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As the nation starts to slowly reopen, how can manufacturers pitch in?

Across the United States, bricks and mortar musical instrument retailers begin the process of reopening their stores to the public, albeit quite differently depending on which state they reside in. The past few months have been particularly difficult times for dealers that do not have a significant footprint in Internet sales, and even then, the arrival of COVID has dealt a crushing blow to many. So as baby steps are taken to get customers back into the stores, are there things the vendor community can do to assist?

Going back to the future

The reality of customers staying home has without question driven more volume and emphasis on purchasing online, and certain categories such as guitars and home recording equipment have done very well according to industry reports. Live Sound on the other hand is suffering, as events of all types have been canceled, with no real timeline in place for when and in what fashion they may return. But now that states are easing their “shelter in place” orders, many of us would like to get back to shopping, and in a physical place rather than on a computer or mobile device. We as social beings have a basic need to interact with one another, so herein lies an opportunity for manufacturers to lend a hand.

Grow sales by building awareness locally

A wise sales manager once told me, “you increase sales by increasing awareness.” Our distribution model continues to bear out this simple truth, as an incredible product that few know about ends up on the scrap heap. Creating consumer demand but taking it a step further by geolocating advertising efforts and partnering with retail stores could provide a viable assist. One example would be the use of Facebook and Instagram custom audience targeting, with the direct promotion of a great retailer to visit. When the time comes for small groups to assemble again, sponsor an in-store artist event or mini-clinic. Many companies have product specialists that have been idled, so getting these folks in for workshops and masterclasses is another way to rebuild foot traffic.

What can vendors do to help dealers get back in action?

Providing incentives, rebates, trade-in, trade-up offers and other innovative ideas can occur to help local retailers. Years ago, I worked for a keyboard company that provided a special model that would be loaned out to qualified customers. In many cases, this led to a sale, and a waiting list of people who wanted to “try before buying.” Vendors can provide attractive and informative in-store P.O.P., something that tells the brand or product story and assists the dealer in creating a compelling environment at the store level. Most of all, manufacturers can help a reseller get back on their feet with extended terms and favorable purchasing conditions, becoming part of the solution as we move into this next phase of the great “reawakening” of retail.

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