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In 2017, the Washington Post offered a grim view of the guitar market.
Music Trades magazine, however, tells a different story. The publication,’s Music Industry Census for 2018 reported the total guitar market unit volume grew 7% from 2016-2017 and in retail value 8.8%. Music Trades also recently revealed that guitar import volume—both acoustic and electric imports—are up double digits in the last year.
According to Michael Amkreutz, EVP of merchandising and e-commerce for Guitar Center, the stringed instrument category—ranging from ukuleles at entry-level prices to high-end electric guitars in the $5,000+ range—is driving the company’s performance today.
After 50 years in the music industry, Guitar Center has seen its fair share of struggles, but the company is looking forward to the future. What’s going to sustain the business for another 50 years?
Amkreutz mentions 5 things that will help Guitar Center and other music stores stay relevant:
1. Get to Know What Today’s Customers Want
“Successful business owners understand what their customers want and the most effective way of making their product or service available,” says Grow. Going a step further to find out customer hobbies, tastes, and interests can be even more profitable.
Amkreutz believes that Andy Mooney reinvigorated the Fender brand with new products in fresh colors and textures that attract today’s young players. “Fender realized a guitar is not unlike a personal accessory. It has to look good and feel good. Single-handedly Fender is a major contributor bringing new life into the guitar category,” he says.
Guitar product sales are also influenced by popular musicians and musical groups like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. Amkreutz puts it this way:
“Go to South By Southwest or Coachella. Look at Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeranoriented toward millennials and GenZs. Our business follows these trends almost one-to-one. When you see guitar-driven hits coming out, almost instantaneously we see a pick up in our business.” ~ Forbes
By watching industry trends, as well as understanding and building upon customer knowledge and relationships, music stores can deliver the products that today’s musicians want.
2. Rock the In-store Experience
For Guitar Center, creating a great retail store experience is all about enhancing the musician’s relationship with the guitar.
The store allows its customers to experience products in a very personal and tangible way. Here’s how Michael Amkreutz describes the experience they offer their customers:
“We invite musicians to come in and play, with no pressure to buy something. We know that when they are ready for their next instrument, that they will come back to Guitar Center. We are constantly looking at what consumers want, how they interact with their instruments, and what kind of environment they need, so that we can consistently deliver that experience to them across our chain of stores.” ~ Forbes
Guitar Central is attracting customers with immersive experiences that build relationships, offer a sense of community, and keep musicians coming back again and again.
3. Offer Convenience
UX Magazine states that convenience is “a critical factor in determining how customers make decisions about what to buy, what services to use, where to go, and with whom to engage.”
Business owners must recognize that the easier they make things for their customers, the more those customers will come to appreciate and depend on them.
Guitar Center is working on a new model that they hope to implement in other stores down the road. The company’s Hollywood store, for example, feature’ an electric guitar room that enhances the “playability experience.” How? By allowing musicians to try out guitars on offer with different amplifiers and pedals that previously only resided in different areas of the store. Other planned in-store features include a music academy, rentals, and workshops for free introductory classes.
Guitar Center is removing barriers that would otherwise keep musicians from learning more about their products and interfere with potential purchases by bringing everything together in one convenient location.
4. Give Customers More Than Products
Value is actually more important than products in acquiring and nurturing profitable customer relationships. Customers want insights and solutions for their specific needs.
For example, as Fender’s Andy Mooney points out, for every 10 guitars sold, nine of them end up in the closet at the end of the first year.
To that end, Guitar Center believes they have a key role to play—they’re more than a place for aspiring musicians to purchase a guitar, they also offer a non-judgemental and supportive environment where new musicians can learn how to play their chosen instrument.
Training and musical education is a huge priority for Guitar Center, and 180 stores have dedicated lesson rooms along with professional teachers curated from the most prestigious music colleges to help musicians succeed with the products they buy.
5. Be an Omnichannel Retailer
Retailers that respond and adapt to evolving technologies will be able to create a better retail experience for their customers, build more effective supply chains, and drive sales and traffic.
An omnichannel retail strategy improves the customer experience and provides more channels for customer purchase––whether it’s on mobile, web, or in stores. According to MuleSoft, omnichannel customers spend 15 to 30% more than single or multi-channel customers.
“Guitar Center is true omnichannel and we try to make the experience as seamless as possible from online to in-store,” says Amkreutz. The stores offer a multi-channel “endless aisle,” giving customers the ability to blend in-store, online and phone options to purchase music equipment from anywhere.
“By leveraging multiple channels, omnichannel retail not only increases revenue from online retail, but also drives significant traffic to stores, further increasing revenue.” ~ MuleSoft
Armed with the 5 strategies discussed above, along with a new store model designed to enhance musicians’ relationship with their instruments, Guitar Center is looking forward to another 50 years of profitability.
“We are well positioned to capitalize on the growth we have seen in the guitar industry. I don’t think it is anywhere near the demise or decline that people are reporting,” says a confident Michael Amkreutz.
Follow Guitar Center’s lead and use the 5 tips above to rock a happy, healthy music store far into the future!
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