Sweetwater reports another record-breaking year


FORT WAYNE — Sweetwater, the No. 1 online retailer of music instruments and pro audio gear, experienced another record-setting year in terms of sales growth and job creation, the company reported Jan. 16.

Total sales in 2018 were $725 million, up 17 percent from $619 million in 2017, which was also a record-breaking year.

Sweetwater’s annual total sales increases have ranged from 17 to 28 percent every year since 2010.

The company sold more than 128,000 guitars in 2018, up from 107,000 in 2017. It saw significant growth across all product categories, with the biggest increases being in pro audio, synthesizers, drums, guitars and microphones, according to a statement.

Employment growth continued with the addition of nearly 400 employees, from 1,132 at the end of 2017 to 1,531 at the end of 2018. As many as 40 percent of employees are being hired from outside the Fort Wayne area, the company reported.

“We are proud to bring so many talented workers to Sweetwater and for them to make Fort Wayne their home,” Senior Vice President of Human Resources Jeff McDonald said in the statement. “It’s clear that Sweetwater has become an employer of choice, allowing us to attract the best and brightest to our outstanding campus.”

More students took lessons at the Sweetwater Academy last year than the previous year, clocking over 14,000 hours with the academy’s 37 instructors. In 2017 the academy had 700 active students. That number jumped to 850 in 2018.

GearFest, a free trade show at Sweetwater that is open to the general public, continued to grow in 2018, with 15,000 attendees from all 50 states and several countries. The event on June 22 and 23 featured over 430 vendors and artists, producers and other special guests who hosted more than 90 seminars and breakout sessions.

Sweetwater’s partnership with Purdue University became official last summer, when the school’s Music Technology Program opened on the Sweetwater campus. On Aug. 20, 45 students began taking classes in the 8,000-square-foot facility that is home to a recording studio, editing suites, equipment library and more.

In October, leaders announced plans for a major expansion at the company’s 163-acre campus on U.S. 30 in Fort Wayne. The $76.4 million project includes the addition of a 350,000-square-foot warehouse and a 30,000-square-foot event center along with the addition of more than 1,000 jobs over five years. Construction has begun on the warehouse. Both buildings will be operational in 2020.

Sweetwater founder & CEO Chuck Surack said in the statement, “I’m excited about the expansion and what the next few years will bring. From our humble beginnings in the back of a VW bus to the state-of-the-art facility we have today, this growth wouldn’t have been possible without our loyal customers and hardworking employees.”