The music gear business is pretty weird right now, kind of like every other business at the moment. A lot of popular items are suddenly no longer available, prices are going up fast, and previously predictable scenarios are all out the window. I’m going to try to explain how we got where we are right now.
It’s no secret that a lot of music gear comes from China, Indonesia, and other Asian nations. Even gear that is built in the USA relies on parts and chips made overseas. There are a lot of problems with getting overseas gear and parts right now, and the biggest problem we face is shipping the items across the Pacific . Items in Asia that need to come here are placed in big shipping boxes called containers. A container is pretty big, one container can hold up to 300 refrigerators. Two years ago, a container would be filled with products, placed on a container ship, and arrive on the west coast where it was unloaded, put into trucks, and delivered across the county. The process took maybe three weeks start to finish. The manufacturer would lease the container, and a one-way trip across the Pacific cost around $2,400 - $2,800 for one container.
Today, that same container lease for a one-way trip is running $21,000 to $24,000. That number isn’t a typo. $21,000 to $24,000 for one container, one-way. When shipping goes up ten-fold, and fuel prices are going up for trucks, prices go up at the local music store.
Another negative in transoceanic shipping is the issue of empty containers. When a container is emptied in the USA, the container owner doesn’t want to carry it back across the water unless it is loaded and he can charge for the tripSo, the empty containers pile up here until they are filled, and US production isn’t filling them very fast these days.
There are a lot more variables that make shipping expensive, but we’ll move to another topic.
During the height of the pandemic, many warehouse inventories were exhausted, so products that were ordered by stores (like us) became backorders. Those backorders built up over several months, and when products began to flow (in a limited way) again, they all went to fill backorders. So, orders are being filled slower than before, and all new inventory is going to fill orders that are three to eight months old. That means orders placed today, by stores like us, may be months into the future arriving at Backstage.
Compound those two scenarios with reduced staffing at our suppliers, higher fuel prices for UPS and FedEx, and it’s easy to see why we are sometimes in short supply on some items.
What are we doing about it?
Backstage actively stays on the phone and on email communicating with our suppliers, trying to shake loose the inventory we need. When our established suppliers are out of inventory, and they tell us they don’t know when they will have any, we look for new suppliers. The Strukture cables and Pig Hog cables we now have on the wall are in that category. We’re pretty happy with those cables, and they both have a lifetime warranty. Alto powered speakers have been another great addition to our usual speaker lineup. We’ve replace some other products as well, so if you see new names in the store, now you’ll know why.
I hope this helps explain some of the reasons things are as they are right now. We’ll keep hitting the phones to get in the best inventory we can. Come see us!