retailers you may do very well.

Do you have a source for those number? The What Happened in 1980 thread only had data up to 2007. I'm sort of surprised that it's continued to drop so much, but only because I can't imagine there's that much more to fall. frown



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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2779848 11/10/18 03:53 PM
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When I moved back to the US from Switzerland in 1998, I was searching for some sort of business that I could operate and live in my hometown (where there wasn't a lot of opportunity). I considered minimart type gas stations, and was a acquainted with a guy who owned two, so I asked him. He launched into a convincing, woe-is-me monologue about burdensome government regulations, trying to scare up employees, drive-offs, shoplifting, etc. Ironically, twenty years later, he owns sixteen stations.

My point is, don't expect straight answers from people about their financial business. If they're making money hand over fist, then they have an incentive to mislead you because they don't want competition, and when they're not, they have an incentive to mislead you because they're embarrassed.

If you want real numbers, then terminaldegree's advice to consult the trade journals is the better place to find them.

I suspect that the overall downturn in the piano business in western countries is very real. My gut feeling is that this probably would not be a good time to enter the retail piano business.



Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see
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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
FrankCox #2779856 11/10/18 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankCox
Reminds me of the story of the farmer who won the lottery.

"Well, sir, now that you have all of that money what are you going to do?"

"I'm jes' gonna keep right on farming until it's all gone."



I lol'd. smile


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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2779886 11/10/18 05:56 PM
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The only way to find out things in business is doing it. You need to accept whatever the results, good or bad.
There's no shortcut.

Norbert

Last edited by Norbert; 11/10/18 05:56 PM.

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Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2780026 11/11/18 09:31 AM
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Clearly the bottom is falling out of the new piano market in the U.S., and has been for decades... The numbers are in and speak for themselves.

What I wonder is how does the number of available used pianos affect the new piano market? Pianos remain in existence for decades after being built and purchased, and usually remain in “relatively” good overall condition since they are kept indoors, and in recent decades, in climate-controlled environments. There also seems to be an impressive number of “low mileage” pianos out there that were purchased for show or for a child who lost interest. While they aren’t perfect, they can often be brought back up to good performance level with relative ease.

Contrast this with the auto industry where hundreds of thousands of cars are built each year... and hundreds of thousands of cars are junked each year. There is attrition and more equilibrium since cars get totaled in accidents, blow engines or transmissions, encounter other costly repairs that outweigh their value, rust out, “ugly out”,depreciate massively and become generally obsolete. Few of these factors would affect a grand piano that may have been purchased new in the 1960s or 1970s and kept in someone’s formal living room, even if seldom played.

These used pianos I mention are at least part of the competition to the new piano market. Especially so when wear is minimal and the effects of time and aging are partly mitigated by modern climate control. Pianos do best in environments that are comfortable to humans, so that fact has benefited many pianos.

And there is one more major difference between pianos and cars... Most average people would not be able to tell a 1920’s piano from a new one if in the same condition, again making the case for used being the competition for new.

Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
Thejumpsuitman #2780037 11/11/18 10:46 AM
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I could tell a 1920's Chickering from a new one because the original hammers were beaten down and gave very little dynamic range. True, they could have been replaced for less then the cost of a new Chinese grand, but the dealer wanted a good price for the Chickering as-is and it was just not worth the money in its condition. Same with the Chickering quarter-grand, the 1904 Sohmer, and the Starr parlor grand I looked at: they needed work, and with the prices a tech charges, they weren't worth fixing. Sure, if we set up a shop on a production basis for fixing old pianos, we can compete with new ones. I'm looking into doing this and shipping the instruments to China. But it's not being done, and Grandma's piano is not being fixed. I don't think the troubles of the new piano market are due to a glut of good old ones. There aren't that many playable old ones available. Not any more than there were fifty years ago. Fewer, because the post-Depression ones weren't as well-built as the earlier ones.

Re: Piano dealers, hows the market?
kokatla #2780095 11/11/18 01:25 PM
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Sadly, I suspect that the largest factor in the decline of piano sales -- at least in western society -- is that demand for them has all but disappeared.



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~Mark Twain
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