What follows is a summary of the Yanagisawa supply issues we are experiencing in 2020-21. I thought this was interesting enough to share with the forum especially since it comes from a respected vendor - Mathew Aaron / SAXFORTE LLC.
As you likely know, all US and Canadian sellers source Yanagisawa saxophones from Conn-Selmer, the
exclusive official North American distributor. The availability problem is a many layered one.
a) Yanagisawa is a small company and their production is capacity constrained. They work in a factory
that can not be expanded. And, apparently, they are content to sell at their current level of production.
Each year, they literally tell each of the world's distributors for their products just how many saxophones
they can have each year.
b) Going all the way back to 2014 when Yanagisawa launched the A-WO alto saxophones, they quietly
sold out of their inventories of the predecessor A-90x and A-99x(x) series models before releasing the
new generation A-WOx(x) models. Once launched, WO altos were instantly back-ordered everywhere as
a result and we have watched back order levels only worsen since then. This pattern was repeated for
the tenors in 2015, then then the straight sopranos 2017 and finally the baris and curved sops in 2018.
c) Historically, Yanagisawa has taken only modest price increases, and then, not as frequently as some
other makers. Given their extremely high level of product quality, the result is a market value
proposition that is difficult to beat. This, in turn, has driven demand for their products higher and higher,
year after year. Yet, their production has not increased. From a maker’s point of view, there is an easy
way to manage this; take a bigger price increase, and do it more often until demand shrinks down to a
comfortable level. This past April 1 (2021), we saw Yanagisawa take the largest price increase in
memory, but it was still relatively small, and there is still a lot of room for them to increase further,
should they want to deal with the supply problem and the risk that consumers will simply give up on
them faced with multi-month wait times.
d) There was a time when most anything we needed was in stock in the USA at Conn-Selmer. However,
that started changing not long after the 2103 sale of Conn-Selmer to Paulson Co. an investment firm.
Inventories of all Selmer and Yanagisawa saxophones have continued to drop since the sale. We suspect
that Paulson Co. management has made a conscious decision to improve R.O.I. (return on assets) by
lowering inventory levels, at the expense of customer service. If true, it would not be the first time an
investment-oriented management firm did so.
e) COVID-19: Yanagisawa's factory was closed for a time in 2020 and then they came back in phases,
slowly. This deepened the severe problem that was already well entrenched by 2020. It did not drop
already low inventory levels which were generally at zero anyway, but it did extend the time we see for
order fulfillment. This can vary buy specific model from weeks to as long as 6 months as of June 2021.
f) Post Peak COVID-19: We are now (June 2021) seeing worldwide shortages of many raw materials and
unfinished products used to make other products across all sectors of the economy. It is not clear how
this specifically affects Yanagisawa, but we have seen the lengthening in order-to-delivery times get
much worse in just the last month. On top of that, shipping containers are in short supply and many
forms of cross-country transportation are also loaded to the point where, additional delays are being
seen now. A recent e-mail from Conn-Selmer mentioned, for the first time, transportation variables as
having an unpredictable effect on order deliveries.
For all of the above reasons, saxophones being sold at retail in the USA today, are not likely even made
yet. We are spending more time explaining wait times than we are helping customers choose
saxophones to meet their needs. It is not good; for anyone.
Happy to answer any questions you may have - even saxophone questions