Music & Sound Retailer June 2021, Vol 38 No 6

Page 43

product, now, in their hand, and for a reasonable price. We can’t do any of that if you don’t do your part. I had several products on backorder for much of the first quarter, only to have customers get impatient and tell me they found it online. It makes us look silly when we tell people truthfully that we have a backorder. I know there can be reasons for this, but it doesn’t help the small stores. I honestly don’t know what the answer to that is, I just know the problem. Another challenge: As consumers return to our store (this week alone I’ve greeted a number of families I haven’t seen in literally a year), our challenge is to address the shift in demand we’re seeing. Not increase or decrease. Suddenly we’re selling items, accessory brands and product lines we barely addressed pre-COVID. Did customers become aware of new brands through the “people also bought” algorithm? Has crawling down the YouTube rabbit hole made them aware of new genres? I think the answer to these questions is “yes,” as well as other factors. In response, I find myself researching other products and suppliers, some of whom I’ve never dealt with. In many ways, I feel as though I’m putting my store together for a different market. What about you? Are you seeing “out-of-left-field” requests, or is it “back to normal?” This is a great opportunity for us to do in-the-trenches market research. Actually, it’s imperative that we

Certainly, the music products industry isn’t immune to these complications, and as a comparatively tiny blip on the economy, the manufacturing side of things doesn’t have much clout getting the pipeline moving again. do market research. So much has changed, there’s no way you can be sure what your customers want unless you listen to their requests and ask questions. The temptation to say, “Well, glad that’s over!” and reboot to 2019 is a trap, because it isn’t really over. People have been changed by this experience. Witness the people moving, changing careers, leaning into self-enrichment or perhaps still hunkered down as if the virus were hiding in the bushes. If we don’t do this research, we will certainly miss opportunities, but we’ll also risk stocking up for a reality that may never return. So my advice, and my plan, is to proceed cautiously until customers tell us more about their 2021 desires, but upon hearing the answer, to go boldly and swiftly down the path they point us to. I still believe that music-making can be huge post-COVID-19. But it will be driven by the music makers, not the music merchants.