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Ukulele Eddie
12-31-2013, 03:55 AM
the ukulele popularity has become as limp as old panty hose in the past two years. At this rate, the ukulele will be on par with Bollo ties and Crocs by 2016.

The above quote, in reference to the inability to sell a lightly used instrument for anywhere near its original price, suggests there is a demand problem in the uke market. My hypothesis (which is exactly that and could be wrong) is given the tremendous unit volume growth over the past few years, it's likely growth has slowed but that it's also at least partly supply driven with all the new market entrants.

I actually tried to find unit volume sales by year but could not find anything that was free. So I'm curious, anyone have annual data on either US or Worldwide uke unit sales volume?

katysax
12-31-2013, 04:31 AM
It has always been hard to sell instruments - or just about anything else - without taking a hit off the new price. The only exception is when there is a shortage or perceived shortage of a particular item.

The music store owners I've spoken to locally (Southern California) tell me that they are still seeing growth in the sales of ukes and that ukes are outselling guitars by more than two to one.

mds725
12-31-2013, 04:38 AM
The FULL quote, from a thread called "Biggest ukulele obstacle you've overcome?", is:


Biggest obstacle that I have not overcome: selling a gently played used ukulele for anything even close to the new price I paid for it since the ukulele popularity has become as limp as old panty hose in the past two years. At this rate, the ukulele will be on par with Bollo ties and Crocs by 2016. (Bold-face added by me.)

This is a wonderful example of how quoting only a portion of a bigger statement can appear to change the meaning of that statement. Seeing the portion of this statement quoted by the OP in the context in which it actually appeared is important because it means that the observation that "ukulele popularity has become as limp as old panty hose" comes not from some business journal or expert on the sales of musical instruments (or even from a shopowner who sells ukuleles for a living and can at least take the industry's pulse anecdotally) but from a single individual whose own experience trying to sell a "gently played used ukulele" has not been a positive one. Maybe the conclusion does reflect the demand for ukuleles worldwide, but it's hardly the basis for making any conclusions about an entire industry, as it's possible that this one particular gently played ukulele is not desirable or the attempts to sell it were inadequate, or the demand for that one particular ukulele is low in whatever unknown potential market the person who made that statement tried to sell it. It's hardly a scientific survey of an entire market for a much broader range of ukulele instruments. I suppose it's worth having a discussion about the current perception of ukulele popularity, but I'm unwilling to assume that the conclusion in the quote in that post is an accurate reflection of worldwide ukulele popularity.

JamieWG
12-31-2013, 04:39 AM
With regard to the "inability to sell a lightly used instrument for anywhere near its original price," I'd have to say that from what I've seen, people sometimes expect more than they are going to get for a used instrument. There are very definite warrantee advantages to buying an instrument new, directly from a reputable dealer or the builder. I haven't been playing uke for long, but I've been in the used guitar market as a teacher and performer for a very, very long time. The only ways a used instrument will sell at anywhere close to what you paid for it is if:

Somebody is able to actually try it and it's exceptional for its model and in immaculate condition;
The maker is a well known individual luthier/company with a long waiting list (in other words, there's no other way to get one)
If the price of that particular model has gone up so much that you can get back almost what you paid for it while still giving somebody a bargain.
And my personal favorite: you bought it used at a great price


Granted, this is my own personal philosophy and your mileage may vary. I've always told my students to buy used, sell used. That is truly the best way to get value back from instruments. I think it's especially true in this day and age when we tend to buy over the internet, without actually being able to feel the instrument in our hands and hear it first hand. If I can't get a fabulous deal, I'm going to buy directly from a reputable dealer, and be able to take advantage of their return policies, warrantee options, and possible exchanges if I'm not happy. $200 off a $1000 instrument (used vs. new) will not be enough to get me to buy used, even if it's in "like new" condition. Likewise, for an extra few dollars on an inexpensive factory build, I'd much rather have it new and covered by warrantee.

What's the point at which I'd buy used over new? Hmmm.....Probably at least 35% off the best "new" retail price I can find (depending on the particular brand, model, price range, condition, etc.) That's also the price at which I'd expect to be able to reclaim most of my investment.

I'm interested in hearing from others on this topic too. Of course we all want to see our instruments as investments, but in my experience, that is only the case for luthiers with a waiting list. (Or luthiers who have died.) Or if an instrument is initially purchased at an outstanding deal of a price. That doesn't mean that UAS is not worth it for the sheer joy it brings. ;)

Jamie

Toucan Mango
12-31-2013, 04:55 AM
I do not know about the sales of new or used ukuleles, but based on the sales of accessories, the ukulele has not gone limp, perhaps just the opposite.

Ukulele Eddie
12-31-2013, 04:59 AM
..It's hardly a scientific survey of an entire market for a much broader range of ukulele instruments. I suppose it's worth having a discussion about the current perception of ukulele popularity, but I'm unwilling to assume that the conclusion in the quote in that post is an accurate reflection of worldwide ukulele popularity.

Sorry if I wasn't clear, but my point was exactly that, that this somebody's perception and I was seeking DATA, not opinion, on the true state of the market.

OldePhart
12-31-2013, 05:05 AM
RE Steve's (aka Coolkayaker1) comment that was quoted:

Difficulty selling even gently used instruments for anything approaching the going retail price for a new item is actually the norm. For a couple of years the hot growth in ukulele demand was outstripping the availability of good ukes, prices for those instruments were rising, and people were realizing that their "lesser" instruments often weren't measuring up. This fueled a bubble where one could often get almost all of one's money back from a "K brand," for example.

It's not so much that the popularity bubble has burst as that, as I see it, two things have happened. First, the availability of "good" ukes (both 1st tier and especially 2nd tier) has increased dramatically. Second, more retailers are in the market offering setup services that blur, for many, the distinction between a 1st tier and 2nd tier or 2nd tier and 3rd tier instrument. I.e. until a couple of years ago it was easy for even a "casual" player to truly appreciate the difference between a 1st tier and pretty much everything "lesser" because those differences were quite obvious. Now, if one is purchasing from a good retailer, the differences are still there but much less obvious than before. So, more people are willing to continue to play their "pretty decent" 2nd tier instruments while waiting for a good deal before upgrading.

I also think people may be buying in at a little higher level, again, because of the availability of eTailers doing setups and such.

To put it simply, most used sales are to people who are already players and who are looking to upgrade but the pressure to upgrade is far lower than it once was.

But that's just my $0.02 - I could be completely and dismally incorrect. :)

John

Olarte
12-31-2013, 05:11 AM
I agree with Jamie's post the most.

The only way I see my ukes as an investment is if they are kept as pristine as possible and eventually after some of them are no longer available or over time they become vintage then their price might go up. That might go for both expensive playable instruments as well as the cheaper collectibles.

For instance I'm sure an old TVPal, plastic uke would now sell for a lot more than it was originally purchased for

So while I hope that some day maybe at retirement in 10 years or maybe as a legacy to my sons some day some of my ukes will return the initial money with maybe a profit... my main reason for buying all my ukes is to use, play and enjoy them while I still can ;-)

hmgberg
12-31-2013, 07:48 AM
I'm inclined to agree that it's a buyer's market out there because the supply is so great that it overwhelms even consistently high demand. Last year when I would do an eBay search for "ukulele" it would return about 14,000 items on average. This year the number has nearly doubled.

johnnyn2o
12-31-2013, 09:47 AM
Google.com/trends shows interest has been level since 2011. Not very scientific but I would agree with your abundant supply theory.

Many, many choices for entry level ukes. You even can buy a very good Pono or LuLu uke for less then $500.

mds725
01-06-2014, 09:28 PM
This is just more anecdotal evidence because the size sample is so small, but a recent article in the Florida Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale area) about the growing popularity of ukuleles states: "The uke started making a serious comeback about six years ago, with sales of the instrument booming here and nationwide. Several local music stores, including Penny Lane and Music Arts Enterprises in Fort Lauderdale, reported that ukuleles were among their best sellers this holiday season. 'When people come into the store, they go straight to the ukuleles,' said Penny Lane owner Armando Zuppa, who sells acoustic stringed instruments ranging from cellos to guitars. His ukulele sales have increased by about 300 percent over the past two years, he said, and now outsell guitars." (Emphasis added.) Maybe the market for certain pre-owned ukuleles has flattened, but it appears that, at least in the Ft. Lauderdale area, retail sales of new ukuleles have not fallen off.

Here's a link to the article: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-ukulele-clubs-popular-20131231,0,1807399.story