Opportunity, or Red Herring?

A music teacher or hub lead places a set of instruments in front of you. There’s a whole range including flutes, clarinets, violins, trumpets, a guitar or two… They know they aren’t working properly but are not sure why. Wouldn’t you like to be able to assess them, identify any repairs needed and advise on the viability of the instruments? Wouldn’t you also like to do the same for individuals of any level who bring a problematic instrument to you?

I wrote about the challenges around instrument repair and maintenance at the end of August, and lots of you followed up with interesting and useful thoughts and experiences. It’s clear that some MI retailers, especially those who specialise in a particular instrument family, have staff with the skills to not only triage instruments but also to complete the most complex of repairs (as shown in the image). Sadly, that isn’t the case across the industry, and I say that not as any kind of criticism but as the prompt to ask, is there an opportunity here?

Fit For The Future

Ant’s piece last Friday, posing the question of whether the High Street is in its final throes, was provocative and fully intended to be. Feedback we have received has indicated that it’s not the end, but that there is a need to make changes and diversify income streams to sit more comfortably in the current economic environment. So how does that fit with the question of triage and repair?

In my August article I referred to an apprenticeship standard being developed for training instrument repairers. I’ve enjoyed many conversations with MIA members since, and the feedback chimed with mine – that the standard looks too broad to sufficiently train anyone to be able to complete anything but the simplest of repairs.

A Different Opportunity?

Most of us in MI appreciate the experience and skill that goes into major repairs and the damage that can be done, often irretrievably, by bodging it. I attended a meeting this week that has put the apprenticeship proposals into a different light, one of providing training in those basic triage and simple repair skills, and the ability to assess whether an instrument is of sufficient quality to pass the repair to a more experienced specialist. Set-up skills are also mentioned in the proposals – something that many guitar departments/shops are very good at, but sometimes missing in general.

So, you employ a member of sales staff and support them in completing the apprenticeship. It develops their knowledge to support the selling of instruments, but also gives them that beginner grounding in triage, maintenance and repair to a certain level. They may then decide that’s as far as they want to go and remain on your sales team with those additional skills, but they would also be in a stronger position to specialise in one group of instruments and develop more specific skills and experience.

Shout All About It

I’ve always felt that one of the biggest weaknesses on the bricks and mortar side of our industry, is that we don’t promote the expertise of the people working in it enough. It’s what sets shops apart, but in our society of quick purchases we need to shout louder to be heard. If you can offer an extra level of service and you shout about it, customers will notice. If you can offer potential candidates something in addition to a sales role, perhaps they are more likely to be attracted, or indeed encourage existing staff to stay. If you let music hubs know you are doing all this, it will perhaps facilitate the building of stronger relationships with them.

We want to know what you think. Could this bring more footfall, more income and potentially more sales to your store, or is it unnecessary and a bit of a red herring? If it’s the former, then we need to push forward with this opportunity, but if it’s the latter we maybe need to do a better job of informing bodies like music hubs that we have these skills already.

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