JMT Web NewsINDUSTRY TOPICS
6 Store Managers Talk About Digital Piano Business
Japan Music Trades interviewed 6 managers of leading music stores in Tokyo and Osaka Areas in hopes of knowing what they expect for future business of digital pianos, which achieved dramatic sales increase during the lockdown.
“We opened the first digital piano specialist division in Ikebe Musical main store in Shibuya last March. It’s an easily stopped by casual spot for piano players, seasoned pianists, and young families with children. The market for digital piano is separated into either entry-level or high-end classes. Experienced players and parents seeking instruments for their children choose Kawai CA and Casio GP, in appreciation of their acoustic piano-like tonal quality. On the other hand, first time players and parents tend to buy instruments at reasonable price as they are uncertain how long their children keep playing. Particularly, such slim size types sell well as they don’t take much space at living room.
“The problem is some models are out of stock at manufacturers’ factory and warehouse, and they must select the pianos from our limited inventory. Not a few customers frustrate that they can’t buy desired instruments right away. There are demands but we lose businesses without products they want. What it happens now.
“We see shortage of supply won’t be solved for the time being. One positive way to cope with the condition is to have stage pianos for pop music genre and new attractive items like Dexibell line not much distributed by traditional piano stores.
“Six months have passed since the launch, we are not contented with the present style of business, and we believe we can expand our services to better meet the requirements of our customers.”
Junji Abe, Assistant Manager, Anneau Piano, Ikebe Musical Instruments Store, Shibuya, Tokyo
“We launched otto Akihabara specialist digital piano store last July to offer versatile selection of digital pianos. Such diversified models are available, we want consumer to know advantages and benefits of digital pianos, not as a substitute to acoustic counterparts.
“In addition to a selection from 20 to 30 digital pianos, we have an in-store lesson section at one corner of the sales floor. Our largest customer group sharing 60% of the total is middle-aged over 45 years old. In many cases, they buy instruments in attractive price between 200,000 yen and 300,00 yen, like Casio Privia PX-S1100. They are also interested in Casio GP-510BP (400,000 yen) and Dexibell VIVO S7 intermediate class models. We set up those instruments ready to touch and play for easy comparison.
“Since we originally launched as an expert of DJ hardware and DTM products, it’s our strength to streamlining live events. In fact, not a few visitors drop in our store after viewing the video contents. We are happy that they choose us as a music store to casually come in and have fun shopping experience.
“We plan online digital piano competition in collaboration with our suppliers. Setting a minimum entry fee, it will be appreciated by first time pianists. We hope we could support entry-level players providing them with much excitement and pleasure to play the piano.”
Yosuke Inoue, president and Kayo Yamafuji, sales staff, otto Akihabara, Tokyo
“Last year, we were kept busy coping with inquiries from July and August. By September orders rushed in, and we worried about shortage of supply. The situation has little improved these days, but sometimes we have to ask our customers to wait for extra months before their new pianos delivered their home.
“Most of our customers come to us seeking digital pianos for lesson of their children, and they plan trade-up to acoustic piano years later. Kawai CN series models at 100,000yen price range are the first choice for the parents considering trade-up within 3 years. While those who consider much longer use or prefer natural key touch and control capability from the very beginning are likely to choose CA series pianos which have a wooden keyboard, typically, CA49 priced at around 200,000 yen.
“In the midst of lockdown, we had more female customers, largely over 35 years old, seeking pleasure of playing piano at home than before. They simply wanted to play the piano, more conscious about key touch than such advanced functions as Bluetooth.
“As a manufacturer of both acoustic and digital pianos, Kawai offers the market digital models fully taking advantage of acoustic counterparts. We believe we can meet the demands of customers with expertise and experience on both types in the coming biggest business season.”
Masahiro Yabe, assistant manager, Kawai Omotesando Store, Harajuku, Tokyo
“We sold considerable number of attractively priced digital pianos last year thanks to the so-called ‘stay home demands’. They were largely hobby music makers. Despite the shut down for nearly 45 days, our 12-month sales grew between 80% and 90%. It was the biggest year for the keyboard section after we opened in 2014.
“Now, the difference from last year is we see more children and students coming back to classes. Parents are likely to spend more for their children and music lesson than before which results in a 20% increase of average unit price. Price range of digital piano for school-age children is around 200,000 yen. But they are in many cases out of stock these days. The parents often contented and buy upper class models and Yamaha hybrid pianos priced around 300,000 yen after they were referred to these models and learned the features and capabilities. Sales remain flat in unit but go up in value.
Yet, we see business may fluctuate under the current under supply of products and change of trend in the market as our life slowly returns to pre-pandemic days. We just get prepared for change and provide local customers with much needed service.”
Hikaru Tamaki, store manager, Aeon Mall Kita-Toda Store, Yamano Music
“Increasing number of people stayed home longer than before and worked from home, demands for stylish pianos are substantially growing in unit than last year. Sales of digital pianos for music lesson remains no change, but suppliers have struggled with limited supply of chips which causes music retailers no products to sell as there exist demands. Given that people are likely to have extra time to explore new activities at home, the trend will continue in coming months.
“We see sales for music class and private lesson students increase at physical store, adult music makers buy more online. People with music experience and first-time music makers are also visiting us. Though customer traffic at brick and mortal store is decreasing, we believe people find real value in experiencing something real time.
“We still don’t go out freely today. Increased leisure time is influencing spending style and time of people. We see new businesses including cross-industry trades frequently arise today. I think this trend will further accelerate. It’s a key how to integrate digital and analog technologies and provide customers with products and services matched to their changing requirements.”
Michinori Ikegami, Sales Development Group, Jeugia, Kyoto
“We see demands for digital pianos increased after the pandemic. Undersupplied products even make music retailers from outside of Kyoto contact us.
Last summer, declaration of the COVID-19 Statement of Emergency and bad weather devastated store traffic. Also, summer wage bonus campaign failed to stimulate consumer spending.
“The situation reversed in September with increasing store traffic, and appointments via Internet which resulted in the largest business after the last best sales we achieved in 2019.
Demands grew for models in 100,000 yen retail last year, but this year, Yamaha CLP-775, an over 200,000 yen model sells well. Increased free time at home has become a standard, and people are likely to spend more money on music gears. Digital pianos sold to music lesson studio students still dominate among the total sales, but we see increasing number of adult customers in the age group from 30 years old to 50 years old visit us. Not a few of them are likely first-time players or people with some musical experiences.
We have enhanced spreading information on our website and SNS since the outbreak of COVID-19. Responses from consumer by mobile and the website tell us that we have done right things. Providing customer with basic information is critical to this business.
The industry’s utmost concern is slow product supply related to shortage of chips at suppliers. As a large keyboard instruments specialist store, we are now upgrading our marketing explaining customer advantages of digital piano including environmental conditions when play in comparison with acoustic piano at home and in lesson.
Nobuyuki Koike, manager, Musical Instruments Sales, Shinkyo Gakki, Amagasaki-shi, Hyogo.