There have been quite a few changes in the network of piano dealers in Dallas, Texas the past ten years. Market share has shifted to new businesses as larger competitors downsized or ceased business.
The most notable change was the bankruptcy of the Brook Mays Music Group. They closed about 60 stores in several states. Hundreds of employees and vendors were affected, including Yamaha pianos. Today Yamaha pianos are offered by Grand Staff Pianos, and Brook Mays operates in band and orchestra instruments, its core business before the bankruptcy.
The store closures by Brook Mays created an opportunity for Music & Arts to enter the Dallas market. They now have several stores that serve the band and orchestra markets.
Several years ago, Kahn’s for Pianos closed. They offered Bernard-Steiner pianos (South Africa) and were rumored to have done approximately $500K a year in Petrof pianos. The business was out of trust with floor plan companies, and in a surprise move that was quite scandalous, two flooring companies repossessed stock on a Monday morning unannounced. Kahn’s eventually closed only to emerge in a smaller store as Encore Pianos. That business was purchased by an interested party and has since closed.
Baldwin Family Music also closed its doors after many years in business, and following the Baldwin Piano bankruptcy. The assets of Baldwin were purchased by Gibson Guitar Company. A subsequent coercive marketing strategy implemented by Gibson reduced the number of Baldwin dealers over night by 450. In Dallas, the former owners of Baldwin Family Music now operate a much smaller piano business named Worldwide Pianos. Baldwin Pianos have since been sold by other piano dealers, but have never recovered their position in the market.
Dallas Piano Warehouse closed its doors due to a retirement by the owner. The facility is the new home of Metro Pianos which offers Kawai pianos after the closing of a former Kawai dealer in Plano.
As is often the case when large companies fail, new businesses and second tier businesses move in to claim market share and to supply product demand. Two piano retailers are noteworthy. Piano Gallery moved into a larger facility and became a magnet for many of the piano lines that lost representation as the result of store closures by competitors. While other companies closed their doors, Piano Gallery emerged as one of the dominant dealerships. Piano Gallery recently relocated to a new facility. The other is Metro Piano which operates two stores. Metro Piano emerged from Cousin’s Pianos of Garland, which grew, relocated and was renamed as Metro Piano. Steinway Hall of Dallas has remained strong, as has Jack Whitby’s Pianos. The latter offers used Yamaha pianos.
The Dallas/Fort Worth piano market is not particularly impressive when compared to cities of similar population. Recessions tend to eliminate weak businesses, and as was the case during the past ten years, several larger companies were not able to survive. In strong economic times, even poorly run businesses can survive. Mere survival does not attend to market opportunity and hints at a failure to capitalize on market potential. Companies that have inept management suffer more dramatically during recessions as the inadequacies of their policies accelerate their decline.
The loss of Brook Mays Music Group and Baldwin Family Music removed two significant contributors to the local arts. The former invested heavily promoting school music programs while the latter supported the professional arts. A loss of promotional and advocacy funding can have a significant impact on the overall market. The infrastructure of arts advocacy is not easily or quickly replaced by emerging businesses who rush to claim market share. Recovery takes longer to realize.
As the economy continues to improve, the retail piano market has stabilized. The volatility of the past decade has subsided and existing businesses seem to be performing well, probably due to the implementation of more cautious business strategies. The base of the music industry depends on music education. Dallas has an incredibly large population of children who are involved in music education. This grassroots network creates the musicians who will later create demand for products. The recession caused a lapse in arts advocacy, due to the loss of actors and promotional dollars. An impending state-wide budget shortfall for Texas schools may have an impact on school music programs this year. Budgets are not due until August of 2012, but concerns are rising that budget cuts will result in smaller programs with fewer teachers. If music programs are cut, it will take a year before parents can react to the impact of losing music programs and lobby elected leaders to restore funding.
In general, the piano market has stabilized. The worst appears to be behind us. What remains is to see if the new generation of piano retailers can sustain the stability, and if they are willing to invest in music advocacy in order to grow market demand for products. The population of Dallas is expected to grow consistently over the next twenty years. That alone will increase demand for pianos as new homes are built. That source of increase does not account for unrealized sales that could be generated through more aggressive advocacy. The Dallas market might remain stable, but the quality of the aggregate piano dealers might not be much better in the long run than the businesses that failed during the recession. That report would leave Dallas with its old reputation as merely an average piano market.