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Hesitant to admit it however...

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:34 am
by Mark Wybierala
I'm posting this to hear if others are experiencing this -- their location and how severe. If this is not appropriate for this forum, please delete it -- I understand.

The work input into my shop is significant down for the last six/seven weeks. I'm located in mid New Jersey. There have been other week long periods in the last 12 years but none that have lasted this long. I'm doing a lot of one-day turn arounds but not enough to establish a backlog or fill a full day. My typical work is mainstream intermediate and beginner players with routine problems, setups, some mods, and pickup installs; a refret about twice a month. The professional players are definately playing their instruments longer between services. The semi annual trussrod adjustment rush due to the high humidity during NJ summers was almost absent this year and I usually perform these adjustments in return for coffee and donuts -- its not an expense issue at my shop.

The purchase of custom instruments made by me hasn't changed. But the purchase of the normal above average desirable icon guitars is down.

I have local peers and long standing competition and I'm not hearing anything from them -- there is friendly rivalry yet some mutual cooperation. One is a specialist for neck resets and his backlog is honestly full and his demand is slightly up.

We do a fair amount of selling and generally the resale of better quality older instruments in yielding about 40% less expected value. However, there is still the odd high dollar bid going to very obscure instruments via ebay. Over half of these are overseas bidders -- France and northern Europe. Id actually say that obscure instruments and accessories are up in demand. A typical example would be a 1966 Silvertone or Harmony archtop or a Ducane amplifier -- more money than expected.

Retail of mainstream new instruments and amplifiers of our primary brand has been down for about two years.

About a year ago, there was an increase in the number of lost cause instruments coming in to be repaired only to be turned away or encouraged to be repurposed. This has tapered off but still occurs more often than in years past.

Lessons are only slightly down with better than average continuation of lessons through the summer. For the last two years we have seen an increase in the number of adult students. A greater percentage of our students are the type that are more invested in learning.

I'm interested in hearing the anecdotal perception of what others are seeing and where they are. I did my best to be honest and share what is happening here. I'm also interested in hearing of any business strategies that seem to be working better or new ideas if you are inclined to share. One thing that has been successful with us is the introduction of a program similar to what the School of Rock does.

Re: Hesitant to admit it however...

Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:16 pm
by Nick Middleton
I don't see anyone else throwing their 2-cents in to so I'll go next.

In the last couple of years I've seen an actual increase in repairs! Mostly due to the economy. People have been less-inclined to buy new gear (Mine or mainstrearm) and have been fixing-up their existing gear, or buying something used for cheap and then have me fix it up. I've found people often in the situation where fixing what they have vs. buying a new one was going to cost nearly the same amount and they'll still err to the repair in order to save $ (Even with no sentimental attachment!).

I mostly work on Guitars, Amps, Bass, & Effects Gear (Racks/Pedals), Listed in order by what I see most coming by lately

The guitar/bass work I'm seeing is for setups, fretwork, then electronics repair/upgrades. The order of amp-stuff I see is usally fixing/replacing bad pots or jacks, up to some kind of catastrophic failue, followed by the usual, tube-swap and re-bias (people don't seem to do much tube replacement and wait till there's a problem. Kinda like skipping on oil-changes). The Effects stuff is all over the place from complete failures to tone-mods.

I also am seeing a lot of adults taking an interest in learning guitar. (I don't teach anymore, but I refer them to a friend who does that for a living)

Keep in mind:
I have a day-job doing something else, but as for my evenings and weekends, I'm keeping busy with repairs (No commissions for custom Guitars or Amps for a couple of years. I get a lot of people asking questions and looking into it, but they ultimatly don't go through with it).
I don't advertise (I only get people who were refred to me by someone else I did work for in the past, friends and people I know already , and my friend who teaches will refer all his students to me if they need work; in that order of where it comes from).

I'm in Orange County, California and this is a wealthier-part of the state. It is a little less effected by the nation-wide recession, to the point that people are still invested to some degree in their music-hobby/profession.

With the workflow as it is, I'm looking to establish an actual-business along with my day job. If things continue to improve a little more, I will go all-in and do this full-time.

Re: Hesitant to admit it however...

Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:53 pm
by Mark Wybierala
Yup, the fella I mentioned who is doing the neck resets is also considering going to full time luthery.

The ratio of significant repairs to general setup of good instuments has gone up. There is much more work that looks like it has been put off for many years.

Re: Hesitant to admit it however...

Posted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 2:08 am
by Michael Lewis
Looking back over the past 32 years I have been here doing this all I can say is it seems the 'tide' goes out and comes in with some irregular regularity. Just because business is slow this week doesn't mean the following week will be slow, though it might be. This year I will complete only two or three new instruments due to the repair load, though it seems I have finally worked through the stack of cases in the "IN" area and now can get back to making some new instruments again. Last year I made three or four instruments and lots of repair, my work load has been much like that for the past five years.

I'm trying to put off collecting Social Security for another two years, and as long as some work continues to come in we'll be good, but the economy has certainly made a difference in what I sell and do. It seems we always have what we need.