Canadian Music Trade - August/September 2017 - Page 25

One thing all three of the stores have in common is that they see a common trend of both acoustic guitars and ukuleles being their top sellers throughout the year as the two instru- ments continue to grow in popularity, particularly in music education programs. Zabiaka says that the nice thing about ukuleles is their relatively small footprint and price tag, as that means they can stock a good selection with relatively minimal risk. “They’ve really grown popular over the past few years, and we find the bigger variety that we have lets people have a better choice to select from.” Wentworth agrees completely with the ukulele continu- ously growing more popular over the years with both aspiring musicians and even those with years of experience. “I can’t stock enough of them,” he says. “We’re seeing a lot – around a 20 to 30 per cent increase every single year in sales – and there’s no sign of it slowing down. And it’s not isolated to beginner instru- ments by any means. It’s all over the place.” On the acoustics side, Riczu says: “Genera lly we’ll start to stock way more acoustics, like Canadian made especially, so that our students get a decent guitar for a decent price.” When it comes to print and educational media, Wentworth says lesson and theory books understandably see a boost in sales versus popular music titles and the like. “For us it’s proba- bly Royal Conservatory [that’s most popular this time of year], but it’s all over the map, really. It’s basically whatever the private teachers want to put focus on. There’s not really one title that’s jumping out more than the rest.” Theresa Zabiaka of Dauphin Music & Electronics, Dauphin, MB PROMOTIONS Out in Wentworth’s neck of the woods, he says they don’t put a lot of focus on traditional advertising or flashy sales leading up to the school year. Instead, they rely on – and continually look to bolster – their community connections. “We just rely on our customers and word of mouth. Even though the store is one of the larger independents, it’s still fam- ily owned and operated. We’re very well connected in the com- munity and we’ve got our fingers into as many different things as we possibly can.” What matters the most to these three operations is not just making a sale on any given day, but making a lasting im- pression on each and every one of their customers who steps through their doors, making them feel welcome and comfort- able. That’s what leads to many sales on many given days. “Giving the customer space – that’s always the biggest thing. Just make sure every customer is acknowledged as they walk in, ask them as fast as possible if they have any questions, but just definitely give them room to move around while also keeping a mindful eye on what they are doing,” says Wentworth. Ensuring customer comfort is paramount to a good shop- ping experience, and while Wentworth stresses that’s the case across the board, he says that lately, he’s noticing that many female shoppers – particularly younger ones – still seem wary about being in a music store as there’s a perception of it being a particularly male-dominated and targeted environment. Ad- dressing this, his staff looks to make the experience especially inviting and comfortable for them. Additionally, Wentworth Music has gone through a num- ber of changes to help accommodate its customers and put them more at ease. “We’ve separated our departments, like our acoustic room as an example. It’s a double door entry to get in there but once they’re in there, they’re not being bombarded. The main thing is, you know, make it as comfortable as possible for them to be in here, right down to encouraging people to sit down and jam with each other, whereas a lot of retailers are, you know, ‘Look with your eyes, not your hands.’ In the tactile industry, you have to play these instruments, and that sometimes means a staffer sitting down and just jamming along with the customers.” Comfort for all during this stressful time of year is far more important than many retailers seem to believe. Far too often, shoppers in other retail environments are bombarded by an aggressive salesperson breathing down their neck while they’re trying to shop and look at the merchandise. That’s where being an MI store is a big advantage – in many cases, this is equip- ment people are excited about, and musicians often live up to the stereotype of being easygoing with a laissez-faire attitude. Most consumers stepping into a given store during the back-to-school season have a mind for what items they are looking for or what they may need. With the stress brought on by the insanity of this shopping season, being pressured into buying something and feeling as though they are being trailed by a constant shadow is liable to do little more than drive peo- ple away. “We want to create friends, not necessarily customers,” says Wentworth. Megan Beam is a freelance writer based in the Niagara Region and former editorial assistant with Canadian Music Trade. CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE • 25