Friday, 14 May 2010

Back to Normal

After the events of the last week, it's nice to get back into the normal routine.

I have added a few books to the website this week, after customer requests:

Triligence by Mike Mower for flute

Easy Blue Clarinet Duets

Blue Clarinet and Saxophone Duets by James Rae

The customer who asked for the last book told me he couldn't find it anywhere, but he knew it existed. I'd never come across it either; for some reason a lot of the publishers make little effort to let retailers know about new publications. In the summer, when business is slow, I tend to sit with catalogues and add things to the website, but if the publisher never produces a catalogue, I simply don't know about new music, or even the range of music they cover. Similarly, some of the smaller publishers are very poor at telling you which distributors handle their music; I recently opened an account with a distributor and this week got a catalogue from them for a publisher I find difficult to obtain. I had no idea they handled their music, so that publisher will now get more airtime on the website.

Chatting with my customer I mentioned that the music he wanted comes from Germany, and he asked just before I placed an order, which was good timing. He seemed surprised at the Germany thing; but some of the large distributors now have large hubs abroad. Boosey & Hawkes, Universal Edition, Schott, Carl Fischer, IMC, Amadeus, and many more all come from Germany. The problem for retailers is that the carriage charges are not only higher than UK distribution, but they are subject to the vagaries of currency exchange. Two years ago the delivery charge from Germany was £8.40, at its height recently it was £11.51; it's now £10.97 following the fall of the Euro recently.

On top of that, the currency problem has eroded the profit margin over the last couple of years, resulting in a loss of 50p profit per book, on average. As I've mentioned before, the fall of sterling against the dollar has also resulted in price increases for imported goods of 25-30%. Lets hope things start to stabilise a bit now.

A number of smaller publishers or suppliers seem to be entering distribution arrangements with larger concerns too. As profits get squeezed, it can be tempting to utilise the systems of a larger business in order to maximise income. I think there is more of this to come in the music business, so we may see some big changes in the next year or so.

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