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#1324737 - 12/13/09 06:59 PM A word or two on the industry
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
A frequent theme on the Forum is bashing of the traditional piano retail sales “business model.” There have been several rounds just this week. There are usually one or two "armchair" marketing "experts" who believe they have all the answers to the piano world. A lot like Monday morning quarterbacking through a fantasy football season. This is always frustrating for us in the industry who live the realities of retailing in today’s world every day.

The traditional piano retailing model has been around for generations, and that is the criticism often laid at its feet. Retailers have tried “one price” houses and failed. Retailers have tried limited boutique offerings and failed. “Retailers have tried doing business from drafty warehouses to keep overhead down and failed.” Retailers have replaced commissioned salespeople with “hourly” clerks and have failed. Manufacturers/distributors have fielded “factory” stores to sell direct and have failed. Several internet-direct models have crashed and burned dozens of buyers. Single location superstores vs multiple small local satellite stores. Experimentation is costly and often fatal.

Throw off the chains of the traditional model. Think outside the box. Reinvent yourself. Innovate. You must adapt to survive. The “model” is dying. And yet, the customers still come with the same needs and wants and demands. Pianos get sold one at a time and usually face to face with the consumer. Each transaction is unique.

Frequently the criticism is directed to the retailer. Often his hands are tied by restrictions put on him by the manufacturer, distributor, and a variety of regulatory agencies. Changing the “paradigm” or the “business model” requires a lot more than just the will of the retailer. I will require consideration and collaboration of the entities I have identified. Such collaboration is actually illegal in some situations.

There are pressures from a variety of directions that have shaped the traditional model. While there has always been pressure to change the model, there has never been a consistent consensus as to where and how. Lots focus on the simplistic topic of “outrageous overhead expenses” of the traditional model. Yet, more often than not, the expense load is driven by customer demand or entitlement that piano stores have this and that or are set up just so. Retailers don’t just conceive of this out of whole cloth. They are responding to specific articulated consumer demands. Every retailer daily examines his product offering, his promotional activity, his fixed expenses and controllable expenses. No successful retailer rests on his laurels and rides the “model” without constant examination and correction. We have some very creative minds in the industry and all are focused on solutions. Recent posts have painted piano retailers as morons who can't get out of their own way. As in any industry, a few are, most are not.

Here is a list of what many/most real piano shoppers demand:
1. Freeway close, and easily located locations with good parking and lengthy store hours.
2. Well lit carpeted showrooms with good acoustics and good HVAC. Too hot in here! Too cold in here! Pianos out of tune (raining outside)!
3. Depth of product selection from portable keyboards to concert grands. Why aren’t there four new Yamaha C3PEs for me to select from? Why don’t you stock a new Kawai RX-3 in walnut satin?
4. Well prepared and tuned instruments, each one all the time.
5. All credit cards accepted and competitive (dealer bought down) consumer financing, and “same as cash” options.
6. Wholesale or free delivery charges.
7. Free lessons? How long and for how many family members?
8. At least one post-delivery tuning, often two.
9. Product staged, prepared and ready to deliver in less than a week. For some ethnic buyers, “fresh” back up product for “in the box” delivery.
10. Rental fleets with depth of selection and full value back on a future purchase.
11. The newest hottest digital products immediately after release and below wholesale discounting on discontinued digital products even prior to release of replacements.
12. Free “button pushing” instruction on complicated ensemble digital models.
13. Guaranteed trade-up allowance programs down the road.
I am sure you are willing to throw out three or four on the list, but there are others who demand those, and would throw out a different three or four. Each item comes with a measurable cost.

Here is a list of what many community teachers demand from a local piano retailer to earn their support, in addition to the list above:
1. Below market pricing from themselves and their student referrals.
2. Free recital space with 7’+ instrument, tuned regularly, with seating for 50-150.
3. Outside sales commissions, frequently in excess of what the salesman earned, or commensurate donations to their local association chapter or other charity.
4. Dealer support of association chapter bulletins or other publications.
Teachers are a valuable source of “bonus” business for piano retailers, but it comes with a cost. Education centers have nearly always been cost centers rather than profit centers. Recital halls in the final and complete analysis are always cost centers with little tangible return.

Piano retailers are often taken to task for not “growing” market demand for their products. Many do a lot to grow piano education opportunities by sponsoring scholarships, supporting local teacher associations, establishing health and wellness music making programs, sponsoring local concerts, outside exposures, school loan instrument programs. Piano ownership and display, and piano lessons are a cultural imperative for some ethnic groups, thank God. It is also attached to a broader cultural pendulum that over the decades has swung back and forth. With each generation more divergent pressures against piano come “on line”.

All successful retailing has many similarities:
Treat your customers with respect.
Give them more use value than you extract in purchase price.
Deliver excellent service before, during, and after the sale.
Know your products and prepare to professionally present them.
Tell the truth.
Let the competition present their own products.
Create a comfortable and conducive environment.
When any retailer violates these tenants they deserve to be scourged. Just don’t use the same whip on the rest of us.

From time to time I get the image of folks dancing around the campfire in joy that the business is so bad and dealers are falling by the wayside, thus paving the way for "fire-sale pricing". In the long run, fewer dealers and fewer brands and models are not good for the consumer.

To all the armchair critics of the piano business out there: put your considerable money on the table and at risk, sign a multi-year lease, secure a franchise or two, and have at it. Bring your new concept to the market and make a killing. Until you have done that or until you have walked a couple of miles in our shoes, don’t be so quick and sure you have all the answers. Constructive criticism is helpful. Keep the ideas flowing. Complete indictments of the entire industry, and every salesperson in it, are not helpful to anyone.
_________________________
Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#1324756 - 12/13/09 07:29 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Marty Flinn]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19589
Loc: New York City
I agree strongly with your first and last paragraphs. Some of the biggest armchair experts seem to think they know all the answers but, at least according to their signatures, have never worked a single day selling pianos no less owned a piano dealership. And I strongly doubt they have ever tuned a piano or can play beyond a mediocre level.

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#1324775 - 12/13/09 07:44 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: pianoloverus]
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10523
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
Marty,

That was simply one of the best posts I have read in a long time.
_________________________
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#1324781 - 12/13/09 07:54 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: pianoloverus]
Peter Sumner- Piano Technician Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 852
Loc: San Francisco
Thank you Marty...very well said from the heart....

Having been a piano retailer during a deep recession back in the UK (Margaret Thatcher's handbag being waved with abandon), I can relate to both sides of this very wobbly fence...
_________________________
Peter Sumner
Concert Piano Technician



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#1324786 - 12/13/09 08:03 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician]
LS35A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/09
Posts: 139
Loc: Hayden, ID
Wonderful post.

It's a tough life these days for piano retailers. They have my sympathies. The old days of 'Mommy and Daddy make payments on a piano so Suzy and Johny can take piano lessons' is OVER.

The local piano store where I bought my Kawai ES4 closed down this year. There was just no way they could make a go of it.

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#1324788 - 12/13/09 08:04 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician]
LS35A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/09
Posts: 139
Loc: Hayden, ID
Wonderful post.

It's a tough life these days for piano retailers. They have my sympathies. The old days of 'Mommy and Daddy make payments on a piano so Suzy and Johny can take piano lessons' is OVER.

The local piano store where I bought my Kawai ES4 closed down this year. There was just no way they could make a go of it.

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#1324790 - 12/13/09 08:10 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Steve Cohen]
PreparedPipa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/09
Posts: 127
Loc: MA, USA
i whole-heartedly agree with many points in your post and i appreciate knowing so many of the ins and outs of the industry. indeed - selling pianos is very different from selling other things. i for one won't even dare to try. to do so must take courage, knowledge, persistence, patience, and a certain amount of insanity! i have so, so much respect for everyone in the industry who are just very, very classy people. out of the 10 store owners i have dealt with, 9 of them are just wonderful, which means something.

i urge you to not take those "down with retailers" calls too much to heart, however. more often than not, people take the time to criticize when there is a problem, but when they're happy, they just don't talk about it.

i had been shopping for a piano for 3.5 months and tried almost all the new business models you had mentioned. in the end, i reaffirmed my believe that buying a piano is not like buying anything else - you have to go touch it and play it. you need to shop around different retail stores. i enjoyed the whole process and just for background - i shop online heavily, from clothes to computers.

i never shared this experience but now that i'm reminded of how demanding, ungrateful and unsympathetic consumers can be, i thought i just might as well... one of the places i shopped for a piano, which is a large chain store, had a sales person who didn't even get up from the armed chair to greet me (I made an appointment). he basically just gestured me to go try on the pianos. after he heard me play and saw that i was serious, he got a bit more involved but in the end, he told me "give the manager a call and tell him what you think as a courtesy" - by then i really felt that he was unnecessarily rude. he also didn't know many of the things i asked about the pianos, like where they were made etc. the manager of the store tried to make up for it (he wasn't there) by calling me multiple times afterwards but by then i was shopping elsewhere. there was also another big store that had people who didn't even acknowledge that i was in the store until almost 15 minutes later i went up to them to ask them questions.

my point is that just as there are consumers who are jerks, there are many of us who just want to have some basic politeness from sales people and ones who can answer your basic questions. most of the time if the owner is in the store, you get a much, much better experience. i'm just saying, watch your staff - you never know what happens when you're not there... ;p so no - my post is NOT about "down with retailers" but more about ineffective, unaffected sales people.

thanks again for the informative post.
_________________________
Lily L. - Certified Music Teacher, CT....
Sauter Master Class 130
Roland MP-70

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#1324803 - 12/13/09 08:33 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: pianoloverus]
cBeam01 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 5
Well, bashing or not bashing, the piano retail industry in the U.S. is failing me. I am a simple consumer and plan to purchase my first acoustic piano soon, and have no intention to buy another one in a long time.

I am looking to buy a new piano for my sons, age 12 and 8. I am looking for decent quality, but we do not need anything fancy at all. We started to get information by doing some research online, and it looks like a Yamaha U1 or Kawai K3 would fit the bill. I am envisioning a purchase process where I pack my kids into the car, drive to the dealer (one hour across the bridge), try 2 or three instruments, decide, write a check, and get the piano delivered within the next couple of weeks.

Price question. Looking at the dealer's web site I do not get a price at all. "Please Call". Calling them, I do not get a price quoted either. What???
Fine, there is the "Piano Buyer's Guide". I find for the K3: MRSP $8,500, SMP $7,800. According to the website SMP is "Suggested Maxiumum Price" (spelling error from website). Now I begin to wonder what a suggested maximum price means. I should not pay more? All right, but what is a fair market price?

So I do a search on piano forums, and up comes a post where someone says he got a quote for a brand new K3 for $5,300. I am starting to scratch my head, is a price of $5,300 fair or do I still overpay? Or even underpay?

Here is my dilemma: I do not want to make a 2 hour round trip with my kids to the retailer just to find out that our ideas about a fair price are so far apart that there will be no agreement. Additionally I am a person who does not like horsetrading at all.

My bottom line: Price is an important factor in a transaction like buying a piano. Money is tight. I am not looking for an exotic instrument, but for an instrument that is manufactured in sizable numbers (call it a commodity), has a decent quality and a good value. I want a prospective retailer to answer my price question without wasting his or my time. And if they cannot provide an accurate number then they should give me a ballpark number. If the ballpark number is $8,000 for the K3 in my example, then I know it is not worth his and my time to pay a visit.

So, how can I make a purchase?

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#1324812 - 12/13/09 08:46 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: cBeam01]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19589
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: cBeam01
Price question. Looking at the dealer's web site I do not get a price at all. "Please Call". Calling them, I do not get a price quoted either. What???
Fine, there is the "Piano Buyer's Guide". I find for the K3: MRSP $8,500, SMP $7,800. According to the website SMP is "Suggested Maxiumum Price" (spelling error from website). Now I begin to wonder what a suggested maximum price means. I should not pay more? All right, but what is a fair market price?


The meaning of SMP is clearly explained in Fine's book. It's also explained how to use the SMP to get a reasonable idea of a fair price. There have been threads here at PW explaining why dealers cannot quote prices on new pianos over the phone in most cases.

It's unfortunate you don't live closer to a dealer.


Edited by pianoloverus (12/13/09 08:47 PM)

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#1324817 - 12/13/09 08:58 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Marty Flinn]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7265
Loc: torrance, CA
Marty,

Why did you bail from the other thread?

You make some good points here, but opening another thread to make them is suspect IMO. The point/counterpoint on the other thread was interesting. This is not.

Your laundry list of what shoppers demand is not new. Here's a version from 2008 posted by you.

"You seem to have a handle on what our customers want, from your perch in Surrey. Hear is what they are telling us daily:
1. Want acres of instruments to play and compare
2. Want multiple C7’s to select from, for example
3. Want air conditioning, carpeting, good lighting and acoustics
4. Want convenient neighborhood, freeway close, locations with good parking
5. Want regular expensive advertising and Yellow Page presences
6. Want detailed piano tuning and preparation pre and post-delivery
7. Want free or wholesale delivery charges
8. Want multiple post-delivery tunings
9. Want displays of entry level, mid-line, and high end instruments to choose from
10. Want a variety of furniture styles, finishes, and colors
This is what the bulk of the American piano buying public wants."


In all my time here, I have never read a consumer shopping report complaining that a piano store (s)he visited was too far from the freeway, that parking was a bitch, that not all models were available in all finishes, or that the concrete floors were disconcerting. I've read plenty of complaining about price practices though.

You're bound to pick up some sympathy votes here. There is plenty to choose from in sympathizing with piano retailers. But exiting a spirited exchange to resurface with yet another rant does not distinguish you.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1324837 - 12/13/09 09:37 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: turandot

You make some good points here, but opening another thread to make them is suspect IMO. The point/counterpoint on the other thread was interesting. This is not.


Maybe it wasn't interesting to you. I thought it was very interesting, and I'm glad to see it in a new thread. I had stopped reading the other one, as I had grown quite weary of the long and unproductive posts that were being thrown back and forth with people accusing each other of not acknowledging the other's points.

Thanks, Marty. I think your post is a terrific summary statement of the retail perspective of the piano business. smile
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1324889 - 12/13/09 11:09 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2779
Loc: western Wisconsin
cBeam01,

As pianoloverus mentioned, you need to read the descriptions in the Piano Buyer more carefully. Very recently there was a long-winded thread here (try the search function) detailing exactly why prices for pianos are not quoted over the phone. "Rogue" prices are posted here from time to time. It's hard to tell what's real, what's imaginary, etc. not to mention what market someone obtained that price (the membership here is from all over the world). Did the price include dealer prep, tax, delivery, tuning, bench? US dollars? Canadian dollars? Something else? There is a competitive element to trying to be the one who posts the most outrageous deal they can here. I wasn't one of those people. I paid about 25% less than the price in Fine's guide including a 250 mile delivery and a tuning. I thought it was a fair price, and I really liked the piano I bought.

I would submit the "traditional" dealer model did not fail you yet because you haven't visited a store in person to play anything. In the past few years, I've probably visited at least a dozen piano stores. Only one or two of these were an unsatisfactory experience. The rest ranged from good to great...
_________________________
Pianist, teacher, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Casio px-200, Bechstein A190 #192939 @ home
Steinway A #585209, B #416809 @ work
Schimmel 130T #339100, on loan

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#1324893 - 12/13/09 11:16 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Monica K.]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7265
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: Monica K.
Originally Posted By: turandot

You make some good points here, but opening another thread to make them is suspect IMO. The point/counterpoint on the other thread was interesting. This is not.


Maybe it wasn't interesting to you. I thought it was very interesting, and I'm glad to see it in a new thread. I had stopped reading the other one, as I had grown quite weary of the long and unproductive posts that were being thrown back and forth with people accusing each other of not acknowledging the other's points.


There is some truth to that. It didn't seem like there was going to be any agreement on anything and the posts did get lengthy and complex. Of course, we're not navigating uncharted waters here. These marketing threads never produce sound-bites. Posts tend to be long and tedious. Threads repeat other threads in covering the same old ground with the same old hostility.

Still, I prefer dueling perspectives to a Sunday sermon, which is what I think we have here. I respect both gents for the depth of thought they put into that thread. I think Journey knows it's a losing cause. I also think he knows why. I'm guessing he's probably seen businesses die the hard way in his career and seen other businesses turn things around. I have a feeling he knows well the conditions necessary to produce each outcome.

Originally Posted By: Monica K
Thanks, Marty. I think your post is a terrific summary statement of the retail perspective of the piano business. smile


Yeah, but Marty's new thread is titled "A word or two on the industry". It is not entitled "A word about piano retail". As far as I know, Marty speaks from the perspective of a commissioned salesman, not from that of a retailer, a distributor, a marketing guru, or a maker. A lot of the sympathy that can be extended to the retail end of the industry is based on the demands placed on retail from makers and distributors. Marty often touches on those demands in his posts.

You can't have it both ways. If you defend the industry model against all comers saying that it is unique, you should not bellyache about how the industry treats retailers. If you wish to elicit sympathy for retail, you should not vigorously defend the industry model.

_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1324909 - 12/13/09 11:46 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i found it interesting
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#1324925 - 12/14/09 12:59 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: terminaldegree]
cBeam01 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/12/09
Posts: 5
Originally Posted By: terminaldegree

... you need to read the descriptions in the Piano Buyer more carefully...


I guess this is exactly my point what I do not want to do. I am really not that interested in making a big endeavor out of this purchase. For my taste I have spent enough time to prepare for this purchase. I already circled in on 2 models, want to try them, decide, pay, and leave. I am not looking for a lengthy back and forth re price and conditions. Again, I see the piano I want to buy as a commodity, I am not in the high end hand craft market.

Originally Posted By: terminaldegree


I would submit the "traditional" dealer model did not fail you yet because you haven't visited a store in person to play anything. In the past few years, I've probably visited at least a dozen piano stores. Only one or two of these were an unsatisfactory experience. The rest ranged from good to great...


I submit that the traditional US dealer model already failed me. I am just not interested in visiting a dozen different piano stores playing many different pianos. I am not qualified enough to understand or appreciate the subtle differences between manufactures and models. I am not an expert and I do not want to become an expert. I wanted to get price information before I go there to ensure that the visit will be worthwhile. And none of the retailers I contacted gave me any meaningful information. And to be honest, I could not care less about internal rules of the piano retail industry why they are not "allowed" to provide this kind of information.

It is pretty simple for me. I am the one who will spend the money. If there is no one that wants to deal with me in a reasonable way, I will spend my money elsewhere. The other thread mentioned Costco roadshow, so maybe I wait for one of these. Or the kids will have to practice longer on their keyboard and play real pianos only at lesson and at school.

Gee, I am not in the market for a really high end unique instrument. I am in the market for a reasonable quality upright that is manufactured and sold in the thousands each year. And I want a price where l am not ripped off.

I am looking for an easy transaction.

I can understand that others are looking for a different experience; I just want it simple, fast and fair.

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#1324951 - 12/14/09 02:45 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: cBeam01]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7265
Loc: torrance, CA
CBeam,

You mean that you're not demanding acres of pianos as far as your eye can see, models upon models in all wood finishes, tastefully carpeted floors, and the opportunity to pay for a guide book to help you figure out what the hell the price should be? You mean that you're not a piano snob?

In the granddaddy of these marketing threads almost three years ago, a retailer made this post to fellow retailers:

*Always be looking for what's happening around us. The world changes so fast now. I read fashion magazines, travel & wine magazines, even women's magazines, (look at the ads and what is "hot" now, it will keep you sharp) and I take my family out to happening, hip, artsy parts of town constantly to feed my mind with ideas, and I do get many. Please, go out to a hip, eclectic furniture store, it will blow your mind. We began to burn a candle at our reception desk and closing ratio improved.

*Modernize your showroom: Look at what's inspiring now, it's not expensive: pergo wood floors and clean concrete flooring, earth tones and sage colors, dark wood cabinets and silver fixtures. Clean walls, track lights, windows. Day by day, work at it. Customers want casual elegance, so for us chandelier guys, we gotta change. And for the warehouse guys, or smaller operations, I would get a young female furniture salesperson from a hip store in town and get her opinion on cheap upgrades to help inspire your customers to buy. They do incredible work for cheap.

*Customer service is a way of life. I think about my customers and not my competition, I don't give a rat's butt about what he's doing, and that's why "he" has gone out of business two times and counting. I deal sheet music and I have a recital hall, I believe these two factors are HUGE.

*Internet: YOU MUST GET ON THE NET. Even just get on Google.com/adwords and get your company's website (you have one right?) listed in your metro area constantly. This will not cost you much and is Vital. Email me for details if you'd like.

Other than these "dreamy" concepts, we have trimmed down our lines extensively. We believe that customers are just looking for EASY now. Most of the time it's more about the people element now than it is about the product (unfortunately). We're trimming our inventory and upgrading our merchandising. Hassle-free is a word people love to hear now.

If I could make it clear and concise (if only) I'd say it like this... You could say that the piano industry is in decline. Yes, it is. But we've finally stopped complaining and have taken action. I hope that you will join me in a high-performance, energized, creative and customer-driven approach to the piano marketplace.

PS - I know I failed to talk much about, well... pianos! This was done on purpose. We must refine ourselves as retailers and stop operating like country clubs or dinosaur watering holes that call themselves piano stores


Now rapidly approaching 2010 we have Marty's dinosaur list of what consumers demand.

[b]1. Freeway close, and easily located locations with good parking and lengthy store hours.
2. Well lit carpeted showrooms with good acoustics and good HVAC. Too hot in here! Too cold in here! Pianos out of tune (raining outside)!
3. Depth of product selection from portable keyboards to concert grands. Why aren’t there four new Yamaha C3PEs for me to select from? Why don’t you stock a new Kawai RX-3 in walnut satin?
4. Well prepared and tuned instruments, each one all the time.
5. All credit cards accepted and competitive (dealer bought down) consumer financing, and “same as cash” options.
6. Wholesale or free delivery charges.
7. Free lessons? How long and for how many family members?
8. At least one post-delivery tuning, often two.
9. Product staged, prepared and ready to deliver in less than a week. For some ethnic buyers, “fresh” back up product for “in the box” delivery.
10. Rental fleets with depth of selection and full value back on a future purchase.
11. The newest hottest digital products immediately after release and below wholesale discounting on discontinued digital products even prior to release of replacements.
12. Free “button pushing” instruction on complicated ensemble digital models.
13. Guaranteed trade-up allowance programs down the road.
I am sure you are willing to throw out three or four on the list, but there are others who demand those, and would throw out a different three or four. Each item comes with a measurable cost.
[/b]


It would be hard for two visions to be further apart, one providing a gentle nudge forward toward a streamlined "light and easy" model with fewer choices, the other a contentious, complaining, ridiculously overstated and overcooked potpourri of the unreasonable from someone who would like you to buy his book so that you know how to deal with him wihout offending him.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1325019 - 12/14/09 08:18 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Great thread Marty. From a technicians stand point, I appreciated the thoughtful insight.

Many customers can be very demanding and many also think they have some sort of special rights as a buyer to do so. I see that on my end as a technician as well. As you mentioned in so many words, they fail to realize profits are necessary to stay in business. Expecting wholesale prices because the market is slow is nuts unless they want more businesses to fail.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1325022 - 12/14/09 08:27 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19589
Loc: New York City
There is no need to pay for the guide book about pricing, the online Piano Buyer is free.

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#1325024 - 12/14/09 08:36 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: cBeam01]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19589
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: cBeam01
Originally Posted By: terminaldegree

... you need to read the descriptions in the Piano Buyer more carefully...


I guess this is exactly my point what I do not want to do. I am really not that interested in making a big endeavor out of this purchase.[quote=terminaldegree]


Explanations of the SMP and how to use it to detemine a fair purchase price are a couple of pages of reading at most. Probably less than 10- 15 minutes to understand completely.

Perhaps you can call a dealer and explain your time problem because of the distance to the dealer. Ask them if they can at least say something like "you can expect a price within the suggested range of discounts from SMP in the Fine book". And make sure you're speaking to the owner. Don't know if they're allowed to even say something like that over the phone, but you could try.

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#1325079 - 12/14/09 10:03 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Marty Flinn]
Hummingbird Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/08
Posts: 57
One thing that's curious to me is why the piano industry evolved so differently from the violin industry.

The needs are pretty much the same: have to try every individual instrument, need a place with good accoustics, good customer service, good selection, good location, comfortable atmosphere, etc, etc...
Prices are negotiable, as are the services that coming along with it - ability to upgrade later, lessons, tunings....

Yet I can log onto my local violin shops' websites, find out everything they have in stock AND a starting point price for each. I can call them up and even engage in price negotiation before I ever set foot in the store.
With pianos I have to make a trip to the store to get that same information, which is potentially a huge waste of my time which a simple phone call could have resolved.

The difference doesn't make sense to me...

No, I've never been involved in selling pianos. I'm simply a person who spends money on them. Apparently "the customer is always right" doesn't apply to this industry, though.

For my experience, so far I've only bought a digital. My piano store had one I liked in stock while I was there, and I was playing around with it. I asked for a price. $6K. Plus tax. Plus delivery. Ouch. I didn't even start negotiations. That's well out of my range.
Got home and searched online. Found it for $4300, including tax and delivery. I bought it.
Perhaps if I'd gone back to my piano dealer I could have gotten that lower, but I hate playing games. It was easier to just order the cheaper one.
I'm really, really dreading my first acoustic purchase, because I'll have to play it first and will have no real option other than buying from a piano store. It's not an experience I want, but it's something I'll have to suffer through. Do you really think a shopping experience that customers dread is good for the industry?

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#1325106 - 12/14/09 11:18 AM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Hummingbird]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8583
Loc: Georgia, USA
I agree that the issue of not discussing pricing on the phone is antiquated and outdated in this day and age of the internet, mass information media and wireless communication.

As for my particular circumstance, my wife of 34 years is totally and severely disabled due to a brain tumor and is confined to a wheel chair. I am her primary care provider when I’m not at work, and I pay a sitter to stay with her during the day. It is difficult for me to travel long distances to visit piano stores and negotiate prices in person. The last time I visited a piano store and took my wife with me, in her wheel chair, there was no handicap access to get in the building and there was not hardly enough room between the pianos for the wheel chair and the salesperson asked me to be careful not to scratch the pianos with the wheel chair. I really didn’t like that comment, even though I understood why he would say it.

So, Marty, you said you were looking for honest, constructive criticism, and positive suggestions on how to improve the current marketing model for the piano business, so here goes… make your stores more handicap accessible and don’t be afraid to give firm prices over the phone.

Best regards,

Rick


Edited by Rickster (12/14/09 11:20 AM)
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#1325205 - 12/14/09 01:20 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
Turandot,

I started a new thread as I thought this discussion was not completely germaine to the original poster's needs. I felt his thread about pricing over the phone had devolved into a dialogue between another and myself.

With all due respect, all your time on the Forum is not the same as listening to consumers on the scene every day. I have heard multiple complaints on each of the listed issues. Not looking for sympathy. I was simply looking to state a perspective. I don't write on the Forum to please people. I write to clarify, inform, identify misinformation, just as you do.

Yes, what consumers want in a piano store has not changed much since 2008, redundant or not.
_________________________
Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#1325219 - 12/14/09 01:38 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: cBeam01]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2779
Loc: western Wisconsin
Originally Posted By: cBeam01
Originally Posted By: terminaldegree

... you need to read the descriptions in the Piano Buyer more carefully...


I guess this is exactly my point what I do not want to do. I am really not that interested in making a big endeavor out of this purchase. For my taste I have spent enough time to prepare for this purchase. I already circled in on 2 models, want to try them, decide, pay, and leave. I am not looking for a lengthy back and forth re price and conditions. Again, I see the piano I want to buy as a commodity, I am not in the high end hand craft market.

Originally Posted By: terminaldegree


I would submit the "traditional" dealer model did not fail you yet because you haven't visited a store in person to play anything. In the past few years, I've probably visited at least a dozen piano stores. Only one or two of these were an unsatisfactory experience. The rest ranged from good to great...


I submit that the traditional US dealer model already failed me. I am just not interested in visiting a dozen different piano stores playing many different pianos. I am not qualified enough to understand or appreciate the subtle differences between manufactures and models. I am not an expert and I do not want to become an expert. I wanted to get price information before I go there to ensure that the visit will be worthwhile.


Then again, you weren't really listening. The book helps you find what a reasonable price is (online for free, as mentioned again) quickly and easily, and if you narrowed your selections down to 2 pianos, you visit 2 stores that have the models in stock.

What exactly is the big problem with this? Are you prepared to wait for 2 separate Costco roadshows for Kawai and Yamaha? How exactly is that less trouble than visiting 2 dealers?

For me, there was no back and forth. I had a picture in my mind of what an acceptable price was, and the dealer met that expectation. Transaction was done the same day. Whoopty-do!

Welcome to the forum, by the way.
_________________________
Pianist, teacher, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Casio px-200, Bechstein A190 #192939 @ home
Steinway A #585209, B #416809 @ work
Schimmel 130T #339100, on loan

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#1325237 - 12/14/09 02:22 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: terminaldegree]
Achillle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/13/08
Posts: 30
Loc: Bellevue, WA
I've just skimmed this thread. I find it interesting, but... I really don't know how this kind of back and forth about the state of the industry helps anyone. Understandably, Marty feels he needs to stick up for us dealers/salespeople in a forum that is quite honestly anti-dealer much of the time.

The problem seems to always come down to something very simple: price.

cBeam's quest addresses this fundamental problem. Why can't a consumer just call and get a fair price over the phone?

There are many reasons you can't, some of them have to do with territoriality protection, some of them have to do with a sales strategy to get people in store. Most of time, people who call but are unwilling to come in are price shopping, using dealers against each other to get an unfair price (one that is way, way too low and unsustainable for any dealer to remain in business). Dealers and manufacturers see this (rightly so) as a slippery slope to unreasonable price expectations.. prices that would not allow anyone to stay in business for the long haul.

HOWEVER:

With so much info out there, especially pianobuyer and the pricing guide, it is very easy to find a fair price. It is right there before your eyes. Someone tell cBeam what a fair discount from Fine's SMP list is. I would but it is almost 11:20. I am busy from 11:20-11:30 today.

Is it possible to find a piano for a greater discount? Yes. I recently bought a $600 suit from Macy's for $40. I don't expect every purchase I make there to be discounted this much, though.
_________________________
Semi-retired salesman (from the piano industry). But, assume all bias!
www.northwestpianos.com

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#1325315 - 12/14/09 04:02 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Marty Flinn]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7265
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: Marty Flinn


With all due respect, all your time on the Forum is not the same as listening to consumers on the scene every day. I have heard multiple complaints on each of the listed issues. Not looking for sympathy. I was simply looking to state a perspective. I don't write on the Forum to please people. I write to clarify, inform, identify misinformation, just as you do.
Yes, what consumers want in a piano store has not changed much since 2008, redundant or not.


No, I don't have your perspective. That is true. But my business also involves customer service. I have war stories like everyone else involved in customer service. Such stories are shared in faculty meetings and through private channels, not in Internet chat rooms hopefully.

One thing to consider is just how contentious you want to be in presenting your perspective.

If you have a significant population of Asians who want to buy pianos in the box, I think Journey would tell you to deal with it, to make it work for you, not to moan and groan about it as you often do here. If the customer values something highly, perhaps you then go with the flow and charge more for it (if you catch my drift). Also, you don't want to inspire your local competition with marketing ideas to work against you.

If certain music teachers are gouging you for kickbacks larger than your commission slice of the pie, in your words: "outside sales commissions, freqently in excess of what the salesman earned", I'm not sure this is the place to be discussing it. Lots of music teachers here...they might think that you are being unfair in your comments. Do you want to alienate them? Again, competitors may also take notice. Do you want them poking into your private business issues? SoCal is a super-competitive market. You know that better than me. Lots of people read here who don't post here.

Finally, do you want to present Keyboard Concepts as a shop that welcomes and respects all sorts of customers (as it does) or as a place where customers may encounter some friction and possibly even hostility? You may think that's a ridiculous question but you get ornery with some frequency here, and I'm not sure that helps the company's image or yours. The last thing you should want is that customers call ahead to find out your day off so that they can avoid a fire-breathing dragon. smile

PS On your laundry list of what consumers demand, some of them may come up occasionaly, but you know what the big one is, and even though you didn't put it on your list, it's not going to go away.



_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#1325333 - 12/14/09 04:31 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2385
Loc: SoCal
turandot, if you drop by where Marty works, you'll find he's not a fire breathing dragon but a good guy to deal with as a customer.

As for pricing, I'm in the camp that finds it distasteful to have to haggle to buy something. Not that I'm unwilling to play the game, I've had car salesmen chase me down as I've driven off the lot!

But the last new car I purchased was through the Auto Club. No haggle, just find the car you like and purchase. A very nice experience.

It's too bad pianos can't be purchased the same way. Just my 2 cents.
_________________________
Gary

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#1325340 - 12/14/09 04:40 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Plowboy]
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10523
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
This topic seems to rear up every few months.

There simply is no scenario for transparency in pricing beyond the kind of framework provided in Piano Buyer. As Marty [points out, many other scenarios have been tried. (I've even been a consultant on one or two.)

All have at least one of many fatal flaws.
_________________________
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#1325380 - 12/14/09 05:18 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
Marty Flinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/06
Posts: 2604
Turandot,

My list does not reflect "customer service horror stories" as you indicated. I was sharing a common list of things that consumer demand dictates to piano retailers. Not my company, or my store exclusively, but the industry in general. I felt they directly pertain to the discussion of the "aptness" of the "traditional model" as so often discussed here. To ignor them in any discussion of discarding or altering the "model" would be to ignor the consumer. The items on the list come up more than just "occasionally". They are real and common. If there was any contention it stems from the notion that those outside the business "know the business".

The bulk of the customers in my area are in fact Asian and we do just fine serving their needs. We don't have any problem with delivering in the box when asked. I personally don't recommend it, and caution against it, but always gratiously defer to the customer's wishes. But thanks for pointing that out.

Contrary to your depiction, I have great rapport with my customers and shoppers. I suppose my name and industry affiliation (actually I don't list KC in my signiture, and thanks for mentioning it) should put me at a disadvantage in jousting with those behind an annonymous avatar (by-the-way, let me know any time I can help you with your work in academe). I do not represent Keyboard Concepts on this Forum. To that end, and to avoid the appearance of promotion, I deliberately removed that line from my signature several months ago. I felt it was enough to identify my region and brand affiliations. My observations and comments are my own and come from my experience in the business. I am quite aware of who I am, and what I write.

Regarding your post script, one might assume you were referring to price. In nearly every store I have ever worked in and/or supervised we clearly posted the MSRP (with the exception of S&S) and a discounted price on nearly every instrument. The discounted pricing fell within the commonly discussed suggestions in the Larry Fine publications. Many of the dealers I talk to on a regular basis follow this same practice. Quoting discount prices over the phone or email or the internet is prohibited by most manufacturer/distributor agreements, and in practical application are not productive for retailers.

If your only goal in this post was to attempt to nullify my perspective, and make this a personal exchange, why post in this thread at all?


Edited by Marty Flinn (12/14/09 05:20 PM)
_________________________
Co-Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buying A Piano. A "must read" before you shop.
Work for west coast dealer for Yamaha, Schimmel, Bosendorfer, Wm. Knabe.

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#1325389 - 12/14/09 05:24 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: turandot]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17809
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: turandot
you get ornery with some frequency here,



so do you. wink


Edited by Monica K. (12/14/09 05:25 PM)
Edit Reason: couldn't get picture of kettle calling the pot black to load.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1325412 - 12/14/09 05:46 PM Re: A word or two on the industry [Re: Marty Flinn]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7265
Loc: torrance, CA
Quote:
If your only goal in this post was to attempt to nullify my perspective, and make this a personal exchange, why post in this thread at all?


I had two goals in posting here. One was to dispute the importance of your laundry list of what consumers demand. I do not agree with that list. My own feeling is that pricing should be at the top of the list (not absent), and that the items you listed are of lesser importance. As I said before, I read a lot of posts from consumers who are bewildered by piano pricing. I have not read any posts from consumers complaining about stores that do not have acres and acres of pianos in all models and all wood finishes, or about stores that require a drive further than the bottom of the freeway exit ramp. If you have links to such posted complaints, perhaps you could share them here.

The other reason I posted is that I don't think it serves your purposes to pop off in a way that can alienate consumers, music teachers, and other elements of the music community. If you have a problem with teachers demanding kickbacks (as your opening post clearly indicates that you do), I feel you should deal with it in house and not blaze it across this forum. Many people despise these teacher 'arrangements' and will question the integrity of a shop accommodating them almost as much as that of the teachers seeking them. The same is true of ethnic stereotyping. If you have no problem getting on with your Asian customer base, you shouldn't bellyache about "members of certain ethnicities" as you coyly do on this forum.

If you don't get any of this, ignore it.

As to your disassociation from your employer and your house brands, that's for the management here to decide. If you recommend the Yamaha T118, the Yamaha C and GC series, and the William Knabe lines as you routinely do, I think those recommendations should be understood in the context of your representation. However, that's just my opinion.
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The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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