China: Music for world, no strings attached

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - Guitar capital Zheng’an county strikes the right notes online to boost exports.

Zheng’an, a small county in Guizhou province of Southwest China, is the world’s largest guitar manufacturing centre from where locals export the instrument globally.

In all, 56 producers of guitar and related spare parts are based out of the guitar industrial park in Zheng’an. The county has developed 34 independent brands, according to the local government.

Zunyi Shenqu Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co Ltd, a major guitar retailer in the county, has developed three independent brands. It also does processing work for some top global music instrument brands such as Japan’s Ibanez and US’ Fender. So far, it has exported its products to the United States, Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Japan.

“The main consumer groups who buy guitars are schools, art training centres and guitar lovers. Compared with overseas markets, we have relatively lower costs and prices. The prices of average products range from 1,500 yuan ($214) to 5,000 yuan each. Higher-end guitars can cost over 10,000 yuan each, depending on their quality, features and craftsmanship,” said Zheng Chuanjiu, general manager of Zunyi Shenqu.

The firm has two production lines, one for electric guitars, the other for wooden instruments. The company’s annual output value has exceeded 400 million yuan. To expand production scale and operational efficiencies, Shenqu will add more production lines, its executives said.

This year, some companies from South Korea and the United Kingdom have visited the plant and tried out sample products of Shenqu in Zheng’an. They are exploring further co-operation.

From January to September, the export value of Shenqu reached $14.31 million. The company said it expects the full-year export value to reach $18 million, up 25 per cent year-on-year.

“We import raw materials and export the finished products. The cheap land and labour costs are the advantages in Zheng’an,” Zheng said.

In 1995, Zheng and his brother, both natives of Zheng’an, went to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, to work at a guitar plant, where they were later promoted to management positions. In 2013, the two brothers started their own factory in Zheng’an, sowing the seeds of what turned out to be a booming business in guitars.

Last year, Zheng’an produced more than 6 million guitars, and the output value reached 6 billion yuan. More than 3.6 million guitars were exported to more than 30 countries and regions globally, including the US and Brazil, and the export value accounted for nearly one-third of the export value of guitars made in China.

With nearly 15,000 employees working there, the industrial park in Zheng’an expects sales to exceed 7 million units by the end of this year, with an output value of more than 7 billion yuan, according to the local government.

Guizhou Baikal Musical Instrument Co Ltd, another major guitar producer in Zheng’an, has developed two independent brands, and has sold its products nationwide through e-commerce platforms.

Its daily sales reach about 3,000 to 4,000 guitars, the largest nationwide, on online marketplace Taobao of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

“The user groups of guitars online are much broader, and the market potential is bigger. It’s not difficult to tap the market by selling high-quality but inexpensive instruments to entry-level guitar players,” said Zhao Shan, general manager of Guizhou Baikal.

Zhao has put in more efforts to sell guitars online. He aims to promote sales using the marketing strategy of “internet plus”. The company has launched its products on major e-commerce platforms such as Tmall and JD, and sells its products domestically and overseas using its person-to-company, or P2C, business model.

Last year, the company sold more than 600,000 guitars online, with an average monthly sales of 53,000, it said. With strong sales, and demand rising, the production volume of Baikal is inadequate. But the six other guitar producers in the industrial park help meet the demand somehow.

In China, Zheng’an has come to be associated with guitar. Fittingly, the county has also built the world’s largest guitar sculpture, a guitar street, a guitar-themed park, and a guitar-themed hotel.

Che Weiwei in Guiyang contributed to this story.

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