China’s largest piano manufacturer since 2000 and the world’s best-selling piano, period – you might think such achievements would be enough for Pearl River Piano Group (Pearl River, Ritmüller, and Kayserburg) to be a household name. Indeed, it has long been precisely that, globally, with the notable exception of the U.S.
That’s been changing in the past couple years, however, as Pearl River has reached out to the American MI market in a number of significant ways. In fact, since the restructuring of the company’s U.S. distribution in 2020, the Kayserburg brand is now the fastest-growing in the nation.
We recently sat down with Leng Tshua, director of Global Sales and Marketing, and David Davis of MCD Advertising & Design to discuss Pearl River’s stateside expansion, upgrades in communication with the Pearl River dealer network, new model introductions, and much more.
Most people base their impression of our company on experiences from 20 years ago. We want to correct that full force. One of the best ways is to say we would like to invite like-minded dealers to connect with us directly through the factory. That means the dealer now has full access to the updated information, product lines, and everything else that we can communicate with them. Since 2020, I’ve focused in the U.S. market because I felt I needed to restructure this. So, in not even two years’ time, we have seen really good movement, and it’s working very well for everybody, especially the dealers. The dealers now have access to 100 percent of our products.
Previously, they had access to about 30 percent. We decided to make the entire Kayserburg line and the new Ritmuller (RS and RSH models) plus the Pearl River Prestige Series, directly available to our retailers. Meanwhile, Pearl River had been developing so much more in Asia, in Europe, but nobody in America knew about it. Case in point: the Kayserburg. Our Kayserburg International Youth Piano Competition is now the world’s largest. In 2021, the world participation of that competition was over 100,000 students.
And nobody here knows about it. The funny thing is that when I first approach people here, they say, “Kayserburg? That’s an unknown name.” So, we want to correct that, to make people understand that Kayserburg is very well-known and respected internationally and represents a premium brand in the Pearl River family.
Yes. It’s now the fastest growing piano brand in the United States. This is the type of instrument that really is a home run in every aspect. This is a hand-built piano, and has a history of success worldwide. The rest of the world is selling Kayserburg as a top brand. Now that the dealers have a chance to work with us directly, they’re amazed by the advantage of direct factory cost to them, which means the dealer can make a really good profit. That’s because our factory is one of the very few that’s completely sustainable and vertically integrated, which is the most cost-effective way of manufacturing. We make most everything in-house, so we don’t have to rely on suppliers, worldwide, which adds to your cost. We even have our own lumber yard – a million square feet, separate facilities. From start to finish, we process the wood right there. Doing everything in-house, as you know, is part of being the most cost-effective. And then on top of that, we have the world’s largest volume: 150,000 units of pianos produced every year. So, the economy of scale all kicks in, and, in the end, we are able to produce a world-class product, but we can make it attractive and affordable, especially to the end user, to the family, to the pianist, to the artists, to the student. Everybody can afford to buy a good piano.
t’s overall. Because, in China alone, every year there are 50 million new customers coming to our market. Well, if you have 50 million customers, would you adopt the policy of saying, “I want to be only focusing on the top one percent” or would you say, “I want to reach as many as possible – and let’s think of a way to manage the price point, the operation integrated with the economy of scale, and then we can service the community,” Of course, we chose the latter.
The only thing that is out of our hands is, of course, the international shipping. We even make our own piano hammers now, the PR 2.0s, which have been a great success. We process all the parts, including the soundboard and all that. Then we have a local chain supply of plates manufacturers within our reach and, in any case, we are their largest customer, so we always get top priority.
And we’re shipping directly, if the dealer is willing to give us some advance notice and help us plan their stock requirements. Even nowadays, we mostly look at a delivery time of between six to eight weeks.
We’re also working differently with our dealers when it comes to marketing. David Davis and MCD Advertising have been working with Pearl River for many years. They were somewhat unknown until recently, but MCD is now working directly with our retailers, which they find very exciting. We have five websites: three here in the U.S. that were recently relaunched, one in Germany, and one for Pearl River Piano Group is specifically designed for the whole world. When we post news, the dealers here can see it immediately. We are advertising in 112 countries and there’s total transparency with dealers. Then, we have Facebook, we have two YouTube channels – one in Europe, one here. Dealers like it because we’re doing everything we can to help raise awareness, and promote them through social media. This is the new way of doing business today.
Due to COVID restrictions, our executives could not travel here from China. However, this past year we did the NAMM Show successfully, thanks to David Davis and his team. Regarding next year’s NAMM Show, I can only say, “Just wait and see.” We also want to make dealers and players aware of the Kayserburg Competitions. Last year, we got Americans involved in a very small way as a test market, but in 2023 we plan a proper major launch for the entire North America.
David and I are working together now to start the KA275 debut here in the U.S. – that’s the 9’ concert grand, which is the designated piano for the Kayserburg International Finals in Guangzhou. We just launched at Oklahoma Pianos (Metroplex Piano) in Oklahoma, Broken Arrow. And now, the piano’s on its way to Nashville. We’re going to do another dealer event there at Miller Piano Specialists. Things are progressing, very, very nicely.
I just want to lightly touch on Pearl River digital products. Right now, we are talking with Piano Marvel. They’re huge and very successful in distance learning. And I just want to sort of drop a hint on that because it’s still a work in progress. Our products should actually be helpful to students, teachers, and dealers to reach out to a lot of people who are curious, but afraid, to buy acoustic pianos. So, try it on a digital piano first and see if you enjoy it, you know?
On all of our websites, including Kayserburg, Ritmüller, and pearlriverusa.com, there is a button for retailers to actually connect with us. Dealers fill in their information, and then we will contact them. We have successfully connected with many dealers through that portal. It is working very well.