How to Start a Musical Instrument Retail Business

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At the time of publication, starting a retail business to sell musical instruments can run between $10,000 and $50,000, according to the "Entrepreneur" magazine website. Expect much of your initial seed money to go toward obtaining merchandise. Industry resources and social media can help with store-opening considerations.

Physical and Virtual Space

Launch your business with a storefront and an online platform such as eBay or Craigslist to reach the greatest number of potential customers. According to the 2014 global report by the National Association of Music Merchants, or NAMM, eBay ranked eighth in online visitors and Craigslist was 11th. When deciding the size of your first brick-and-mortar site, consider your merchandise volume and whether you'll offer instruction. For example, The Music Store in Mesa, Arizona, says it started with 2,000 square feet for three instructional studios and its merchandise. To focus your customers' attention on the instruments, "Musical Merchandise Review" suggests a mix of ambient and accent lighting.

Riding Merchandise Waves

Consider the effect of changing musical tastes and technology on demand for certain instruments when you plan the initial inventory. According to NAMM, sales of acoustical guitars have grown approximately 36 percent, or $141 million, since 2009. The 2014 NAMM global report noted a 4.6 percent drop from 2012 to 2013 in electric guitars, which translates to a decline in amplifiers and guitar strings. The report ranked disc jockey gear, keyboard synthesizers and electronic player pianos as the top three products that saw sales increases in 2013. The continuance of school music programs will ensure continued demand for band instruments. Whatever instrument families you choose, include sheet music in your merchandise.

Power in Numbers

Join a buying group -- the Independent Music Store Owners Association, Independent Music Merchants Group or the Alliance of Independent Music Merchants, for example -- to lower your inventory costs. Beyond the purchasing power you gain through membership in these associations, they also channel ideas, information and suggestions. Groups such as NAMM or the Music Distributors Association provide members information on instrument wholesalers and distributors. As a member of NAMM, you can access business resources such as closed-end consumer financing for keyboard purchases, private-label consumer credit cards and leasing or purchase plans for schools.

Be Social and Educational

To announce your grand opening, post a short video of your store's interior, its merchandise or instructions for playing a featured instrument on your website and other social media platforms. NAMM recommends that your store offer services such as on-site repairs and loaner instruments for customers. Private classes for specific instruments can draw customers to your store.

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About the Author

Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.

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