Like many manufacturers who have operations in China, Eastman Music felt the effects of the pandemic hit much earlier. The virus forced the B&O and guitar supplier to shut down its manufacturing and distribution in China in January, setting the tone for what company President Saul Friedgood called “a challenging time.”
“What we thought was a crisis [back in January] turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg as COVID spread throughout the world,” he said. “Our sales worldwide are down significantly, but we are continuing to focus on the long term and are using this time to concentrate on areas that tend to get overlooked when we are busy.”
As the pandemic dragged on, Eastman Music rode the sales surge that shocked the MI world. Industry-wide backorders were reported during the beginning of lockdowns, and, to combat this, the Eastman Music crew had get creative and get product out by any means necessary.
“We worked our butts off, and we did everything that we could to get products to dealers in need,” Friedgood said. “Sometimes, this was the result of a sales representative shipping their sample instruments to a dealer from their homes. We didn’t take any sale for granted.”
Eastman didn’t take its dealers for granted, either. Retailers voting in this year’s Excellence Awards nominated the company for its dedication to dealers through its Eastman University online training program. During the height of the quarantine, Eastman University held daily sessions that focused on everything from how to sell step-up strings to learning about what makes different flute head joints sound and perform the way they do.
“Each session was conducted by the person with the most knowledge and expertise on the matter,” Friedgood explained. “It was a lot of work, and a labor of love, but the response made it completely worth the effort.”
Friedgood called Eastman University, “a silver lining” during the pandemic.
“[COVID-19] has forced us to slow down and allowed us to take the time to better ourselves if we chose to,” he said. “Eastman University is a good example of this. We started this program at the beginning of the pandemic with only a few days’ notice before our first session. People had a desire to learn more about the instruments we make, and we are grateful for that.”
With 2021 now on the horizon, Friedgood and the rest of the Eastman Music team are staying proactive to ensure they can make the most of the next year.
“This is going to be a tough year, so we are working on programs to partner with our dealers to ship instruments to their key customers, so that they can evaluate them and give us feedback,” he explained. “We are [also] working with our artists to find ways to support each other during this difficult time.”
Looking at the MI industry as a whole, Friedgood is staying positive and said he knows the importance music plays in people’s lives.
“We are optimists and believe that the music industry will come out of this stronger than ever,” he said. “People are using this time to prioritize what’s important to them, and we believe that music will be one of the winners when life goes back to normal.” MI