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Ernest Buckley

The Demise of Guitar Center (and other local outlets?)

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So I guess its true that guitar center is closing its doors… I don`t know about you but I was never really a fan of GC or the NY sourced Sam Ash… I tend to visit Sam Ash more than GC but my visits are usually to purchase some strings, guitar picks, staff paper, small stuff…. Back in the day (pre-Internet explosion) I purchased several large pieces from Sam Ash (Mackie d8b, Fender Strat, Fender Jazz, Yamaha acoustic) but that was over a decade ago. Now the majority of my purchases are from Sweetwater… even guitars. I purchased an Epiphone Les Paul in 2010 from Sweetwater… I was reluctant at first because buying a guitar is a very personal thing and as you know, all guitars are different… well my guitar showed up, I unwrapped it, plugged it in and there it was… perfectly set-up and sounding great. Who knew? I guess you can say I use GC and Sam Ash to try out/audition gear but I eventually go with Sweetwater. Why? I just find the Customer Service at Sweetwater to be the best. I have never been disappointed with them. I cannot say the say about Sam Ash. I would love to have the same relationship with Sam Ash as I do with Sweetwater but I don`t think its possible because the entire infrastructure would need to change at Sam Ash. Also, a quick visit to each companies website and you realize who is truly the professional in the industry. Just thinking out loud here but I think local music retailers will succumb to the same conclusion as GC. Your thoughts? Experiences? Edited by Ernest Buckley

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The Guitar Centers here in Austin (there are two) seem to do a lot of business. Any weekend there are kids all over the electric guitars, boomers all over the acoustics, and even the keyboard, software, and drum departments are busy.

 

Yeah, the staff persons can be weird, and you gotta watch out for scratch and dent passed off as new, that sort of thing. But I've purchased a bunch of stuff from them and I do love that cedar-paneled acoustic guitar room (being a boomer myself.) :)

 

Location location etc....I'm sure it GC sticks too many stores in less-musically obsessed towns, they will suffer.

 

nat whilk ii

 

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The fat lady has not sung yet, but she is warming up in the dressing room. The sad part is that if GC had not been saddled with all that debt way back when, it would be profitable and humming along.

 

Sort of reminds me of my experience with HC and the management team (which is no longer there) that was in place when I left. From 2005 to 2010 HC tripled its revenues and was doing very nicely. Apparently the higher-ups thought that if some a**hole guitarist off the street could grow the site 20+% a year, then real professionals could do sooo much better. We all know what happened.

 

The music business is based on people, not things. People from outside MI don't quite know how to handle what is a very different industry compared to most consumer goods.

 

I wish the current management luck and hope they can get GC back on track.

 

FYI in Eric Garland's article he says companies don't have a contingency plan for a world without GC, but as early as 2013 I was talking to companies (not Gibson FWIW) that had a "nuclear option" in case GC went down. Most of it involved going direct and dealing with selected mail order outlets. If GC goes down, the ripple effect throughout the industry would be catastrophic and it would take several years to build things back.

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I'm not a fan of GC for many reasons and avoid them as much as possible. Luckily the two cities closest to me both have solid independent stores that I've had long relationships with going back decades. Starsound Audio in Reno and Skips Music in Sacramento get my in store business. I use Sweetwater for online stuff.

 

 

 

and the online lighting retailer Planet DJ has its home base and showroom in Reno so they get my lighting business.

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Let me tell you something and I do not meant to sound harsh. GC could go and I wouldn't care, nor would any of my professional friends. Yes, they don't care about us either because we are such a small fraction of their business and they can sell 1000 times more $100 cheap beginners guitars, and other hobbiest level shite!...but guess what? That kinda thinking is what killed them in part...

 

EVERY TIME I go on there to look for something they DO NOT HAVE IT IN STOCK..Not sometimes..EVERY TIME!. Also, they don't carry Behringer anymore and with the X32 platform that EVERYONE IS USING practically Behringer FINALLY became a brand you'd WANT to stock!!!...Guitar Center doesn't even carry the strings I use on acoustic!...So...Good riddens GC if you fold...It will not affect me in the least. I just order more of what I need to have it on hand from Sweetwater and Amazon, (and other select outfits). I always supported the local shops as much as I could when they existed where I lived. Like LA, and Nashville. They really don't exist here in Orlando but as we know commerce is online nowadays and that's just the reality. The world is at our fingertips.

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Assuming it is accurate, this post at another site really underlines how brutal this is going to be for mid-sized vendors -- and I do mean brutal...

Guitar Center & Musician's friend are consistently 6-12 months behind on payments to all their vendors. Not only that, but they have told their [smaller] vendors in no uncertain terms that if the stuff don't sell, they're going to sell their stock for whatever they hell they want and charge back the difference!!!

 

Given how their vendor accounts operate - without going into technicalities, think of them as lines of credit - what this means is that if they go into chapter 11, those vendors are out 100% of the money on unpaid stock. The previously mentioned delays are actually a [disturbingly common] business tactic to hedge against a cash shortfall/money crisis like Mr. Garland describes. In other words, they've set out to screw their vendors, who had no choice but to bend over or lose the account!

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/moan...l#post10789910

Edited by blue2blue

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I guess you can say I use GC and Sam Ash to try out/audition gear but I eventually go with Sweetwater.

 

Oh, so YOU'RE the guy that's putting them out of business. They go far in debt buying all of that inventory for you to try out, and then you buy elsewhere. ;)

 

Sure, that article was built around Guitar Center, but you could substitute a lot of names in the same text and it would be equally valid.

 

There's a Guitar Center about half a mile from me. I'd go there for strings, but their selection of acoustic guitar strings is pretty bleak (I don't know about electric guitar strings). I don't think I'll miss them if they go. But there's a Radio Shack about the same distance from me in another direction that just started the closeout sale this week. I don't need to buy a guitar on Sunday, but the Radio Shack has saved me with an emergency repair many times, for things like capacitors and diode bridges. (I buy my batteries at Home Depot, which is about half way to the about-to-close Radio Shack.

 

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Radio Shack has had no clear vision as to what it wants to be for a long time. Yes, it's great having one close by for some component or other in a pinch. But their inventory of electronic components is down to barely more than what Home Depot has - at least in the Shacks around here. I'm amazed they've stayed alive this long.

 

But as for GC, over the years I've gotten some real deals. The small condensor Octava mic I use for acoustic guitar cost me about $99 there. And I play an oddball fat strat copy made by Floyd Rose there on a blowout for I think $139 and it's just fine for 90% of what I do on electric. And there was a little midi-controller keyboard floor model I picked up for next to nothing...the list goes on.

 

But, hey, if they are really going to the great retail elephant graveyard, I'm up for picking the carcass, no question. I think I'll start dropping in and looking for inventory-clearout sales...:)

 

nat whilk ii

Edited by nat whilk II

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Speaking of....Radio Shack declared bankruptcy today. Chapter 11 which is the reorganization kind (read, hey Mr. Creditor will you take 10 cents for every dollar I owe you and let me off the hook for the rest?)

 

If a reorganization plan can't be worked out, then Chapter 11s usually devolve into Chapter 7, where everything gets sold off, the money goes first to the attorneys, then the secured creditors, then to whoever is still in line if any money is left which is usually not the case. Read, shareholders get zip.

 

 

nat whilk ii

 

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I haven't gone to Guitar center or any brick and mortar guitar shop in at least 6 years. I had a GC gift card given to me last Christmas and bought some strings with it on line. I paid at least double what I pay at my normal on line string vender.

 

I think the last big purchase from them I made at least 8 years ago when I bought an Marshall head and cab. The cab was used and it was a good buy at the time. That particular store closed a few years later. The two that are left are inconvenient to get to so I buy on line.

 

I wouldn't mind seeing fewer supermarket outlet sized chains and more mom and pop stores but that's mainly due to nostalgia. I had hopes long ago of opening up a small store that gives lessons and maybe rents rehearsal space nights, but that's an unlikely scenario at this point.

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I always give my local mom and pop store first chance at anything that I buy. I'll even wait if they have to order it. If they can't get it, then I'll go on-line. If they can get it, the price will be competitive, and the service will be heads and shoulders above what GC can offer.

 

Besides, my band is a local small business so I feel it's important to do business with other small businesses - it's a do unto others thing.

 

In addition to that, the profits stay in the local community which helps the local economy including the people who hire us to entertain.

 

Let me give you a few examples of what doing business with the local M&P has done for me:

  • The owner of my local store gave me his personal cell phone number and told me if something should break down on the gig, call him and he will drop what he is doing, open the store, and deliver something that I can use to finish the gig
  • Many years ago, I had a muddy sounding PA. I had "inherited" it from a band I was in years before that. I went to my local M&P, told the owner the problem. He used his years of experience in the retail and performance biz, analyzed the problem and told me to try a BBE Sonic Maximizer. He got a new one out of stock, told me to try it on the gig and if I like it, come back with money or a credit card, and if I didn't like it, bring it back looking new. No deposit was left, no credit card number left, and no restocking fee would be collected if if I returned it. It did exactly what it was supposed to and I went back on Monday with my credit card.
  • A few years after that, I was shopping for a new mic for my sax, flute, and vocals. I tried my partner's Shure but I didn't like the proximity effect or the distortion when I played the sax very loud to get that 'overblow' tone. The owner asked a lot of questions on how I was going to use the mic, went back into the recording studio and loaned me a Sennheiser MD421. He told me to try it on the gig and let him know if that works for me. Again, no deposit, no cc number, no restocking. It worked perfectly, I went back Monday and had him order a new one for me. He told me to keep using the loaner until the new one arrives. When it came in a week later, I paid for it. Shortly after that a Sam Ash catalog arrived in the mail. Sam Ash sold the same mic for $1 more than I paid for it.

You can only get this kind of service at a good, small, M&P type music store. So it's more than nostalgia that I'd like to see the return of M&P stores and let the big box stores go away. Before the big box stores, the little guy could carry Gibson, Fender, Selmer, and all the brands that now require you to carry a zillion dollars worth of inventory if you want a franchise.

 

So if GC does go belly up, it's OK with me. I don't shop there anyway. I don't wish them any bad luck, but I have no affinity for them either.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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Important: I always buy my strings, reeds and everything at the local. They make a living on small things because people don't buy new instruments every day. I think I pay a dollar more than I would at GC for a 3 pack. No big deal. My loyalty will help him stay in business, so that he will still be there when I need him. There are some things that are more important than the absolute lowest price.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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I always give my local mom and pop store first chance at anything that I buy. I'll even wait if they have to order it. If they can't get it' date=' then I'll go on-line. If they can get it, the price will be competitive, and the service will be heads and shoulders above what GC can offer.[/quote']

 

If I could support a local mom and pop and get the same service I get from Sweetwater, I would actually pay a bit more but its not the case. I think thats what amazes me about Sweetwater, its a hugh company and yet, I feel like they know me when I call or send an email. And not to mention, they have bailed me out big time on two completely different occasions.

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I've been waiting for years for them to belly up, still hasn't happened.

You all know who really runs the biz, well dontcha?, well dontcha?

He's alive and well and growing in hell.

I have no Sympathy for the Devil,

NONE.

 

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My condolences to guitar center - however - I have to say that there is a local shop in upstate ny called "Parkway Music".. that is a GREAT locally owned music store. Every time I'm there they are very very busy - all their guitars are in tune... they have real pro audio choices, and great customer service.... I honestly dont know if guitar centers business model could have stood up to their loyal following and standards....?

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I have to say I've had mixed experiences with local music stores over some 40 years of patronage.

 

Sometimes the staff are helpful, not pushy, etc. But quite often they are aloof and snobby unless they, with their salesperson "size-em-up at a glance" way of dealing with customers. You know, the ones that seem to think, "if you [the customer] know what you are doing, you don't need me. If you [the customer] don't know what you are doing, you should just leave or else just buy this, I'm the expert."

 

The local music stores that cater to students for band instruments and such often charge outrageous prices, as they have such a steady supply of newbies and their clueless parents.

 

If you have a band and give the rental and repair side of a good local place steady patronage, sure, they will go some extra miles for you. But it's hit or miss in terms of service and helpfulness provided to walk-ins. There are a couple of exceptions. But at best my experience with local music stores is a cumulative grade of C+. GC I'd say has been C-. So the difference is just not all that big in terms of customer service.

 

And I still get mad at the local store that lost something I put on consignment with them. They had no record of it, gave no apology, no recourse, wouldn't return calls, etc. - just sort of shrugged "geez that guy you talked to don't work here anymore, I don't know, man." And this was a major local store for a long, long time.

 

Most of the time I get the invisible customer treatment unless I make a point of making my presence unavoidable. Jeez, I'm 6'2" and 240 lbs - kinda hard to pretend I'm invisible, ya know? And I'm in the demographic that pretty much keeps these outfits alive.

 

Now my guitar setup guy - he's a gem. Works out of his house, tours as a tech with the Dixie Chicks (or at least used to) and always does a little extra something that he doesn't charge for. And Erlewine Guitars - wonderful people, and Austin Vintage almost as good, but they have their blind, deaf, and dumb days, too. Oh, yeah, there's a newish place that sells vintage synths - any synth freak visiting Austin should absolutely not miss it - Switched On.

 

nat whilk ii

 

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We used to have one very good M&P store, one mediocre one, and one very bad one. The good one survived and the other two are now history. Some people forget that when you are in retail, or most any other business for that matter, you are in the service industry.

 

If you find a good, small business, support them, if not, ignore them.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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My problem with GC is that, over the last 7-8 years, they have fewer and fewer of the guitars that I'm interested in trying. I just got an Martin OMCPA5 from Sweetwater (which was a great experience, fwiw) in large part because GC doesn't carry them in any store.

 

They also seem to have had a long-standing, in-store stock gap for the $750-$1000 area in electric guitars. Is often slim pickings if when I look at that general range.

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Radio Shack has had no clear vision as to what it wants to be for a long time. Yes, it's great having one close by for some component or other in a pinch. But their inventory of electronic components is down to barely more than what Home Depot has - at least in the Shacks around here. I'm amazed they've stayed alive this long.

 

But as for GC, over the years I've gotten some real deals. The small condensor Octava mic I use for acoustic guitar cost me about $99 there. And I play an oddball fat strat copy made by Floyd Rose there on a blowout for I think $139 and it's just fine for 90% of what I do on electric. And there was a little midi-controller keyboard floor model I picked up for next to nothing...the list goes on.

 

But, hey, if they are really going to the great retail elephant graveyard, I'm up for picking the carcass, no question. I think I'll start dropping in and looking for inventory-clearout sales...:)

 

nat whilk ii

 

 

Slightly off topic, but aren't you in Austin? Fry's is where to go for electronic components. Radio Shack is for cell phones and radio controlled toys - has been for a long time.

 

Terry D.

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Slightly off topic, but aren't you in Austin? Fry's is where to go for electronic components. Radio Shack is for cell phones and radio controlled toys - has been for a long time.

 

Terry D.

 

 

Yeah, you're right but we're southwest out past the Y a ways - Fry's is a long haul, as is Altex. I make the pilgrimage about twice a year to hit those places. Mostly it's Newegg that gets my business actually, if not in too big a hurry, and it's not something at the radical end of the geek scale like a tube or capacitor, etc.

 

nat whilk ii

 

 

 

 

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Slightly off topic, but aren't you in Austin? Fry's is where to go for electronic components. Radio Shack is for cell phones and radio controlled toys - has been for a long time.

 

No Fry's here in the Washginton DC area. Nothing even close. I was kind of hoping that Digi-Key would take over all the Radio Shack stores. ;)

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Something everyone here should be concerned about is how this impact the manufacturers! When MARS went under it hurt many manufacturers. Arguably it put some out of business..LP Percussion got bought by Kaman soon after. The other part of the equation is...Someone will pay..maybe us! Good, bad or indifferent to GC, their biz model allowed many manufacturers to take advantages of economies of scale! Couple that with the fact that GC, or the court that handles the liquidation, might not pay the vendors what they owe...EQUALS: Higher prices for us! Plus..The Credit Managers at the manufacturers tend to tighten up after a big bankruptcy happens..EQUALS: fewer choices at your M&P store!

 

We've seen it before, just not on this scale.

Thoroughbred Music gets bought by Sam Ash in the 90s.

MARS goes under in the 2000s.

Daddy's Junky goes under in the 2000s.

 

For our sakes, I hope Craig's right and the companies have been preparing! I just hope that selling direct is not their answer!

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I would prefer to see one company, either G.C. or M.F., to have two different faces to the same hydra is annoying and wasteful.GC is huge in the used market, MF is huge in selection and service.A consolidation into one entity is long overdue and beneficial to all.

Goodluck with that...

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We got Harmony Central :)
Actually I was kinda worried that it might still be in "process" :( . So, it's 100% done and anything that happens to GC/MF can't arf it up?

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Back in 1992, I lived in Medford , Oregon. I got the job at Musician's Friend and was slated to start working their the next following week, but I had to move back to California.

M.F. was king in my book and was better when the original owner was running it.

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Actually I was kinda worried that it might still be in "process" :( . So' date=' it's 100% done and anything that happens to GC/MF can't arf it up?[/quote']

 

It's a done deal, and Dendy, Phil, and Chris get checks that say "Gibson" on them...:)

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Thanks for posting this. I have a few acquaintances who occasionally ask how this story is playing out, and I rarely think of looking to see on my own.

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My condolences to guitar center - however - I have to say that there is a local shop in upstate ny called "Parkway Music".. that is a GREAT locally owned music store. Every time I'm there they are very very busy - all their guitars are in tune... they have real pro audio choices' date=' and great customer service.... I honestly dont know if guitar centers business model could have stood up to their loyal following and standards....? [/quote']

 

 

Another plug for Tom and Matt at Parkway Music and there great staff.

 

 

The last time I was at the GC in Albany was a few weeks ago. I bought nothing. They didn't have much and looked like they were going out of business.

 

 

 

 

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FWIW Guitar Center has pulled out of providing data for MI Sales Trak, which is the only reliable tracking service for sales in the music industry,

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FWIW Guitar Center has pulled out of providing data for MI Sales Trak' date=' which is the only reliable tracking service for sales in the music industry,[/quote']

 

Did they give a reason for that decision?

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Did they give a reason for that decision?

 

Not that I've heard, but I didn't ask. It struck me as somewhat odd. Maybe they don't have the bandwidth to provide the stats.

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Funny because at one time MIST was so GC-centric.

 

Indeed. A lot of people called it "GC Sales Trak." MIST does believe their current methodology is as accurate as it was before.

 

I suspect a lot more companies are going to start looking to Amazon...

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