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Will music gear stock be an issue this Black Friday? We asked an expert at Sweetwater

Guitars hanging up in a shop
(Image credit: Getty/niknikon)

With less than six weeks to go until Christmas and just 11 days until the Black Friday music deals officially start, we’re well into that time of year where music gear is flying off the shelves. Whether you’re an established musician on the hunt for an upgrade, or a parent buying a first guitar or keyboard for their child, now is usually the best time of year to secure a great deal.

But with the Wall Street Journal declaring you’re already behind on your Christmas shopping and Bloomberg reporting that ‘Christmas is at risk’ due to reported stock shortages, supply chain issues and delivery hold ups, will there be enough music gear to go round, and will you receive it in time for Christmas?

We reached out to Jeff Ekblad, Senior Director of Performance Marketing at Sweetwater, to confirm or debunk the headlines and to provide insight into what impact this might have on the music-making sector. We’ve also shared some of our own tips on how best to shop the 2021 Black Friday sales and ensure you’re not left empty-handed.

There have been plenty of headlines suggesting that stock will be an issue this Christmas. How accurate is this? Will any products simply not be available?

“This is the reality we’re living in for sure… and something musicians are already experiencing across a variety of verticals. Computer chips go in a lot of things, and a lot of containers come through California ports – this has created problems that span several industries.

So will there be difficulty getting hold of particular music brands or product types between now and Christmas?

“There is a reduction in stock rates as we’re used to seeing them internally, but the reality is we have more inventory in stock than ever before. We built extra space onto our newly launched 500 thousand square foot warehouse to fit all of it. With increased demand from musicians and new musicians who have been stuck at home for a long time, it’s not just the supply chain making things hard to find. All that said, in-stock rates today are trending upwards.”

All that said, in-stock rates today are trending upwards

What has caused these issues, and when might we see a recovery?

“Factory fires, ports and the pandemic. Major manufacturing countries are throttling their electric power grid to combat emissions. Labor in the entire supply chain has been disrupted – truck drivers and more. All this has created a ripple effect across components and parts… and something we’ve all learned through this time period is that no one can predict what’s next.”

There are also concerns over shipping times (particularly in the UK) due to a lack of drivers and warehouse staff. Are you expecting similar issues in the US and should our readers order earlier to avoid disappointment?

“Yes. Order today.”

What would be your advice to musicians hoping to pick up a bargain this year and who don't want to miss out?

“There are definitely brands that have done a good job with their supply chain seeing a sizable lift in sales – and not your standard mainstream music industry players. Be open to a variety of brands in the space. My advice is to talk to a Sweetwater Sales Engineer. They know the daily ups and downs of the inventory situation. If you can’t find exactly what you need, they will know the next best piece of gear that will hit the mark.”

More Black Friday shopping tips from MusicRadar

Hand holding a credit card ready to pay for an online purchase

(Image credit: Getty/Johnnie Davis)

1. This year in particular, if you see a great deal, our advice would be to go for it now. It’s unlikely that prices will fluctuate too dramatically, but it is possible that you could miss out on stock if you wait for a better offer. There is often less stock available for the biggest deals.

2. If you’re unsure whether the item you’re buying has hit its lowest price, remember that most retailers have a great returns policy, meaning you can safely grab something when you see it on sale, knowing it will be easy to return if you spot an even better deal down the line and decide to go for it.

3. Like with anything in life, planning is key. Our advice? Map out your Black Friday shopping ahead of time. Draw up a wishlist and research current prices at the big retailers. That means when the deals start landing, you know what you’re looking for, you won’t be overwhelmed by the choice, and you should know if you’re getting a genuinely good deal.

4. Can’t find stock or not sure where to look? Sites like MusicRadar will be working around the clock to separate the good deals from bad and pointing you to top offers at trusted retailers.

5. Setting up your online accounts in advance is a great time-saver. In our experience, it pays to be quick when you spot a good deal. The last thing you want is to be held up having to sign up for a new online account at the time of purchase. Doing it in advance will mean you’re ready to go when the deals land. At this sign up stage you can also tick the box to be added to the mailing lists for your favourite shops, meaning you’ll be the first to hear about any epic deals.

Chris Barnes

I'm MusicRadar's eCommerce Editor. It's my job to manage buyer's guides on the site and help musicians find the right gear and the best prices. I'm a guitarist and a drummer and I've worked in the music gear industry for 16 years, including 7 years as Editor of the UK's best-selling drum magazine Rhythm, and 5 years as a freelance writer working with brands including Roland, Boss, MusicRadar and Natal.