Karaoke and Keyboards Key to Musical Gift Giving

Cons. Discr. - Retailing 297 Info Tech - Tech Hardware 607 U.S. 4554

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.



Upper panel shows value of U.S. imports for pianos (HS 9201), synthesizers (HS 9207.10), guitars (HS 9207.90) and percussion (HS 9206). Lower panel shows change in the aggregate of the four categories Source: Panjiva

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.



Shipment data for all pianos and musical keyboards, segmented by company name keyword Source: Panjiva

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.



Shipment data based on keyword search for ‘karaoke’, while toy pianos based on ‘piano’ and HS code 9503 Source: Panjiva

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