The Buffalo News is reporting that Denton, Cottier & Daniels, the world's oldest Steinway dealer, is ceasing its Steinway piano dealership after 2017. It will attempt to sell-through and then return any remaining inventory to the factory after December 31, 2107.
"They're really good pianos," she said. "The quotas they are looking for are not realistic for Buffalo and Rochester." - Michelle Trimper, Vice President of Dentor, Cottier & Daniels
Denton, Cottier & Daniels have sold Steinway pianos for 157 years, and yet the maker's sales quotas are choking their oldest dealer. That a relationship that is that long-standing would be done in by a supply-sided economic requirement is not merely shocking, but quite disturbing.
Owned by investment management company Paulson & Co. since 2013, headed by billionaire John Paulson, Steinway also owns Conn-Selmer, maker of several iconic brands of brass instruments, including Conn, Holton, and Bach.
Imposing unrealistic sales quotas on dealers is not new, but to do it in such a way as to destroy your dealer relationships is, in my opinion, a sure way to kill your brands. Certainly, manufacturers want to lift sales, but this is a niche industry facing strong headwinds. A management that does not understand the dynamic of the instrument market can kill itself by not adapting. You can only whip the horses pulling the carriage just so hard and just so many times before they fall down dead.
And it's not just that the market isn't there. According to the article, "Denton, Cottier and Daniels will continue to deal in fine pianos, [Trimper] said. The store will offer historic and restored pianos, as well as digital pianos, and it will pursue relationships with other distinguished piano manufacturers." Clearly, it isn't that the market doesn't exist. The problem here is that management has an 'unreasonable' expectation of that market. One wonders if that extends into the wind instrument market, as well? One also wonders what this will mean for the holding company if the flagship piano line falters? It has been opined in this blog that a sale of a division is one way to prop up the main business.
We will continue to monitor the Steinway situation because it has a direct effect on their brass instrument making division.
Dave and Chris are brass technicians who enjoy helping players get the most out of their playing experience.