Retailers specializing in combo instruments had to know their market well and keep prices low in the 1970s to stay competitive.
Shifting demographics and a volatile economy buffeted the retail music industry. More combo shops opened in the early 1970s, but declining guitar sales demanded diversification. Price was the driving factor as music discount outlets appeared by the mid-1980s.
Home organ sales at mall stores sustained many dealers in the early 1970s. Brian Majeski of The Music Trades Magazine recalled that at first, mall locations were “the place to be,” but with high occupancy costs and rising interest rates, they quickly became “the place to flee.” Freestanding buildings on well-traveled roads proved a better choice.
Sales continued to fall. Manufacturers with excess inventory favored large dealers and mail order operations with discount pricing. Smaller dealers struggled with stiff competition, a drop in school population, high interest rates on rental contracts and a decline in school music programs. Piano dealers also felt the pinch. Twelve hundred retailers declared bankruptcy in the early 1980s.
The survivors consolidated and streamlined their operations and diversified into new digital technology.
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