In the past few months since the COVID vaccine rollout, life as we knew it has gradually returned to some sense of normalcy. Thankfully, the Live Sound business has started to recover, and music venues are once again welcoming patrons. Our musical instrument and pro audio rep firm Reflex Marketing was quite fortunate that fretted instruments, microphones, and home recording had done very well throughout the pandemic, and our dealers continue to see solid sales from these and other related categories. For my own part, travel had also been curtailed by a recent surgery, but this past week it was time to head up to New York City for a couple of days. The meetings went well, and a general attitude of optimism was noted from the retailers I visited, which was a welcome sign. Then there was the not-so-fun part, getting around town and finding parking.
Same as it Ever Was
Making sales calls in any of the five boroughs has always been challenging, with the number one headache being traffic. In this respect it was as if nothing had changed; at any given moment, my Subaru was forced to grind to a halt. On this trip I was seeing accounts in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, and found that both the clogged expressways and surface streets brought back memories of pre-pandemic times. In my 35 years as a road rep, I have driven in most every major city in the US at one time or another, and without question motorists in the Big Apple take the cake for rudeness and impatience. Little seems different in this regard, nothing “kinder nor gentler,” so if you are coming up this way, stay alert in this somewhat surrealistic sea of humanity.
Websites Never Sleep
While the trend towards online purchasing has been ongoing for years, the lockdowns without question accelerated sales for web retailers. It remains to be seen if some of these gains will be given back to bricks and mortar dealers; anecdotally I am pleased to report that the shops I visited were doing brisk business with lots of consumers in the stores. My e-commerce customers were receptive to discussing new suppliers and expanding their assortment with current vendors. This was also welcome news, an indicator that the markets are generally healthy. All clients I saw expressed a reasonable level of confidence, another positive business barometer.
Take the Long Way Home
All things considered it was a good experience getting back to “the city that never sleeps.” I needed to do this after a long hiatus, and the personal connections with my wholesale customers made the time spent even more enjoyable. I have plenty of follow-up during the week ahead, and a sense that life may indeed be getting back to the way it used to be, at least in terms of making personal visits instead of Zoom or Teams meetings. As I departed and made my way onto the Belt Parkway, another flashback occurred. A sign warned “accident ahead,” and so the long drive home to Pennsylvania began. It took nearly two hours to get across Staten Island, and I know my fellow area road warriors are nodding in solidarity. Some things about doing business in New York City may never change, including the journey back. Thankfully, this is still the case after a year of deserted streets and shops, so I will gladly take the good with the bad, and be happy to be back making sales calls again.