When large retailers close, it's an opportunity for small businesses

When Giants Fall: Navigating Market Changes for Mom and Pop’s in the Music Instrument Industry

Today brought surprising news that Sam Ash, a longstanding giant in the music retail industry, plans to close all its stores. While there were whispers of potential sales of certain locations, the decision to shut down entirely has caught many off guard.

This closure marks a significant moment for the industry, impacting everyone from the employees within the company to the broader network of manufacturers. But how does Sam Ash’s closing impact Mom and Pop shops?

What Does This Mean for Small Music Stores

The effect of Sam Ash’s closure will be profound and far-reaching. For those employed by Sam Ash, it means navigating the uncertainties of job searches in a shaken industry. For other retailers, especially the small mom-and-pop stores, it represents a transformative period—one that is fraught with challenges yet rich with potential. It brings to mind a quote often attributed to President Kennedy, noting that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ comprises two characters—one representing ‘danger’ and the other ‘opportunity’.

This dual nature of crisis encapsulates the current landscape for the music retail sector: there is the immediate danger of market disruption and competitive upheaval, but there is also undeniable opportunity.

For small businesses in the music industry, this is a pivotal time to reevaluate, adapt, and possibly even thrive in the new market environment that will emerge from this significant closure.

The Impact of Store Closing Sales

When a giant like Sam Ash announces its closure and begins liquidating its vast inventory at significantly reduced prices, the influx of discounted products can overwhelm the market for a while, making it tough for smaller shops to compete. Customers, lured by the steep markdowns, might temporarily overlook the charm and personal touch of local stores, affecting sales and profitability. Yet, it’s important to remember that this is often a short-term effect. Once the liquidation period wraps up, the reduced competition could actually provide an opportunity for smaller shops to expand their customer base and even introduce new offerings.

This dynamic shift requires a blend of resilience and strategic foresight from small store owners. It’s a time when understanding your unique value to the community—not just as a retailer but as a local music hub—becomes crucial. As you navigate through these changing tides, adapting to the new market conditions while reinforcing the bonds within your community can help turn these challenges into stepping stones for future growth.

Effects on the Supply Chain

The closure of a major player like Sam Ash significantly impacts the supply chain, particularly for small music shops. Manufacturers who once relied on steady, large-volume orders from such giants may suddenly find themselves with excess inventory and underutilized production capacity. This shift can lead to lower prices, potentially benefiting small businesses—if you’re savvy enough to renegotiate contracts and explore products that were previously out of financial reach.

Yet, this landscape also harbors risks. Faced with overcapacity and reduced orders, some manufacturers might reduce their production or raise prices to offset losses. This could lead to higher costs for your shop if you’re not prepared. To navigate these waters successfully, it’s essential to maintain strong, open lines of communication with your suppliers. Understanding their challenges and adapting to their changing strategies can help you mitigate risks and capitalize on new opportunities.

For small shop owners, this period of change in the supply chain isn’t just a challenge; it’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships with suppliers and secure advantageous terms that could benefit your business in the long run. Staying informed and flexible can turn potential disruptions into strategic advantages, ensuring your shop remains competitive and resilient.

Leveraging Digital Marketing to Attract Displaced Customers

what is SEO

With the closure of a major retailer like Sam Ash, countless customers will be searching for a new go-to spot for their music needs. This presents a golden opportunity for you, the small business owner, to capture this customer base. The key is to enhance your digital presence, ensuring that it not only highlights your unique value proposition but also showcases the distinct personality of your business.

Crafting an Attractive Digital Presence

Your website and social media platforms are often the first point of contact with potential customers. Make sure they are not only visually appealing but also reflect what makes your shop unique. Whether it’s your specialized knowledge in vintage instruments, your community-driven events, or your superior customer service, your digital presence should communicate this simply and effectively.

Use engaging content, such as blog posts about rare instruments, video tutorials by knowledgeable staff, or customer testimonials, to demonstrate your expertise and the quality of service you provide. SEO strategies can also be crucial here; optimizing your content to appear in search results for “music stores near me” or “best place to buy guitars” can direct Sam Ash’s former customers straight to your door.

Differentiation Through Personality

Incorporate your shop’s unique personality into every aspect of your digital marketing. This could be through the tone of your social media posts, the design of your website, or the type of promotions you run.

Remember, you’re not just selling products; you’re inviting customers into a community. Your unique personality is what can make them feel at home.

Enticing New Customers

Once potential customers find you, give them reasons to stay. Promotions like welcome discounts for first-time customers, loyalty programs, or exclusive online-only deals can be very effective.

Make sure your online shopping experience is user-friendly, and that customer service is readily accessible, whether through live chat, a helpline, or responsive social media interactions.

Preparing for New Customer Influx

Prepare your team for the potential influx of new customers. Excellent customer service, especially during a customer’s initial visit or purchase, can make a huge difference in converting them into regular patrons. Train your staff to handle increased queries, maintain high service standards, and manage inventory effectively to meet new demand.

By ensuring your digital presence is robust, appealing, and distinct, you can attract Sam Ash’s former customers to your store. With strategic digital marketing and stellar customer service, you can turn this industry shakeup into a growth opportunity for your business.

Navigating the Next Chapter

As we face the closure of Sam Ash, a quote that resonates deeply in these turbulent times is, “When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm’s all about.” This closure is indeed a storm in the music retail industry, shaking the foundations of what we’ve known and reshaping the landscape in which small businesses operate.

Yet, it is essential to remember that the music community is enduring. People’s love for music and their need for instruments and guidance will not fade; they will continue to seek providers who can meet their musical needs. The community’s quest for a new home for music retail provides a beacon of opportunity for small mom-and-pop shops.

For small business owners, now is the time to batten down the hatches. This means reinforcing your business’s foundations—bolstering your digital presence, enhancing customer service, and perhaps most importantly, nurturing your community relationships. Riding out this storm will not be without its challenges, but by staying resilient and responsive to the shifting needs of your customers, you can emerge stronger and ready to welcome calmer seas.

In the wake of the storm that Sam Ash’s closure represents, those who navigate with foresight and adaptability will find that the seas do calm. For small music shop owners, this is your moment to solidify your place in the community, attract new customers, and build a future that honors the enduring spirit of music.

Other Resources


  1. “Retail Survival of the Fittest: 7 Ways to Future Proof Your Retail Store” by Francesca Nicasio
    • This book offers practical advice on how retailers can adapt and thrive in the evolving retail landscape, focusing on customer experience, technology integration, and innovative marketing strategies.
  2. “The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World’s Toughest Marketplace” by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart
    • This book provides insights into the shifts in consumer psychology and the competitive strategies required for success in modern retail, applicable to music store owners looking to draw in former Sam Ash customers.
  3. “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” by Paco Underhill
    • Although not specific to music retail, this book explores shopper behavior and how retailers can design more effective, compelling shopping experiences, which could be crucial in attracting and retaining customers.


  1. “Navigating the Changing Landscape of Music Retail” (published on Music Trades Magazine)
    • This article discusses current trends in the music retail industry, with insights from industry leaders on adapting to market shifts.
  2. How Small Music Stores Can Compete with Big Box Retailers (published on Harmony Central)
    • Offers specific strategies for small music retailers to differentiate themselves from larger competitors, focusing on customer service, niche marketing, and community involvement.
  3. From Bricks to Clicks: Transitioning to E-commerce for Music Retailers (published on Reverb News)
    • Provides a guide for traditional music stores moving towards or enhancing their e-commerce platforms, a crucial strategy in today’s retail environment.
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