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Not a fan…

This notice from Kala came into my inbox the other day. It’s part of Kala’s new rewards structure from buying directly from them rather than through a store.

It doesn’t sit quite right with me, as Kala “made it” in the ukulele world through its connections with local dealers. There was a point that I couldn’t go to a music store and not see a Kala ukulele.

I get it–it is 2020, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. People were not able to go to stores for a long time. And there are companies that sell directly over the internet without any “brick and mortar” presence. Those companies can have an advantage as they don’t really have to deal with a distributor (Amazon becomes the distributor) or local store.

But here’s the problem…Kala is still in the business of selling through local stores, while encouraging people to buy direct at the same time.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”

If we were talking about Kala’s Elite models directly, I’m fine with that, and I’ve seen how those instruments did not sell at one of our local music stores. The elite models are great instruments, but people walking into a local music store are not looking for a $800 or more ukulele. So our local music store ended up selling all their Elites, three years old, below their own cost, and they don’t carry them any more. People want to come in and just buy a ukulele for $50 to $200. And if they can save money by ordering direct from Kala, many people will.

And I have also seen how Mim’s Ukes is leaving Kala (She is clearing out her remaining Kalas on Reverb) partially because of the Kala Rewards system shown above.

Now, if Kala was in the process of moving away from brick and mortar sales to only online sales, fine. But I don’t think this is a good development for any music store.

Kala makes nice ukuleles. They might be the largest brand on the planet. But that doesn’t mean that they do everything correctly, either.

Keep in mind, however, that I’m a music educator and not a business major. Maybe this is the right thing to do, financially. But it sure doesn’t feel like it is the right thing to do when you’re talking about relationships with music stores all over the world.

I’d rather see them let people gain those Kala Coins to redeem at their local music store. I know that’s a nightmare in terms of management of a program…but it would spur additional purchases, customer loyalty, and add support of local music stores.

In my mind, for a lasting business:

  • Make good products
  • Make a fair profit
  • Have good prices
  • Be honest about your products
  • Treat your employees right
  • Treat your business relationships right
  • Treat your customers right

It will be interesting to see where Kala goes with this in the next years.

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