Inside INdiana Business

Sweetwater music tech and instrument retailer continues record growth

Sweetwater opened a 44,000-square-foot music store at its Fort Wayne headquarters in 2021. (photo courtesy of Sweetwater)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Fort Wayne-based Sweetwater is celebrating another year of record growth after surpassing $1 billion in annual sales for the second consecutive year. The music technology and instrument retailer hit just shy of $1.5 billion in sales from four million orders last year with a 25% increase in revenue over the previous year. “We’re just really happy to be able to support musicians in another difficult year,” said Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins. “2020 was obviously a super difficult year; 2021 was still a very, very difficult year for so many musicians as their lives were affected in many different ways.”

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Hopkins talked about what is driving the growth.

“Probably the biggest thing is that people are just getting used to buying online,” said Hopkins. “And number two, the word is spreading more and more and more, and we’re penetrating even greater the communities with folks that understand the level quality service that we provide and the differentiating factors that we have that kind of bring the best of the online world with the best of the in-person world.”

With the four million orders in 2021, Hopkins says Sweetwater had 1.6 million unique customers. About 700,000 of them were first-time customers.

The company also made some major administrative moves as Rhode Island-based Providence Equity Partners became majority owner of Sweetwater and Hopkins was promoted from chief operating officer to CEO.

Sweetwater also grew its staff by about 13% to more than 2,300 employees in 2021. Hopkins says while continuing to find workers is challenging, the company’s reputation makes it easier.

“I think probably two-thirds of those [new] employees came from outside the region and they relocated to Fort Wayne specifically to work at Sweetwater,” he said. “And, it’s a huge enhancement that Fort Wayne is such a wonderful community and is growing so well…and it’s turned into really being a great place for families, for young people to come here and they can afford to buy their first house. And then, we get a great penetration in the local workforce and I think a lot of that because of the way we treat our employees.”

The company says it plans to continue building out its workforce throughout 2022.

Looking forward, Hopkins says Sweetwater plans to keep doing what it has always done to generate further growth.

“All of our growth so far has been organic; we haven’t done mergers and acquisitions and those kinds of things. We just keep on growing by doing the right thing, taking care of customers, I guess in a little bit of a way, sort of making those karmic deposits, and we believe that ends up paying off.”