As July’s Last Word author stated, retail has changed, and I could not agree more.
Over the last eight years I have seen many retailers come and go in the North London area and almost without exception they have been stores that depended entirely on retail sales and did not have any teaching facilities.
Divide and conquer we say, so our centre in Enfield has six classrooms and over 300 students through the door each week, all of whom require sheet music, reeds, strings, instrument repairs and so on. It’s only natural for them to buy their requirements from their local music centre.
It’s a formula that works well so when we decided to expand it was only natural to plan for a substantial teaching operation as well as retail sales. Under the current government there have been drastic cutbacks in funding for music education, dropping by £22.5 million over three years. Yet, despite this or perhaps because of this, we have seen an increase in demand for music lessons across the whole range of students and instruments.
The internet has clearly ripped the guts out of profit margins on leading retail brands and it is only too clear that many instrument manufacturers are only too keen to have retailers on board to provide a high street presence for their goods which are then sold by online box shifters who are then enabled to buy larger quantities and better margins. So why not offer something that cannot be provided effectively on line? Divide and conquer.
Sure, there are music teachers to organise, exams to sort out and all sorts of other admin to deal with, but if you want to survive you need to adapt. Our experience has shown private music tutors are only too keen to have someone deal with this side of the business leaving them to get on with teaching so the business model works well.
Last year MI Pro surveyed the country and identified St Albans as a hotspot for professional musicians and when the local music services tell me that there is a 12 month waiting list for piano lessons and a six-month wait for guitar lessons then it is too good an opportunity to miss.
By being able to offer the sale of a guitar, suitable sheet music and accessories, ongoing tuition, restringing the guitar when required, you generate a customer for life, not just a one off purchase.
Those that can, retail, those that want to be in business into the future, teach.