Like cross-country skis and snowshoes before them, guitars are fast becoming a symbol of how Americans weathered the pandemic.
At the end of last year, skis and snowshoes were scarce in Maine as people looked for outdoor winter activities to pass the time as the pandemic spread. This spring, people grabbed stringed instruments off the shelves, seeing the continued semi-quarantine conditions as the perfect time to finally learn to play the guitar.
“People are staying at home and they need something to do,” said Tim Emery, co-owner of Buckdancer’s Choice in Portland, one of the few guitar stores in the area.
Emery said the guitars in his store sell out quickly in all price ranges, from cheaper beginner guitars for around $ 100 to more sophisticated and expensive models.
It also sells keyboards and stringed instruments in addition to guitars, and Emery said buyers are also drawn to microphones and computer interfaces that allow them to record directly to a laptop.
“I can’t keep them in stock,” he said of computer accessories.
Emery said customers quickly realized that it only takes a few pieces of equipment to be able to preserve artistic representations of how they endured the pandemic for future generations.
“For less than $ 300 you have a recording studio,” he says.
According to him, the only thing that doesn’t attract buyers are the speakers, “because obviously nobody has a gig to play.”
Ryan Heffernan of North Yarmouth wasn’t looking for his own guitar when he went shopping this spring, but at Emery’s store he found what he was looking for for his 6 year old daughter, Ainsley.
Heffernan’s purchases taught him that guitars had become hot items.
“It seems like everything that is a hobby has been performed” during the pandemic, Heffernan said, adding that guitars are just the latest trend. “People are looking for things to do.”
Another person looking for something to do was Bruce Dunn of Mount Vernon, who made the trip to Portland to buy a new guitar recently. Dunn was playing, but gave up his guitar before deciding to take it back this spring.
“I’m repeating it, I guess,” he said, but Dunn has so far decided not to take any lessons to help him relearn the instrument. “I’m a little rusty,” he admitted.
Mike Fink, owner of Guitar Grave of South Portland, said most of his customers were interested in more expensive guitars.
Guitar Grave is a pawnshop with a special focus on guitars, as the name suggests. Fink sells most of his instruments online, and he said that with the increase in shipping costs, it didn’t make sense for him or his customers to buy cheaper guitars that were close in price. expensive guitars with the higher shipping costs added.
Still, Fink said he sold up to $ 10,000 a month worth of guitars this spring, up to five times his normal volume.
“They’re going pretty fast,” he said.
Like local stores, larger guitar retailers are also seeing sales increase to a population tired by the pandemic.
Guitar Center, which has nearly 300 stores nationwide, including one in South Portland, has seen increased sales of guitars, recording devices, keyboards and drums, said Jeannine D’Addario, vice – Senior President and Director of Marketing and Communications for the California-based company.
D’Addario said the chain’s instrument sales doubled during the pandemic, and the company’s stores were also seeing a sharp increase in sales of disc jockey and recording equipment. The only area that has been slow, she said, has been the larger speakers of the type that bands normally use to play a gig.
“Guitars are booming and we’ve seen continued growth in other categories,” she said.
Beginner guitars are selling well, collectors have bought high-end instruments to enrich their collections, and sales of strings and guitar repairs have been strong, D’Addario said.
The inventory of new guitars has remained strong, she said, although backups at ports around the world may affect their supplies. Other factors can also disrupt the supply chain, she said, such as a recent Pacific storm that led to the loss of containers from a ship, including those containing guitars.
Still, “we feel in pretty good shape,” D’Addario said.
Lessons are a trickier area, she said, and Guitar Center has gone from in-person sessions to Zoom and online lessons.
The company provided improved cameras to instructors who switched to distance education, she said.
Most of the teachers who work with Buckdancer’s Choice have also been able to switch to Zoom lessons, Emery said, but he said face-to-face classes were always preferred.
“We’re only just starting to talk about when it’s time to bring them back,” as vaccinations become more widespread, he said.