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An Interview With Music Retailers:Healthy Ukulele Market
“Ukulele market is healthy and stable today with main customer group of over 30 years old. They come to us looking for our original and exclusive brands including Leilani which Shinji Takahashi, master builder of Seiren Ukuleles builds, G-string and handmade models made by Japanese builders.
“Business is good at all price points from ¥10,000 entry level to expensive high-end level. Some customers often pick up ukuleles priced around ¥800,000 as they are inspired by culture and environment of Hawaii and find ukulele music. On the contrary, professional players tend to avoid extremely expensive instruments to secure safety during transportation and avoid possible accidents on stage.
“Since experienced players already have Kamaka and other name ukuleles, we need upgraded approaches to draw their attention and further explore the market. Rich selection of strings and scores will make difference, I believe. Exotic ukuleles using cherry wood are much popular among customers from abroad.”
(Haruomi Yasuhiro, Ikebe Music Acoustic Station Revole Akihabara, Tokyo)
“We regularly display around 100 ukuleles for all level of players. Entry-level players tend to buy instruments priced around ¥10,000, while students learning playing at music laboratory in town are likely to choose ¥30,000 class instruments. Kamaka and Koaloha ukuleles are much favored by experienced players.
“Our customer base is broad, and female players between 20 and 30 years old are expanding these days. They choose soprano models as first instrument, and buy concert and tenor models next as they progress.
“From my experience as a guitarist from a Hawaiian band, I’m pleased o tell the customers pleasure of Hawaiian ukulele music while explaining features and sound of instruments.
“As part of our promotional activities for local customers, we have organized Choshi Hawaiian Festival every July since 2014. It’s so popular with 10,000 audience take part every time. We hope this kind of fun programs help increase ukulele players and expand the market in other areas as well.”
(Teruo Kobayashi, Ishibashi Music Store Shibuya Store, Tokyo)
“Contrary to stagnant sales of entry models of fretted instruments and drums, first time users dominate the ukulele market. That doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive models sell most. Rather, not a few first time players opt Kamaka and other premium brands once they hear themselves the sound of those instruments. The recent trend is growing demand for models with built-in pickups as the second gear, or mountable pickup system for their favorite instrument.
“We invite both experienced and first-time ukulele players to our weekly workshop. They enjoy the event which include tuning seminars and performance sessions as well as lectures on Hawaiian culture and history very much as we see it’s crowded to capacity every time. We understand the event to be effective to let them know the instrument of its musical ability hidden under an image of a casual fun tool.”
(Shinsuke Ohkura, store manager, Ukulele Planet, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
“According to the industry experts, ukulele sales vary depending on stores for some time. The market is much influenced by local ukulele community. It looks that stores keeping good relationship with local communities are successful being able to maintain store traffic. I say, the communication capability through SNS helps our business.
“Our customer base remains unchanged with female players as the largest group, but young male players are increasingly interested in the instrument regardless of music genre and fashion trend very recently. Ukulele has established itself as a standard musical gear performed all year round. That’s why we always have 300 units in inventory which make our customer easy to choose favorite instrument from a broad selection.
“The best sellers include domestic and overseas brands priced around ¥100,000. Famous, Kala, Leho ukuleles are popular among entry-level players.
“We organize live events regularly in an effort to increase loyal customer. Located in the center of Osaka shopping area, we have a host of foreign guests, but ukulele doesn’t look an instrument of their interest. One topic we take note recently is the growing demand of the instrument in Taiwan.”
(Yu’ki Asano, Miki Gakki Acoustic In, Cho-ku, Osaka)