GearSource’s Keith Dale on the ‘buoyant’ used gear market

Keith Dale of GearSource Europe gives us his thoughts on the state of the used gear market at present, and predicts how it could change in the near future…

How would you describe the current state of the used gear market, and how is business generally at the moment for GearSource?

The used equipment market is buoyant and GearSource Europe continues to thrive in all areas, across all continents. 

Is there still as much of a demand for used equipment as there was, say, 10 years ago?

We’ve only been going since 2007 but demand is greater now than it was back then. The industry has matured tremendously over the past eight years and there is not much difference between the countries we trade in as there once was. It is very discerning; the internet having ensured that everyone is, or strives to be, at the same level.

How competitive is the market for selling used equipment? Are there more or less sellers out there these days?

There are many more sellers compared to a few years ago so it takes a lot of effort to stay ahead of the others. We know what our strengths are and how to use them.

Is it a bit of a challenge to convince people to buy used when there’s always such a steady stream of new gear coming out that claims to be so much better than what came before?

A lot of what we sell is due to sellers rationalising their inventories, streamlining the equipment they keep and moving on items that no longer meet their new strategic requirements. The arrival of new gear, especially items like sound desks, causes the market to dispose of the previous model. There comes a point though where there are only so many potential buyers for certain older models and, as the market saturates, the price falls. This is not something we like to see but it is inevitable.

Sometimes, though, the performance of new products or technologies from a major brand will invigorate sales of older product – it’s like magic dust! Sometimes we see a resurgence in older technologies, like analogue desks or large wattage film lighting – you can’t knock quality.

What about internationally? Have you noticed any trends as to where used gear is most/least popular, and why do you think that is?

It’s difficult to really pick a trend as we sell such a wide variety of equipment to so many countries. Continental Europe and the UK are still strong markets; Africa is expanding and the Middle and Far East along with Australasia continues to perform well. If we were a manufacturer of, say, a relatively small range of amps, speakers or desks the picture would probably be clearer. 

What kinds of products are your customers showing most interest in in terms of audio? (Microphones? Speakers? Mixers?)

Our sales portfolio embraces almost everything in sound reinforcement, lighting, video and staging. Speakers continue to sell well as do their lighting equivalent – fixtures. If I was to turn your question around and ask what have our customers been least interested in I’d say sound desks; the fast-paced development of new consoles has left a lot of recent product languishing on the shelves.

What are the main things people should look out for when looking for quality used gear?

Most used gear is purchased based on simply the specification and photographs on our website listings, with additional feedback as required. Only very, very occasionally will buyers inspect equipment – regardless of the cost.

Because of this I’d say people should only buy from a company that is well versed in moving equipment around the world, recognises that problems do occur from time to time, and has the means to put things right. The overwhelming majority of buyers and sellers in our industry are very honest, but when problems do occur both parties need expertise to resolve potential conflicts for the good outcome of all.

Is it difficult to spot kit that should be avoided?

I’d say that there isn’t anything that should be avoided as such because most items are sold at price points that reflect their age, usage or current desirability. More importantly is the need to purchase items that are matched to the commercial and technical needs of the buyer’s business. For example, don’t buy inexpensive and older equipment if you don’t have the ability to maintain them – you won’t be saving anything.

What would you say to those who are reluctant to dip into the used market because they’re worried about reliability, the product’s history of use and other issues?

We always try to convey the condition of the product so there are no surprises; no one wants to be disappointed – buyer, seller or us in the middle. As said previously, selling used equipment is not just about selling ‘old’ equipment, it is also about helping companies re-stock their inventories, so a lot of what we sell might only be a few months old. One additional point we can make – from experience – is that there are many occasions when buying used can be less stressful than buying new, as any bugs have already been ironed out.

Where do you see the market going in the next decade or so? Do you see it changing much?

Probably the greatest change on the horizon could be the UK’s position within Europe – in comparison, anything else could be trivial. Other than that, certain new markets will continue to mature, new products will continue to arrive and old ones continue to sell.

Keith Dale was previously founder of Celco, marketing director at Electrosonic and spent time at Kisska Design. He joined GearSource in 2008.