KEY ISSUES FOR UK RETAILERS OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS MADE FROM AFRICAN BLACKWOOD
This report assesses the retail market for woodwind instruments in the UK and the implications for the Sound & Fair campaign which aims to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a fully-certified chain of custody linking village communities in Tanzania to woodwind instrument musicians in the UK.
The total UK market for woodwind instruments in 2005 was around £11M, having peaked at £29M in 2002.
Mirroring the wider retail market, the woodwind market declined through 2006 and was reported to be weak in 2007, with further decline expected in 2008.
At a current estimated market size of £10M, the UK woodwind market comprises a little over 2% of the total UK music industries market in 2007, falling from a peak in share of 6% in 2002.
Woodwind thus needs a new product to breathe life into the sector.
However, the wider retail market is expected to rise again after 2010 in good time for the projected arrival of the first FSC-certified instruments which, in turn, could boost the musical instrument market.
A survey of selected retailers gave an indication of the factors which would both encourage and discourage retailers from trading in certified blackwood instruments.
The primary reasons which would encourage retailers to trade in certified instruments were first fair trade, and secondly environmental or conservation concerns.
Testing a new supply route and seeking better quality timber were also deemed important.
However, the perceived extra cost of certification and the related concerns about additional administration were cited as potential reasons why retailers might not wish to trade in certified instruments.
Overall, retailers expressed a strong interest in the future product but remarked that the real influence lies with the manufacturers and the musicians themselves.
Because of the high level of work required in making an instrument, purchasing the timber represents only a small fraction of the total cost of an instrument (approximately 6% of the retail value) and as such there is considerable opportunity to increase the cost of the raw material with minimal impact on the final price, at least within a niche market.