Twentieth Century – Post First World War
European industry was disrupted by the war, but American industry (Steinway) to a lesser extent. British manufacturers felt they could sustain the competition from Germany, but they faced:
1 Rising costs
2 Trade unions, causing increasing labour costs
3 Piano retailers wanted higher profit margins
4 Competition from Germany, which re-commenced after the war was over
The year before the war, Britain imported approximately 20,000 German pianos, but of course, these ceased during the war. Soon after the war (in 1920) imports were already up to 4,500 units, and by 1922 this figure was up to 15,000.
Recession in all countries meant that fewer pianos were bought between 1929 and 1939. In Germany between 1927 and 1933 the number of piano makers fell from 127 to 37. English makers tried to create a new space in the market, for example in 1934 Brasted made a six-octave bi-chord mini-piano.
In spite of the recession, pianists regard the 1930s as the last “golden age” of piano making in the United Kingdom. Two new manufacturers appeared; Welmar (Bluthner's London agent) in 1934 and Alfred Knight in 1935, who had previously worked for Squire and Longson. Alfred Knight became the leading British piano manufacturer after the Second World War. He was making a quality product, which was to become a popular export. The Knight piano continues to be made now by Whelpdale, Maxwell & Codd, in their London factory.