Fender's Tammy Van Donk

April 08, 2022 I Cover Story

As Unpredictable as 2020

By Daniel Margolis

Fender is no stranger to the pages of Music Inc.’s annual Excellence Awards. But, speaking to Music Inc. in late February, Tammy Van Donk, Fender executive vice president of sales for the Americas and EMEA, was quick to emphasize that the MI brand does not rest on its laurels here.

“I’m always impressed and proud when we get this award,” Van Donk said. “I don’t take it for granted because we work hard for it all year long.”

One retailer responding to Music Inc.’s Supplier Excellence Awards polling identified Fender as a standout partner “without a doubt.”

They continued, “Our sales reps gave us clear, timely information on potential shortages and time frames so we could make informed projections and orders for the year.”

Van Donk spoke to how Fender does it so well. “One of the things that we do, perhaps you can say, better than some of our competitors is we’re really focused on making sure that we can match as closely as we can supply with consumer demand,” she said. “So, we’ve got a team that is just so focused [on] watching these signals.”

Signals on supply chain problems were the ones to watch last year — in fact, at times it seemed like all anyone could talk about. According to Van Donk, Fender was watching and discussing “chip shortages, port congestion, transportation, all of that.”

“The way that we’re able to partner with our suppliers has, I believe, given us access to be able to get in front of it and think longer out,” she said. “So we’ve been able to mitigate so much of the shortages.”

One of the most visual images to emerge from the supply chain story was that of MI product, and much more, floating in containers on ships outside of the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. Van Donk acknowledged this as an unavoidable challenge but explained there are ways around it.

“The port congestion, no one can control that, and so that one’s really a matter of timing,” she said. “If I speak globally for a minute, when we’re trying to get product out, we do air freight. So, there’s an opportunity to skip over some of the congestion. It’s really in how we partner with our transportation partners. We can lock in some pretty compelling rates that carry us through the year.”

Fender is coming off a year of seeing “significant, double-digit growth” in its Squier and acoustic guitars, an indicator that new players continue to enter the market — a trend that’s continued past the internet sales boom brought on by the coronavirus quarantine.

“We 100 percent believe that we’re continuing to attract new players and look at it and say, ‘Well, if we’re uber-focused on that, if that’s really part of what our mission is, then we’re going to keep going after that,’” Van Donk said. “The existing players will continue buying and they’ll continue buying up. There’s no shortage of that, for sure. But I do believe that the growth we’ve seen, a lot of that is coming from new players.”

For this reason and more, the company is hopeful for the future. “We just continue to be optimistic about what the year ahead of us [holds],” Van Donk said. “We see live music returning, we see guitar playing on even more stages. It was a big growth year for us last year, and we’re expecting the same this year. This is going to be another roller coaster year, but we’re ready for it.” MI

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