Last Friday we had our final drop-in session of 2021, and we had a really enjoyable virtual coffee with a lovely group of members, putting the world to rights after a year that has had its fair share of challenges but also some positives. If you were unable to participate you may be interested in some edited highlights. You’ll be experiencing some of these things anyway, but it can often help to know it isn’t just you!
Over in Northern Ireland, the Government has used a voucher scheme, giving every household £100 to spend on the high street. The feedback we heard suggested this has been positive in driving footfall where it perhaps otherwise would have been lower. More widely across the rest of the UK, without such a scheme, there is a feeling that footfall has dropped but the growth of online business has compensated.
Supply and demand was a significant topic of conversation with a mix between those instruments that are readily available and a significant number with lengthy waiting lists and even frozen production. Parts availability for electronics continues to be a challenge but there’s a sense that we’re also still reeling from the logistics fallout from Brexit.
Whilst we’re on the topic of logistics, more than one member on the call mentioned the spiraling cost of courier services and the challenge in finding companies that offer reliability and affordability in one package. Everyone wants the reassurance that when they send a product out it will arrive when it’s supposed to and in the same condition in which it left the shop or warehouse; it’s part of the customer experience. It’s not always proving so easy, and there was the suggestion that we may be able to broker a deal for members. We can’t make any promises on this because of the nature of the courier market and because of the size of our industry, but we’ll put some thought into it, as always!
The issue of rising costs extends further as many of you will be aware, with some manufacturers issuing new price lists on a monthly basis and with price rises often coming in at around 4-6%. This is reflective of manufacturers and distributors dealing with a myriad of increased costs themselves. There was some consensus between those from the retail end of just about being able to swallow the price rises at present but the challenge of reduced margins and further rises and overheads in 2022 could mean retail prices having to rise for things to be sustainable.
The logistics challenges continued to flow, with a reference to one large manufacturer suspending drop shipping. One retailer spoke of finding the need to allocate significantly more space to storing products in order to maintain availability to customers, so it will be interesting to see what happens on that; we’re aware that not all of you have the space to find.
Then there’s the Brexit knowledge gap. It appears this is still offering up its own challenges and that a reminder of the essential outlines would be useful, so we’ll get on to that in the New Year. The good news is that some are noticing fewer customers buying from abroad and more keeping their MI shopping within the UK, and there is a belief that this is due to surcharges on imports.
Repairs are in demand it seems, driven partly by the condition of second hand instruments people are buying from private sellers. One member talked about the need for a guide educating customers in how to choose a musical instrument – something that could have impact if it comes from the MIA and another thing to add to our list!
That’s the gist of the conversation though there was plenty more. We’ve so enjoyed all the drop-ins this year and we’ve seen many of you at least once. This kind of engagement and interaction is the lifeblood of the MIA, and we can’t wait for more in 2022.