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New Year’s Resolutions

Plan for the worst, expect the best. After last year’s economic meltdown, that could be the unofficial motto of 2009. I recently asked several music product retailers what they were doing to plan for the potentially rocky new year. While their degrees of confidence varied, many had insightful ideas.

Leslie Faltin of Instrumental Music Center in Tucson, Ariz., plans on being more diligent with her store’s collections. This will include dropping her local collections firm and hiring Traf Group, a collection agency with a music retail focus.

“I anticipate collections to become a bigger issue as credit becomes less available and people lose their jobs,” she said.

Faltin added that she will proceed cautiously in other areas of her business. For instance, she said she’ll hold off on acquiring major lines, re-evaluate which lines are best serving her store and halt expansion plans.

Jerry Sims of Sims Music in Columbia, S.C. — coming off a better-than-expected holiday season — is, in fact, keeping with building expansion plans initiated over the past year, which he’d put on hold due to permit hassles. After returning from January’s NAMM Show, he said he’ll also continue with general upkeep, such as adding new displays and repainting his store.

Doug Ponier of Ponier Music in Marietta, Ga., said he may implement a referral program to boost music lesson sign-ups. He’s considering offering a $30 gift card to students who get their friends to sign up. Similarly, Dan Ernst of Grand Central Music Store in San Luis Obispo, Calif., plans to expand into more classroom-style teaching, with Mommy-and-Me music classes and rock band ensemble programs.

Jim Pettit of Memphis Drum Shop in Memphis, Tenn., simply aims to niche his company more deeply. Along with a percussion specialty store, Pettit runs a successful online business, complete with a company Web site and — a niche site for cymbals.

“I hope to update my Web [presence] to reach a wider base,” Pettit said. “I’ve tried being everything to everyone, and I need to hone that down.”

Mike Guntren of Ray’s Midbell Music said he sees 2009 as an opportunity to practice ongoing improvement in all areas of his operation.

“[My] New Year’s resolutions are simple: continued focus on the customer, taking care of their needs better and faster,” he said. “I want Midbell customers to feel like they get more than they pay for. Tied in with this is a commitment to improving the quality of products, music lessons and services. This sounds cliché, but it’s a pretty meaty statement. [It’s] easier said than done.”

To everyone out there, take heed, and good luck. MI