U.S. imports of musical instruments fell 2% in the three months to September 30 on a year earlier, suggesting retailers are not expecting it to be a big gift segment this holiday season. Within the sector electronic keyboards increased 6%, with a 19% jump in September alone and a further 6% in October in shipment terms. Leading importer Yamaha lagged the overall growth with a 1% increase in the three months to October 31 as more generic products took market share. The main growth area in music though is in karaoke – imports jumped 29% on a year earlier in October as retailers including Kmart and Toys’R’Us stocked up on the product as toys.
U.S. imports of musical instruments are seasonal, reflecting a higher proportion of annual spending around the holiday gift season than as ‘back to school’ educational items. The early part of the pre-holiday inventory build of traditional instruments by retailers does not look good, with the exception of synthesizers.
Panjiva data shows that imports of pianos (both electric and traditional) fared the worst, with a 13% drop vs. a year earlier in the three months through September 30, while guitars fell 5.5% and percussion dropped 3.2%. Electronic keyboards, or synthesizers, actually increased 5.8% on a year earlier, including a 19% increase in September alone. Aggregate spending fell 2.4% to $172 million over the three months.
The pickup in imports of electronic keyboards should be seen in the context of two years of reduced imports after a peak in 2013 and previously in 2010. This would suggest a longer term cyclicality in purchases, perhaps reflecting product innovations as well as a replacement cycle. In shipment terms October saw a further 6% growth in imports.
The largest importer in shipment terms has been Yamaha, which has seen a 1.2% growth in imports over the past three months despite a 27.7% setback in October. Smaller producers Kawai and Casio have seen imports drop 3.1% and 30.9% respectively over the three months. The difference between the major producers and the total likely reflects increased imports of generic equipment for rebranding once in the U.S.
Encouragingly though, retailers are showing an increased interest in music related gifts outside traditional instruments. Imports of karaoke equipment hit their highest since at least 2007 in October, with a 28.5% jump on a year earlier.
Panjiva’s multi-dimensional search shows many of these are being imported as toys by retailers including Toys’R’Us and Kmart. When taken alongside a 118% growth in toy pianos, it looks like electronics, including drones and videogames, will be the center of the gift giving season.
This post was first published in the Panjiva Daily, which features global trade news and data-driven insights and is free for all Panjiva subscribers. To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org.